being a student, being a teacher, books, Reading, Reading Identity

When They Abandon Book After Book After Book

When a child abandons one book after Design

“….well, I didn’t finish any books last year…”She turns to me and smiles.

“What do you mean?”  I ask, not sure I have heard her correctly, after all, I know what amazing work they do in 6th grade.

“….I just stopped reading them, I didn’t finish them.  I got bored…”

She puts the book down that she is abandoning and starts to look for a new one.

I love book abandonment.  It is something I preach should be a taught skill to all kids, a right even.  If you don’t like the book, don’t read it, it’s as simple as that when it comes to building a love of reading.  And yet, this year, we have been exposed to a new level of book abandonment.  A whole group of kids who never, according to their own recollection, finished a book of their own choosing last year.  Not one, not two kids, but many.  And they really don’t like reading. And the pandemic shutdown didn’t help their habits in any way.

Perhaps you have a group like this as well?

And it is not for lack of trying. Many of my students will pick up a book to try, some gladly, some more reluctantly, but many simply don’t find that right book. That book that transports them further into the pages than they have ever been. And I see it in my own reading habits that seem to have been altered by the pandemic. My attention span is shortened, my stamina for making it through slower part is nonexistent at times. I look at my own shelves and see more work rather than adventures waiting to happen. Books are no longer calling my name as loudly as my TV or gaming console.

So how do you re-establish, protect or create the joy of reading, when you really need students to experience a whole book from start to finish? When you know that somehow our readers need to stick with a book but you don’t want it to be out of force because that typically doesn’t change habits long-term but instead just cements the pre-existing tenuous relationship to reading?

In conferring with many of my students, the obvious place to start is their book selection process.  When I ask them how they find their next read, many of them confess to only doing a few things, mainly look at the cover and then start it.  They grab and go, often a new book every day or every couple of days. They go into it thinking that as long as they grab a book then that is all they need to do right now or that is all the have space for right now. And yet, in this hurried book shopping, often with pressure from the teachers in the room giving limited time comes one of our missed opportunities. When book shopping is not given enough time, the conversations that need to happen with our serial book abandoners have no room to take hold and grow. It doesn’t allow them to leisurely browse, to flip through the pages, to consider things like the length of the book, the font, the text size, whether it is a stand alone or a series. They haven’t reflected much on their likes or dislikes and what draws them into stay for longer periods of time. And so when their book shopping results in yet another less than stellar book, it just adds further proof to the notion that all books are boring, that reading sucks.

So reading identity is once again where we start.  How well do they know themselves as readers?  What do they like to read?  What is their reading pace?  What do they abandon?  Is there a pattern?  Are they aware of their own habits at all?  Have they had pleasurable reading experiences at any point? If yes, what was it? If no, why not? I start by interviewing them and taking notes, then I also have them reflect on themselves as readers and we track this information.  I also check in with them more, how are they doing with the book?  How are they liking it? Getting kids to recognize that book selection carries many components starts with a reflection of self and where they are on their journey.

Book selection comes next.  What are their book shopping habits?  We refer to the lesson we did at the beginning of the year and help them book shop.  Who are their book people?  How do they find books to read?  What are their preferences?  What is on their to-be-read list already?  How do they browse a book to try it on? Thinking of all of this can help them with their next selection. COVID has added an additional layer of complication to this and so we have been browsing books by me pulling them out and acting as concierge of sorts, spreading opened books out in the room so they can read the blurbs, see the font and text size, helping them glance without touching. Opening up our room to more book discussion and recognizing where everyone is on their journey. Slowing down and making space for all of this may seem like wasted time but it is exactly what needs to happen.

Track their abandonment.  While all students are expected to write down finished or abandoned titles, we are finding that many of our serial abandoners do not, so we will help them do that.  This is so they can start to see their own patterns; when did they abandon a book, why did they abandon it?  How far were they?  What type of book was it?  What strategies did they use before they abandoned it?   They can track this on this form or we can simply discuss when we have our reading conferences,  This is only something we will do with these serial abandoners, not students who abandon a book once in a while.  What can they discover about themselves as they look at this information?  I also know that some of our serial book abandoners are not on our radar yet, so this survey will help us identify them so we can help. We often then set goals together, if they are in a pattern to only give a book 20 pages then how long do they want to try this one. Looking at their own patterns and habits help them discover where they can tweak and try new things.

Teach them stamina strategies.  Many of our students give up on books the minute they slow down or “get boring” as they would say.  They don’t see the need for slower parts to keep the story going.  They also, often, miss the nuances of these “slower” parts and don’t see the importance of them.  So a few stamina strategies we will teach are asking why the story is slowing down and paying attention to what they have just figured out about the characters.  Another is to skim the “boring” parts for now so they can get back to the story.  While this is a not a long-term solution, it does help keep them in the book and hopefully also helps them see that the book does pick up again.  They can also switch the way they interact with the text, perhaps they can read these sections aloud, or listen to an audio version for those parts. I have also had kids successfully read two books at the same time, declaring that when one book got boring they simply switched to the other one. This ping-pong between books may seem counterproductive but for some of my most set in their ways abandoners, it changed their reading.

Realize we are in this for the long haul.  Too often our gut reaction is to restrict.  To select books for the students to read no matter what.  To set up rules where they are not allowed to abandon the next book they select or determine how many pages they mus read, and yet, I worry about the longevity of these solutions.  What are they really teaching?  So instead, we must dedicate the time and patience it takes to truly change these habits.  We surround students with incredible books, we book talk recommendations, we give them time to read, and we give them our attention.  We continue to let them choose even if we are wondering how developed their abilities to choose the correct book are.  Becoming a reader who reads for pleasure, or who at least can get through a book and not hate it, does not always happen quickly.  We have to remember this as we try to help students fundamentally change their habits with books.  Restricting them in order to help them stick with a book can end up doing more damage than good as students don’t get to experience the incredible satisfaction of having selected a book and then actually finishing it. And so realizing too that we may not see the fruits of the labor we invest into our students’ reading lives come to fruition is also part of the journey we need to be on. Because recognizing that when a child abandons book after book after book is not a weakness but rather an opportunity to study and reflect further on their journey as readers invites us into this work more delicately. It reminds us at the core that we all carry emotions within us when we read or not read and that for many what may seem as an easy decision or a cop out is instead a way to shield themselves from more negative experiences.

I know that this year, I will once again be transformed as a teacher, I already have been.  That these kids that I am lucky enough to teach will push me in ways I haven’t been pushed before.  My hope, what I really hope happens, is for every child to walk out of room 203 thinking; perhaps reading is not so bad after all.  Perhaps there are books in the world for me.  A small hope, but a necessary one.

I am excited to be heading out on the road again to be with other educators in-district or at conferences, while continuing my virtual consulting and speaking as well. If you would like me to be a part of your professional development, please reach out. I am here to help.

being a teacher

Global Read Aloud 2021 – Yes, It’s Happening #GRA21

Crossposted on The Global Read Aloud website as well.

Image result for global read aloud

In June 2020, I wrote a post saying that perhaps 2020 would be the last year. for the GRA That after 11 years, perhaps it was time to say goodbye, end on a high note, move on to other things. Mired by the pressures of the world, bogged down by the usual emails and comments disparaging the choices of books, overwhelmed by the world, that decision felt like the right decision at that time. In June, 2020, I could not have imagined how I would feel now in February 2021, in a world that still feels extraordinarily heavy. That is still moving at a very slow pace as we look for small glimpses of hope in the form of a vaccine, in the form of brief moments of togetherness that has eluded us for so long.

And so as I sat across from my husband last night, celebrating our 16th wedding anniversary at home pretending to be at our favorite restaurant, he brought up research that is being done right now on the power of hope and having things to look forward to. That for the first time in a long time researchers are noticing that people are not planning for things in the long-term because COVID has bogged us down for so long. That we are not planning trips, we are not making plans in the future and that they wonder what not having things to look forward to will do to us as human beings. And it made me think once again about the power of the GRA. About the many emails, comments, and reach outs I received after announcing that 2020 might be the last year. How some of you told me that it was the one constant in your year, that it was one of the biggest things that you looked forward to, that there had to be some way to keep it going. And you kept telling me, periodically an email would show up asking if I had made a decision, would I reconsider? And I had been thinking of it, after all, due to COVID teaching I didn’t even get to do it with my own students this year, it felt unfinished in some ways.

And so last night I made the decision that I have been pulled toward for a long time. The Global Read Aloud will be back, albeit a bit more streamlined, but it will happen in 2021. I feel a bit like a flake, like I played with a lot of people’s emotions, but in June it didn’t feel possible, now it does. And I hope you can forgive me for that.

So a few changes you may notice for this year are:

  • There will be no sign up, just join the Facebook community or stay tuned to this website for updates. That way I don’t have to send out emails all of the time to all of the new sign ups.
  • There will be no voting. Having contenders meant a lot of people got mad when they didn’t feel the right book was selected, so this way it should feel more streamlined; if you don’t like the choice, simple, don’t do the GRA this year.

What is information you may want right now?

  • Kick off will be October 4th and the project will run for six weeks as usual, ending on November 12th.
  • The official hashtag for the year is #GRA21, other hashtags will be announced once the books are.
  • Books will be announced end of March, beginning of April.
  • I will continue to try to find books that speak to a broader world experience, whether set somewhere outside of the US or with a broader global appeal, I am still looking for suggestions, so please consider nominating books here

I hope you consider joining me again as we continue to connect around the world, as we continue to create larger conversations centered in understanding, in acceptance, in empathy. I am excited for another year of reading together, I hope you are as well. If you have other ideas or questions please leave them in the comments.

Stay safe,

Pernille

being a student, being a teacher, being me, student choice, student voice

Disrupting Our Assumptions About Our Own Failures

Our hurry Design

I have been thinking about how hard we can be on ourselves. The constant negative self-talk we, as educators, can quickly sink into due to the supposed reactions of children we teach. How we can spiral so easily into defeatist thinking. Into thinking we would be better off quitting, or surely, everyone else is doing a much better job at teaching than we are. That has led us to question the path we felt so sure of before a global pandemic hit.

It’s easy right now to fall into this trap. After all, with pandemic teaching many of us have grieved the loss of normal human proximity to our students. Unsure of how to connect through a screen, a camera that is turned off, a silent chat, a muted microphone, or a face covered by a mask, 6 feet away. Unsure of our safety as we crave normalcy in a world that is anything but. And yet we have risen to the occasion, isn’t that what we always do, tirelessly inventing ways to engage, reinventing the ways that used to work, we have reached out, we have shared ideas, we have searched for pieces we can bring in in order for us to feel a bit more effective. And yet, the weight of defeat has also been crushing at times.

When that learning experience we worked so hard on falls flat. Again.

When more kids turn their camera off. Again.

When the emails we send offering our support remain unanswered. Again.

When rather than engage we are met with shrugs. Again.

When the space for discussion remains silent. Again.

When COVID robs us of one-on-one conferring, small group work, or huddled together learning opportunities.

We carry our defeats in the back of our minds, the assumptions of perhaps how much we have failed, how terrible we are at teaching this year, death by a thousand cuts.

Because what has shifted in Covid teaching is one of the biggest tools we rely on; the small body cues that shift our direction, the facial expressions, and the feel of the room. The small signs that tell us to change, to go a certain way and not another, that allows us to read the energy and transform our teaching on the spot. When met with silence and blank screens or stares it is hard to know which direction to change to.

It doesn’t have to be lost though, it just needs to be transformed. I write this blog post to remind myself of tools I already use, that give me the answers I have been searching. Because my teaching life has been riddled with assumptions, and often negative ones of my own success this year, despite the evidence to the opposite. Perhaps yours has too?

So suppose we remember to ask instead of assume.

Suppose we take a moment and create a survey asking how we can grow and be better. What is working? What is not? What do you need from me?

Suppose we do it after every unit or even once a week. Suppose we believe that survey rather than our negative self-talk.

After all, all of the assumptions we make are more than likely not accurate.

I have been doing so on a regular basis, nothing new in my practices, after all, centering the needs of students based on their individual reactions is what I have been pursuing for years. Centering the identity of each child as they take control of their learning is the work I have been sharing for a long time.

And yet, my practices got lost this year. I forgot to ask as often as I should have. And I didn’t believe the results when they came in, assuming (there it is again) that kids were just being nice because they saw how hard I was trying.

Yet, if I look at the survey responses, the path forward is right there. The answers I haven’t been able to see as easily because I haven’t been in the room with my students for 330 days.

The questions have been simple. What is working? What is not? How can we make this experience better for you? What do you wish I knew? And then ideas to see whether we should change course. Offer up opportunities to do group or solo learning. Keeping a “Anything else you want to tell me option” just in case.

The answers have been straightforward, “I like our unit…No need to change anything…I’m having fun…” Ideas have also been shared, “Can we work together….can we have more work time….can we split into groups?” All statements I would not have thought possible if I believed my own assumptions.

And they have bolstered our path. I have tweaked and changed the way I teach based not on facial cues which easily get lost in virtual teaching or behind a mask but rather in the words they share. I have asked for their feedback when we are together and we have changed course mid-morning. I have put voice to the questions that run through my mind where I would normally find the answers in their behaviors rather than needing an explicit conversation about it.

And so I wanted to share the importance of asking once again. Because perhaps, like me, you had forgotten the power of a simple survey. Of relying on students to guide us when we feel we are teaching blindly. On looking at all of the cues that we can receive from other ways than those we traditionally rely on. There are many questions you can ask, I recommend starting with those that you have made the strongest assumptions about, such as whether kids care about what they are learning, how to change your teaching, why they choose to not share in some way in class.

Then believe their answers. Learn from them. Take the positive as the boost you may need, and the negative or neutral as ideas to move forward. Repeat as needed.

We can think we know all of the ways we are failing as teachers, all of the ways we are not good enough. Or we can ask. Base our answers on actual reality. Engage students in our planning, our tweaking, in the shaping of our learning community much like we always should be doing.

After all, kids are experts too, we just need to remember that.

I am excited to be heading out on the road again to be with other educators in-district or at conferences, while continuing my virtual consulting and speaking as well. If you would like me to be a part of your professional development, please reach out. I am here to help.

being a teacher, writing

Teaching Inauguration Poetry

We have been sinking into poetry the last few weeks, discovering found word poetry and trying to decide what poetry really is. We have read and listened to poetry. We have created black out poetry, book spine poetry, traffic sign poetry, song lyric poetry, terrible love poetry and now we sink into inauguration poetry.

We will sit in the beautiful words of Amanda Gorman from the poem she recied today “The Hill We Climb” and we will use it to start analyzing poetry in discussion groups, seeing what impacts us, what brings the words power, what makes them more than just a gathered collection of thoughts.

I know many others are also looking for ideas for how to bring this historical moment into their classrooms so I share my lesson slides for tomorrow in order for others to maybe use and make their own. There are two versions here, one focused on Amanda Gorman (note: at the time of this share her poem’s text has not been released so I am working off a transcript), one focused on Richard Blanco that I made before today.

being a teacher, Dream, Literacy, promises, Reading, Reading Identity

The Promises We Make to Our Readers

2020 was a year I didn’t read much. The normal escape and joy I find within the pages slid out of my grasp as the world sent us constant reminders of our its cruelty and our own mortality. Reading was no longer an escape but rather a dreaded task, one more thing to do on an ever growing to-do list. One more thing I was supposed to fit in as my teaching life and outside life shifted on its head and somehow, some way, we were once again just supposed to make it all work.

I was reminded of how far I had slipped from reading as I spoke to one of my students in a private reading conference in December. His honesty was appreciated as he told me he didn’t really read much anymore, that reading wasn’t his thing and had never really been, and now it just seemed kind of pointless. I don’t know what he expected me to say but rather than fall into tropelike patterns exalting the validity of reading, I instead leveled with him and spoke from the heart, “I hear you, reading does feel kind of pointless right now. It feels like a lot of work. Not pleasurable. Not something that pulls and holds my attention. But what if we both make a commitment to read more? What if I start to read as well, so that we can work on it together?” I am not sure if he believed me, or if that promise even held a lot of meaning, but it was what I needed to kick start my own reading life again. After all, I implore my students on a daily or weekly basis to find space in their lives for reading so why not my own?

There are many promises I make my students every year. Deeply rooted ones that aspire to help them feel safe, valued, seen, and heard within our community, within our curriculum, and within our learning. Closely held ones that push me to grow as an educator and to always reflect on what I am doing, to try to do no harm but instead recognize my own shortcomings in order to be better than I was. There are many promises I repeat throughout the year, some small, others major. And yet some of the ones that are nearest to the work we do center themselves within our reading journeys. Promises that I don’t think just my students deserve to have made to them, but all kids really, in order to create learning communities that not just focus on the content we must cover but the human development we get to be a part of it. But sometimes those promises can get lost, pushed off the table as we are faced with yet another set of commitments thrust upon us, forgotten as we swim in our survival modes trying to simply make it through the day and yet, these promises, these rights really are at the center of the transformative literacy experiences students should be a part of, so what may these promises be?

I promise to read. While I am often asked how I find time to read the books my students read, there is no easy answer because I don’t find the time. I make the time, and much like every other person in the world, I don’t have a lot of it. Yet I do know that every day, I can read a few pages. Every week, I can read a chapter book, read some picture books and constantly expand my knowledge of the books available to be placed in the hands of kids and recommended to fellow teachers. I read because I ask my students to read, it is as simple as that.

I promise to stay current in my reading. I remember laughing alongside my niece when we compared our 9th grade English class required reading lists because while we span 22 years in age difference, our lists were nearly identical. In 22 years, no new books had been added, in 22 years nothing had apparently risen to the top of what deserved to be explored by students across many high schools in America. What a loss this is. Because I can tell you that every year, books that will someday be considered a classic text are published, just waiting to be discovered by those of us who choose books. Every year, there are books that will transform the lives of readers, just like many classic texts have done for some. Every year, there are new works that beg us to ponder deeply about the human condition, even at the elementary level. But we cannot know this if we don’t stay current in our own reading. So I pursue the new, not in a dismissal of the old but in the rampant belief that new books deserve to be taught, to be discussed, to be brought into our learning alongside those that have occupied the space for many years.

I promise to read broadly. If my reading life was only for myself, I would never read a sports book, I would never read books about dogs, or mermaids, or a lot of historical fiction. I would focus simply on the texts that I crave and leave it at that but since I know that my students look to me for reading recommendations and ultimately search the collection of books I curate in our classroom to find their next read then I need to ensure that what they encounter shows a broad and inclusive lens of the world. That means setting my own reading desires aside at times and reading wildly in order for my students to have the opportunity to do the same. I need to recommend all sorts of books. I need to know all sorts of books. I need to purchase all sorts of books. And I need to recognize the gaps that may exist within our experiences and whose stories are centered in order to be able to actively work on filling them. It doesn’t matter that I teach a very homogeneous population because the world is not homogenous, so neither should our book collection be.

I promise to remove harmful or outdated books. I am grateful to have access to many people who read with a different lens than I do, that read with a lot more knowledge than I bring, and that share so graciously of their expertise in order for all of us to grow. My promise, therefore, is to listen and to act. If a book that I have in my classroom collection is problematic, even if I didn’t see it at first, then the least I can do is pull it. If a unit is centered too much on the story of only one type of journey, then my promise is to expand it to, to seek out sources that can help me expand the unit or question the unit altogether. In this day and age, there are so many people willing to share their expertise, such as Dr. Deb Reese and Dr. Jean Mendoza, Dr. Laura M. Jimenez, Dr. Kim Parker, Julia E. Torres, Tricia Ebarvia and Lorena Germán of #DisruptTexts and the incredible group of thinkers from We Need Diverse Books founded by Ellen Oh, all we have to do is tune in and listen and to not take it personally when a book we may have loved or grew up with fond memories of, or even one we have recently discovered and loved, is given a critical review. Open up our ears, listen in and do the right thing instead of clinging to our notions of perhaps we can make it work, or maybe it is not so bad after all.

I promise to pre-read. While I used to love discovering a new read aloud alongside my students, I now see the exploration I cut myself out of by not reading it first on my own. I now see the shortsightedness of not sitting down with a book and truly pondering how it would weave into the tapestry of our year together, to truly wonder whether this singular text deserves to be at the center of the work we will do for several weeks. When we don’t pre-read our texts, we may not see the potential hard conversations that we need to prepare for in order to successfully navigate them alongside kids. The extra wrapping we need to provide for the texts, the images and other venues of exploration that should be taught alongside it. Yes, the thrill of a new discovery is something I miss, but I would much rather be fully prepared to unpack a read aloud by pre-reading the text.

I promise to be honest about my reading. I have said before that kids don’t need perfect reading role models, they need us, the flawed ones, that are readers even when we don’t read but that share about the struggles that we sometimes face when it comes to staying connected to reading. My students don’t need to know me as a perfect reader, instead they need to know that I too, sometimes, don’t have the energy, that I too, sometimes, have a hard time finding a book, that my attention wanes, that I get bored, that I get frustrated, that I sometimes binge-watch TV instead of picking up a book even though I know what is better for me. That my reading life ebbs and flows but that the one constant I do have is that I always come back to it. That I still give myself the gift of considering myself as a reader even if I am not actively reading.

I promise to afford my students the same rights that I hold dear as a reader. I have written much, and spoken at length, about the rights of readers. About how our students every year create their rights and it is then my job to honor and protect them. And so those same rights come down to the same promises I make every year to myself as a reader and to my students. I can abandon books, I can choose to not read a book even if everyone tells me to read it, I can choose to speak about books or not, to recommend or not, to forget about a book or not. I can choose freely and widely, and I can get access to books to those where access does not come easy.

It is easy to get lost in our reading when the world tugs at our fingertips, when our piles of work seem insurmountable, when even taking care of ourselves seems like too much work. I know I have gotten lost but only for a little while, the path is still there, we are still readers even if we step off of it. Our students deserve to be in rich literary driven classrooms and curriculum that is not centered around the voice of one, but instead the voice of many. Our students deserve to have their stories told in the pages of our books, and they deserve to see the stories of others unlike them. Not to have their reading journey shaped by only one voice, or only one way, but instead a reflection of the many paths that lead us into reading and keep us there for years to come.

There are many promises to make, the question is, how will we honor them?

I am excited to get to work with other colleagues around the world doing virtual and in-person coaching collaboration, and consulting right now. If your district or organization would like more information, please see this blog post.

being a teacher

A Year in Review – 2020

I usually end the year with an exploration of my chosen word for the upcoming year and yet, this year, this one whose last day I simmer in today, seems to call for a different exploration. One of the year that has passed, a moment to not only contemplate the lessons learned, but also all of the things that were wrapped in good, otherwise, I fear this past year will only be known for all of its tragedies. For the missed opportunities and not those I gained. So inspired by Dr. Kim Parker’s review of her year, I thought I would do the same.

While it was a year marked by less, I only wrote 48 blog posts this year, it was also a year marked by more. More time with my children, more time sitting in the quiet, the most time I have ever spent home in a stretch as all my normal travels ground to a halt. More nature. More purpose. More innovation (maybe too much). More work to be done. And yet, there was writing, not as much as I normally do, but then again, this was not a normal year. This blog turned 10 (!) and so at times it feels like I have said it all before, being distanced from my students and forced into 9 months of virtual teaching also changed the space I made for contemplation and writing. The energy reserves were drained a lot sooner than ever before, the energy had to be preserved for the kids’ whose educational success was entrusted to me no matter what the world threw at us. So I collaborated, created, and shared as much as I could on this blog, through a series of live webinars this summer, and also through our Facebook group but rather than focus as much on pedagogy and philosophy, there was a larger emphasis on the practical. The tools I found or created in order to navigate our new normal.

The top blog posts this year reflect our new reality.

  1. Picture Books Read Aloud Videos for Lesson Use that Don’t Break Copyright
  2. Choose Your Own Learning – 4 Learning Options As We Go Virtual/Online
  3. The Best Books for Middle School According to My Students 2019
  4. Dear Teacher
  5. Great Picture Books to Teach Theme

And the continued work with my own students reflect this year too, one that needed to remain within the same pedagogical framework of safety and community, while also molding itself to the magnified inequities either new or pre-existing. And so my students reminded me again of what mattered; choice, community, time, and grace. That we celebrate the kids that show up and those that cannot. That we continue to find ways to magnify their voices and give them back their spaces to create and reflect. That engagement doesn’t always just mean camera on but takes many forms. That we celebrate every milestone, no matter how small, that we continue with expectations that match where each child is and that nothing in our curriculum will supersede health and wellbeing because we are still in a global pandemic, no matter how much people outside of education want us to forget that.

In book news…

I paused a few writing projects because there was no brain energy for them but am quietly working on a fully re-worked and updated edition of Passionate Learners. While I want to make sure there is enough new thoughts and materials in it to warrant a new edition, I am glad to be revisiting the foundations of my educational philosophy and reshaping what that same vision looks like, 7 years later after its initial publication. The world has changed much since it first came out and yet the urgency of the pedagogy of centering each child’s identity in the work we do remains the same. How can we create spaces for all kids to feel safe, valued, and seen within our curriculum? How can we co-facilitate our classroom spaces with all? How can we give our classrooms back to students after we have drilled into them that the best way to succeed in school is to be silent and compliant? How do we give spaces for their voices to be heard and pack away our own fragile egos?

I also continue to dabble in a potential new book, writing when the pages call my name. It will be centered on the day-to-day work I do with middle schoolers when it comes to reading identity and their literary journey. It is slow-moving, like many other things, and also fills me with imposter syndrome yet I rally around the knowledge that I am simply sharing ideas of what you can do by sharing our own journey.

In professional development news…

While I had a full year of professional development teaching scheduled, with the shutdown much of it shifted online. What an incredible learning opportunity this has been! This shift has given me one of my greatest joys, the ability to work long-term with fellow educators as an embedded virtual coach, something I was not able to do before because it would require too much time out of our classroom and away from the students who are in my care. I am thrilled to continue this opportunity in 2021. If you are interested in having me collaborate, coach, and/or plan with your teachers, please reach out! If you are wondering where I will be speaking in 2021, go here to see what has been scheduled so far.

I will also say that one of my most exciting opportunities was speaking to both Icelandic and Danish educators this year. To be a part of eReolens fall conference from afar and doing my first presentation in my native language of Danish was incredible and allowed me to sink further into the innovative work being done in Scandinavia when it comes to authentic literacy engagement, as well as student well-being overall. While travel plans to Iceland didn’t happen after all, to be able to help Icelandic educators from afar, both in Reykjavik and though Utis Online, was also an amazing experience. It is magnificent to see educators around the world all coming together to serve students better.

While I return in-front of my students on February 8th, and I cannot wait even if I worry about COVID, I will still be doing this work, so reach out if you think I can be of help in the journey you are hoping to create for others.

In Global Read Aloud news…

This summer also brought a hard decision to pause the GRA for now after 11 incredible years, BUT then I wasn’t able to even do it with my own students and so for right now, I am not sure whether it is done or not. I continue to read as I normally would, searching for just the right books to potentially select. So the GRA may be back in October. It may look a bit different. It may take a year off, the decision does not need to be made right now and so for now I will continue to read and contemplate which conversations, understandings, and moves into actions potential read alouds could garner.

In reading news…

The COVID reading slump hit hard at my house as well, while I wanted to read, my thoughts were simply elsewhere most of the time. Yet rather than feel disappointed, I embraced the pop culture I finally got to sink into (I am currently holding off on watching the final Schitt’s Creek episodes because I don’t want the series to end), and the great learning I got to do instead such as the PD put on by Liberate and Chill and Nehemiah here in Madison. I am so grateful to be working in a district that is diving into hard conversation and taking action in order to disrupt racism and inequity, we have so much to learn and do.

But I find myself slowly falling back into reading as evidenced by most more frequent shares on Instagram and this end of year favorite reads post. 2020 once again gave us the gift of incredible books and the time to read them if life allowed us to. I am already eyeing my to-be-read shelves for the new year and cannot wait to share what I read. I also started moving my book lists to Bookshop.org as part of my pledge to move away from Amazon as much as much as possible. If there is something I want to help survive the pandemic it is our local bookstores.

In personal news

While I share much of my life through here, there were some really big heavy things that I did not share. While some are ongoing, some have also become hard memories to carry instead of a living reality. But there were huge things to celebrate as well such as the incredible achievement of my husband as he graduated with his teaching degree in Technology Education, a journey he embarked on 25 years ago but then detoured into 20 years in the construction business. We now have another teacher in the house and I cannot wait to see which school community he will get to be a part of as we search for jobs both in Denmark, and in Dane County, Wisconsin.

We also celebrate the time with our kids. While I never imagined that I would get to be a substitute K, 2nd, and 5th grade teacher at the same time as teaching my own students, I have seen my own kids try so hard it hurt at times. We celebrate our outside time. Our quiet time, our bike rides, and our shared meals.

I also turned 40 the day after Wisconsin shut down, my poor husband had spent months planning his first ever surprise gathering for me alongside my sister only to see it fall apart, but we celebrated as best as we could as we tried to make sense of the news coming at us. He commented the other day that my 41st birthday will also probably be a COVID birthday, he is right, of course, but the reminder was stark. So we continue going outside as much as possible, reclaiming skiing as a family event when we can afford to, going for walks, watching movies with the kids, and just being together. And I continue to connect with as many people as I can, treasuring all of the people that I get to call friends, the conversations I get to be a part of and the work that continues.

2020 will be another year to remember, aren’t they all? But as I look back the year, I am also grateful, grateful that we still have our health, that we still have my job, that we can continue to look forward and work for better rather than live in the past. I know there is much work to do, but I am grateful to be in a position to be a part of it.

And the lessons I learned are plenty. I re-learned that I cannot and should not have to be a superhero that should be able to navigate whatever the world of education throws my way. I re-learned the power of hard boundaries, no, and closing my computer. I re-learned that everything is better once I get outside, that I am terrible relaxer, that books can be refuge while also feel overwhelming, that there are many ways to make great soup. That we thought we lived a fairly quiet life until COVID showed us just how much more quiet it could be. And I continue to work on raising my voice, giving back space, and taking action whenever I could, especially when it was my place to do so.

So I leave you this year not with a word, but with a hope; may the new year bring you as much or more joy than the last, may you stay safe and healthy, may you know that if you are reading this I am so grateful for you being here and being a part of my journey. Thank you for giving me your time, for sending me your questions, for sharing ideas and finding value in the ones I share here. What an honor it is to have this place support the work of others.

Godt nytår,

Pernille