Now that I don’t have a classroom of my own…
Many things follow from that. But a big one is that I don’t exactly have “my kids” anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I love my role as a literacy leader. But part of me misses nurturing a classroom community and building yearlong relationships with young readers.
These days I know a few intervention friends from our daily time together. I know a few more friends from ongoing collaboration with teachers on readers they’re especially watching out for. And, sadly, some readers in our school I know mostly from their data. (It actually hurts to write that.)
To reconnect with readers and writers across the building I’ve started a schoolwide publishing company, founded a group of reading ambassadors, tried Global Read Aloud as a before school enrichment group (GRA really deserves a classroom community)…and I borrow teachers’ classes when I can. Probably every one of those minutes should be spent coaching alongside teachers–if I can help a teacher feel confident with great literacy practices that helps all her children, while If I sit alone with a child, I’m only helping one.
Except. It matters to that child. And to me.
A few days ago I tiptoed into a first grade class near the end of the mini lesson so I could confer with a few readers. I quietly sat in a pint sized chair until the readers left the carpet and found their places around the room. I had my eye on a few kiddos who have been intervention friends of mine in the past.
There was a tap on my shoulder. I turned to see a small, earnest face near mine.
Eye to eye he asked, “Will you come read with me?”
Out of mind flew any plans I had for who to check in with or what strategies to offer.
I followed him back to his spot on the rug and settled in near his bin.
“What are you reading today?”
And with that, invitation accepted on both sides, we read. This was not a research-decide-teach conference. This was not even a compliment conference. This was a conference of a thousand tiny compliments and encouragements. I wasn’t there as a teacher. It turns out I was there as a reading buddy.
I felt a smile creeping into my cheeks and eyes as he read and provided commentary. After one gushing compliment I turned to really look at him, though we’d been elbow to elbow and knee to knee. It was at once so small as to go unnoticed by anyone else nearby, and so bright a smile that my heart caught.
You see, before he invited me to read, I knew his data. It was discouraging. Because he was discouraged. But he knew what he needed better than any of us. We were never going to find it in his running records–though there are things there to find.
Before he can work on self-monitoring, he needs to feel self-empowered. Before he can comprehend the story, he needs to understand how lovable he is. His teacher is warm-hearted and wonderful, which is why I felt so honored to share that moment with him.
When little faces light up, so do our hearts. So does our determination and our compassion and our out-of-the-box make-it-better-with-you thinking.
Selfishly, I’ll be his reading buddy again (and again). But we thought of just another reader, a little older, who could also use a buddy. Someone to look up to him with that smile that says–you matter.