Life is full right now. Full of so many wonderful things. Full of so many privileges, but also challenges, things that will make me grow as a person, as a teacher, as a human being trying to be a better human being. One of my privileges is to get to teach a class with some pretty incredible kids in it. They are bouncy, creative, loud at times. Sometimes they need reeling in that can take more than few minutes and yet every day as they walk out, although I am a little bit tired, I cannot wait for them to come back.
Today, the day after Halloween, I did not know what to expect. After all, one child had declared to me the day before that really all school should just be cancelled the week of Halloween. As a mother witnessing my own children’s lethargy this morning, I had to wonder what the day would bring. Would these boys even be ready for anything? Would it be a day of wasted time? As the day grew on and the kids seemed to wake up from their tiredness, I started to ponder just how loud the end of the day would be? Where would the crescendo hit?
The bell rang, the kids arrived and we settled in as we so often do around our table, ready to do something together. I pulled out my Demonstration Notebook (thank you Kate and Maggie Roberts for this idea). I had the lesson ready on how to stretch out theme, for the kids to try so we did what we do so many times in a week. We read a picture book.
Yet this time, when I chose it I knew I needed a powerful punch. I knew that if I were to counteract the craziness of the day after Halloween then it would have to be an extraordinary book, so I read aloud the picture book Ida, Always. This book with its happy polar bears on the cover is one of the best I have read this year. It also happens to have an easily identifiable theme. As I read the book, my emotions got the better of me. You see, my middle daughter’s name is Ida as well. She is four. She is not a polar bear, nor is she sick, and yet, every time I read this picture book, I cry. And not just misty-eyed maybe there are tears in there but still turning pages, no, tears down my cheeks, having to stop the read aloud. I thought I could make it today, after all, how often do you cry in front of your student. I thought wrong. At first, the boys clearly did not know what to think of their otherwise happy teacher sitting there with tears. And yet as they starred in silence, I started to see their own eyes and the tears that were forming there.
These kids. These wonderfully rambunctious kids. These kids that sometimes make me feel like I am not doing enough and will never be enough. They cried too. Not all, but some. They sat there in solidarity with me. They asked why this book was so emotional for me. And as I explained they all nodded, they got it. One kid took the book from me and continued to read aloud.
As the book ended, we discussed why sad books are okay at times. No one laughed. No one pointed a finger. No one called each other a name. Instead we just shared the moment, shared this vulnerable moment and then went on with our lesson.
At times, we only see the loudest parts of the children we teach. We only see the parts that they work so hard to show. We forget that what we see is not the full story and it never will be.
In our moment today I was reminded not just of the power of picture books, but of the power of vulnerability in our classrooms. How for students to dare to share who they are as human beings, we must also show ourselves. Even if that means stopping our read aloud because we cannot form the words.
I don’t know if we will ever cry together again over the fate of a polar bear, but it doesn’t really matter, because today we did, and today we grew. Not further apart but closer together. Sometimes those moments come right at the very right time. Sometimes they come when we least expect them.
I am currently working on a new literacy book. The book, which I am still writing, is tentatively Passionate Readers and will be published in the summer of 2017 by Routledge. I also have a new book coming out January, 2017 called Reimagining Literacy Through Global Collaboration, a how-to guide for those who would like infuse global collaboration into their curriculum. So until then if you like what you read here, consider reading my book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students. Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.