There was much to love about building a classroom community filled with mostly same-aged students and designing plans for daylong learning across all subject areas. Now, there is much to love about sitting side-by-side with one or two students at a time from across the grade levels and getting to know each as readers, writers, and fascinating human beings. Here are some random snippets from the first few weeks on the job:

3rd grader: “You know why I like science? It never ends.”

4th grader: “I like the Harry Potter books, but I kind of have a problem with J.K. Rowling’s stand on trans people. My cousin is trans.”

3rd grader: “The other reading teacher gave us lollipops if we were good.”
Me: “I’m not sure if I’m a lollipop kind of teacher.”
“That’s okay. You’re nice anyway.”

5th grader: “I always use ‘adieu’ as my first word in Wordle, but I don’t know what it means.” (a small French lesson ensued)

3rd grader: Making random words with Scrabble tiles: add…wood…one…to…make…a…bat… “No, that should be ‘add one wood to make a bat.’ This is like an equation! What do you call the person who makes a bat? This makes more sense: ‘add one wood carver to make a bat.’ “

2nd grader: “How do you spell ‘George?’ “
Me: “Your name’s not George; why do you want to spell that?”
“George was the husband of Beatrice, a WWII engineer who could fix anything.” (Likely this book, and no surprise: he likes to read informational text.)

4th grader: “I learned a new word today: toey. T-O-E-Y. When I play Words With Friends, I always check to see what I could have played for more points. Toey would have been worth 48 points.”
Me: “What do you think toey means? If something is juicy, it’s full of juice. Do you think toey means full of toes? (laughter) Let’s look it up.”
(Amazement when I open the Merriam Webster app from the first screen on my phone. But it wasn’t there! So I opened a web browser and demonstrated the “define ___” search and we found it. Toey means nervous, anxious, worried.)
Me: “I hope the rest of your day isn’t toey!”

Getting Ready For the Unknown

Next week I begin a new part time job that seems like it will be a better fit for my skillset than washing dishes at Sur la Table: I’m the Reading Specialist for the Clintonville Resource Center’s Kids Clubs, their after school program. There are three sites, and I’ll spend about two hours a week at each site working to help K-5 children become better readers (and writers).

I know exactly what to do, and yet I have no idea what I’m doing.

I have no classroom to prepare, no classroom library from which to easily pull books, no real context for the work we will do or real influence outside of the bits of time we will spend together.

If it was true as a classroom teacher, it is even more true now: I have to make every minute count. Guess what I’m planning to use as short texts that are brimming with all kinds of instructional moves for students of all ages? POETRY, of course! And because poetry is often neglected in the regular classroom, that is where I hope to find my opportunity for context and influence.

Just like in the classroom, we will begin by getting to know each other. We’ll start by sharing our favorites — favorite foods, favorite things to do, favorite (and maybe not so favorite) ways to feel.

We’ll talk and read and draw and write. I’ll listen, ask, and notice. All very good places to begin, even when you think you have no idea what you’re doing.