Meltdown

Yesterday when I passed my kindergarten friends in the hall, a spunky little friend at the head of the line asked, “So when are you coming to visit us? You should, you know.”

It’s been a long hot week. This afternoon I headed down to kindergarten. As I approached the door the kinders were on the carpet with the lights out.

“Oh, good. A read aloud,” I thought.

I settled into a teeny chair behind the rug and noticed one boy sitting with the classroom aide and repeatedly calling out, “Volleyball! Volleyball!” in a silly voice. He isn’t one of our learning center friends, just a boy who’s had a rough transition into kindergarten. Already this year he’s become acquainted with our principal.

Looking closer I could see the teacher was wilted. Soon the children packed up and got in line for afternoon recess.

That was the moment when Brady* melted down completely. He flopped to his back on the floor, nearly missing cracking his head on the floor. He started swinging his feet at the children in line. Only the teacher’s quick response prevented him from kicking his classmates as they moved past him and out the door.

I ushered the back of the line out to the hall and watched to be sure there was a second adult outside before I returned to the classroom door to back up the teacher. I paused at the door to take in the situation. Brady picked up the trash can. He banged it up and down, watching her the whole time. When she didn’t react, he turned the can over and slammed it upside down. As he lifted the can he shook it to be sure every piece of drippy snacktime trash fluttered to the floor.

Her only reaction was to take a pair of disposable gloves out of the cabinet. I contemplated closing the door in case Brady decided to bolt. I looked down the hall both ways as I tried to decide.

When I looked back, I couldn’t see the teacher anywhere. There was Brady standing near the wall. It looked like he was talking to himself and pointing. It took a moment to remember that his teacher had told me recently about that mood chart. Each color represents a mood and she’s been using it to help her kinders express how they’re feeling. Brady wasn’t alone at all. From behind the shelves I saw his teacher’s hand reach up to the chart, and heard her disembodied voice.

“If you’re here,” she probed quietly, pointing to the top of the yellow square, “what can we do to get you back down here?” She pointed again, but lower in the yellow box.

I couldn’t hear what Brody said, but he responded to her. No longer was there kicking or upheaval.

Deciding that she had the situation well in hand, and that an audience might do more harm than good, I followed the class outside. Not many minutes had passed when she and Brady came down the hall hand in hand to collect their class for the Mystery Reader.

When I first arrived, Brady’s teacher was worn out from what had been a long week and a difficult day. But it was like she blossomed as he melted down. She appeared to instinctively know how to deescalate the situation. And more than that, she showed that in spite of behavior that would have pushed the buttons of many adults (myself included), she truly cared about this child. She never got angry. She got down on the floor near him and asked him what he needed.

Brady’s teacher is new to our school community–but boy, she’s a keeper! And though I haven’t been looking forward to half a day of state mandated deescalation training for the entire district en masse next week, I would gladly learn alongside this tremendous young teacher any time.

 

*Not student’s actual name.

 

 

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Getting Past Paralysis

shriveled cornI stood in my kitchen between sports drop off and pick up. Several shriveled ears of corn caught my eye. Ugh! They were a guilty reminder that I’d let several produce items go to waste since last Wednesday when I picked up the previous farm box in spite of good intentions. And there next to them were a dozen fresh ears of corn from today’s farm excursion.

The corn conundrum made me remember something my new 4th grade teacher said to me yesterday.

“There’s just so much with the mini lessons and the small groups. I sorted them into groups from the pre-assessment, but then I wasn’t sure those groups were right so…I haven’t really started groups yet. I don’t even know where to start.”

……..

My frazzled mom self, exhausted from a cross country meet with so little parking I practically had to jog the course myself to get to where my son was, a trip to pick up our CSA box, a drop off at the rink, and then walking in to a kitchen whose vegetables have clearly seen better days could totally relate to that first year teacher.

She didn’t mention all the other things, the math, the lunch count, scheduling the guidance lesson, and SLOs, but they were all looming. Just as I still faced studying with my boys for a combined four tests tomorrow, and the announcement at 9:00 that my younger son absolutely needed the load of delicates washed because he needs shorts for practice tomorrow–“I put the clothes in the washer, Mom, but I don’t know how to turn it on. Oh, and can you please try to make sure it gets in the dryer?”

With so much on our plates as teachers, it’s easy to understand the deer in headlights look. Sometimes teachers don’t know what to tackle first. They want to do the exact right thing and it can be paralyzing.

I had asked the first year teacher how small groups were going because I didn’t see any happening. While I was moving around her room and conferring to get a sense of her class, she sat shuffling a stack of the pre-assessments looking uncomfortable. It wasn’t an accusation. It was a conversation starter. And her response gushed out like it was a relief to get it off her chest. She explained that she didn’t want to do the groups wrong so she had sorted and resorted them, but couldn’t decide.

“You aren’t going to hurt them by trying a group, even if it isn’t the perfect group. Don’t worry. Any group is a good start if it gets you started,” I assured her. “Would it help if I took a look at those and sketched out one way groups might look? I could come tomorrow and teach a couple of groups so you could see what they might look like. Then we could talk about how I decided and what might come next.”

“Really? You wouldn’t mind? That would be such a help.”

So last night (which thankfully was a little less hectic on the mom front) I sorted her readers based on their pre-assessments and penciled in small group plans for the next week and a half. Those plans included a primary goal, a list of which few students needed to start with that goal, and gradual release over about three meetings. I also created a couple of demo pages in my reading notebook for those groups. Because I feel confident naming possible next steps, it only took about half an hour. But really I was able to get it done because I recognized that any personalized instruction could benefit readers. It was entirely likely that some readers would need multiple things. I could choose one knowing that I’d get to another one later on. I also avoided paralysis because I knew that if I found myself with a group sitting in front of me and one reader didn’t fit well, I could always say, “off you go,” and catch up to them in a conference.

Today I shared the plan for the groups. I scheduled two a day so the first and second groups needed something very similar. I suggested that I could model as many groups as she needed, but if she felt ready I could model the first and she could repeat it with the next group. We could repeat that pattern across the next several days until she felt more comfortable.

Something imperfect that happens is better than the perfect thing that never will.

Both my boys ate left-over boxed macaroni and cheese tonight that I made this morning just so they’d eat something. It wasn’t perfect. But stirring the powdered cheese in at 6:00 this morning meant that at 6:00 tonight I could tackle the other things that were important to my family today. And I’ll admit, I didn’t quiz anyone on chemistry or algebra. That may have been ideal, but realistically what I could manage was to quiz them on AP Government and Latin American geography. They are both fed, showered, and in bed. Tomorrow is another day at home.

And it will be another day in classrooms. Tomorrow we’ll pick up where we left off with small groups and conferring. There’s always more to do.

Which reminds me…I have a dozen more ears of corn to vacuum seal.

 

Priceless

This is why we teach.

A few weeks ago school opened and we welcomed around 20 new students to our K-5 building. Since I get to meet nearly all of our new friends before they begin, I make a point to follow up and see how it’s going for them in their new classes. Often it’s a smile and “How’s it going?” Occasionally, it’s an additional reading assessment–an extra chance to hear them read and finish pinpointing a just right starting place. I chat with the children, and their teachers.

It was the first week of school when I met “Fred” for the first time. He arrived to us from a very different community and school. For him the early grades were not a positive experience. He was prickly and defensive.

“I do NOT read,” he declared. “I DON’T do work.” And to make matters more challenging, he constantly expected to be disrespected by peers (and possibly adults), so he lashed out quickly if he felt threatened.

His teacher negotiated with him to read one page of a book during the day’s reading workshop. When I pulled him to my office to get to know him, I managed to coax and cajole a reluctant three pages.

Fast forward.

Last week, his teacher reported that he finished his book, came to her and announced, “This level is too easy for me now. Can I have a harder book?”

That was two days after he laboriously plodded through the entire state-mandated universal screening assessment online, carefully reading and rereading every passage although it was well above where he was reading independently.

Two days after that he finished Andy Shane and asked for harder books again.

………..

This past weekend I was at nErDcampNNE in Freeport, Maine. At the author evening on Friday I came across a few Andy Shane books. I looked up and there was Jennifer Richard Jacobson. We chatted and she signed a copy to “Fred.”

Back at school today I made a visit to his classroom. I pulled up alongside him at his reading spot on the carpet and listened as he worked his way through a page–solving ‘engineer’ along the way. I interrupted him and explained how I’d met the author over the weekend.

“When I met her, I thought of you so she signed this copy of the book for you,” I flipped to her inscription. His eyes rounded. “This one is for you to keep forever.”

He turned to look at his teacher and she smiled at me over his head. “He’s smiling so big,” she mouthed when he turned back to me.

As I moved to speak with her, he got up from his zone. We soon realized that he had taken the book and was showing the inscription to the other students.

“This is for me. The author signed it,” he repeated to each one. Just a few short weeks after he arrived, he trusted that they would be as happy for him as he was.

He came up to me and said, “could a teacher write a note to my mom in case she doesn’t believe me about this book?” I agreed thinking I’d drop off a note before the end of the day. He immediately handed me a pad of sticky notes and his pencil. He wasn’t letting me leave his sight until he had airtight proof.

I’ve lined up at midnight for book releases. But I have never, in my life, seen someone so happy to receive a book.

I’m glad he liked the book. But I’m ecstatic that he now views himself as a reader.

His teacher is wonderful. She’s shown him both respect and limits since he arrived. She’s managed to convince him that our school is the kind of place where we’re all readers. Where we all care about one another.

He believed her, so now he believes in himself.

 

Geeking Out at Nerdy Author Night

This is an all literacy weekend!

I climbed in the car and cranked up the Hamilton soundtrack (followed by a little Ella Fitgerald) for the drive to Maine. Traveling alone means I’m temporarily not responsible for other human beings, which is liberating in itself. It also means I can belt out showtunes without harming anyone else. I was feeling sassy, singing and swaying to “Satisfied” in my Subaru, then belting blues-y Ella.

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Maine- The Way Life Should Be

My anticipation was approaching a fever pitch as I pulled up to Morse Street School in Freeport. You see, authors still feel otherworldly to me. And here’s this little school tucked in behind L.L. Bean. I mean, of course tourist towns must have schools, too, but actually seeing them is a little like seeing through the Mist for the first time.

I wasn’t sure quite how the Author Night would work so I arrived just as it was beginning and took a slow lap around the Gymaterium (new word). I felt my excitement nearly ready to bubble over. Do you KNOW who was going to be here? My nerves settled down to a soft simmer as I glimpsed many familiar book covers around the edges of the room. Some kids were already sidling up to authors, parents in tow. I overheard a few teachers exclaiming over books they scored for their classes (or themselves).  After a full lap at arms length, I was ready to engage.

I stood tentatively behind a girl and her mother, waiting for my turn with the author of Piper Green. I shifted awkwardly from foot to foot as Ellen Potter chatted with the girl. How did this work? I knew the books were for sale. Surreptitiously, I tried to figure out how the mother was paying for them. I quietly unzipped my wallet to retrieve the cash I’d brought for just this purpose. I was going to have to say something when it was my turn. I waited without coming up with anything worth saying. I tried to look less awkward by browsing the books on the next table over. But I felt bad scanning the books without saying anything to the author.

Finally I asked, “How did you ever get started writing about the ocean?” It was the start of the most pleasant conversation, not at all awkward and hero-worship-y like I’d feared. She mentioned her underwater photographer who worked with National Geographic, and I thought, “It couldn’t be…could it?” Turns out, we know someone in common. One of her photographers is a family friend. We were both swimmers at Colby. By the end of the conversation I had to know more about giant squid, so I asked for a copy of one of her books. Like a sunken treasure.

By the time our conversation wrapped up I turned back to Ellen Potter and the line was gone. Now there was just one young boy–maybe 7–chatting with her about Minecraft of all things. In his mind, he was the expert here with countless Minecraft achievements. These authors were just people after all.

I continued down the aisle of tables in much the same manner, chatting comfortably with the authors of Andy Shane and Ballpark Mysteries. Jennifer Richard Jacobson signed a book to a third grader who three weeks ago insisted he wasn’t a reader, but recently finished one of her books. (I can’t wait to hand it to him!) She shared that a new edition will be coming out with multiple Andy Shane titles bound into a single volume. Finally, striving readers will be able to carry around a “big book” that looks like everyone else’s! Maybe that shouldn’t matter, but I think it will be powerful for those readers. I also had that third grade friend in mind when David Kelly signed the mysteries.

Let’s be honest, I was awestruck by the authors. But I was gobsmacked by how easily the young readers interacted with them. A post-event conversation with another teacher from Massachusetts made me realize why that was so surprising to me.

Jason said, “We never saw authors when we were kids. Now, I have authors come to my classroom every year, we Skype, I meet them at events like this and we’re friends. But when we were kids those things didn’t happen.”

And he was right. Maybe that’s why the 7 year old could boast at length to an author one Friday night in his school gym, and I’ve seen Lynda Mullaly Hunt three times before I asked her to sign copies of Fish in a Tree  and One for the Murphys. What was I waiting for? When she heard I was a teacher, she sent me off with armloads of swag to share at school. (The swag wasn’t the point, but she was so nice!)

At the end of the evening I was able to catch a picture of all the authors before they headed out and we packed up the remaining books.

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Afterward, the event team met nearby for a snack. I got to tag along with my new nerdy friends. Our table was alongside the table of authors. And on the way out one woman extended her hand and introduced herself, “Hi, I’m Nancy. Thanks for your work.”

I assured her I was just tagging along, and feeling very lucky.

“Well, thank you for tagging along then,” said Nancy Tupper Ling.

No. Thank you.

Late tonight I am one baby step closer to feeling like authors are real people. People who may know someone I do. People who feel grateful, like I do, for opportunities to share booklove with others who care. People who appreciate teachers for reaching students. People who enjoy a little snack and a good conversation after a nerdy book event.

And feeling like authors are ordinary people, means just maybe I could do that, too…And so can my students.

Unexpected Opportunity and Unexpected Reactions

Yesterday one of our guest teachers (who’s here so often she’s more like family) greeted me, schedule in hand.

“Morning!” I chirped. “Where are you today?”

“Second grade,” she replied. “If you aren’t busy you can come visit us,” she added hopefully.

“”Do you mean it? I could come by and read.”

“Yes!”

At this point she showed me her schedule and told me I could come here, here, here, or during the entire math block.We agreed to a time after lunch and off we each went.

…………….

I arrived to the second grade class with my cup of tea and two books under my arm. One was a gorgeously illustrated Water Princess by Susan Verde and Peter Reynolds (of Ish fame). The other was a stack of printer paper folded in half, held together by binder clips (minus the silver parts). I offered a choice.

“Readers,” I began, “I brought two books today. One is by an author and illustrator I know we love. You all just celebrated Dot Day recently. The other one,” I held up the handmade book. “Well I have to be very brave to share this one. You see, I wrote it this summer. I thought maybe, today you could listen to just a little it of it like you were my writing partner.”

I paused and watched their little faces as they took in what I’d said.

A hand went up.

“Do you mean you wrote a whole book?”

“Yes, I did. And I was thinking that it might be the kind of book that second graders would enjoy, but I was also hoping maybe you’d make some suggestions for how to make it better.”

It wasn’t unanimous, but the class voted to hear the first chapter of Will’s World- Capture the Flag. I took a sip of tea and began to read in my most animated storyteller’s voice.

………….

There were times as I surreptitiously watched them between glances at the pages that I thought it was a flop. Eyebrows furrowed over unfamiliar vocabulary, but then smoothed out when a character explained his big word.

I held my breath after I finished the final words of the first chapter.

“So readers, remember when I asked you to be my writing partner? Would you please turn to the person next to you and tell them what you’re thinking about this book so far?”

Bodies turned to talk. Heads leaned close to one another. And voices rose energetically. I crept around the carpet and listened in.

“I really want to know what’s going to happen,” one boy told his partner.

“I don’t really like it that much,” another shared honestly. (I’m not going to lie, that one hurt a little in the soft spot where my courage had been hanging on.)

As I sat back in the rocking chair, I asked for a couple friends to share.

“This should be a whole series!” said one.

“Well I did start writing a second book about Will and his friends.”

“You should add some pictures to it,” added another.

“That’s a great idea. I was thinking maybe it needed a map of Will’s neighborhood.” A few friends offered to make pictures for it and I welcomed their offers.

“You should sell a thousand hundred copies and be famous!” enthused another.

If you’re imagining my heart swelling as I listened, you’re right.

“Well, I tell you what…If I ever become famous, I’ll put a big thank you to your class right in my book. How’s that?”

But the best part of that day was still to come.

As we were wrapping up the share one boy said, “I want to go home and write a book tonight. You’ve inspired me.”

Well that swelled my heart to bursting. You see, this is a boy who works hard to read and who doesn’t like writing.

I probably should have let them get on with math, but they urged me, so we read one more chapter. And I left the book for them to finish if they wanted to.

…………..

That was an amazing experience as a writer or as a teacher. My little writing partners were encouraging and enthusiastic. But that wasn’t the end of it.

Today the teacher across the hall from those second grade friends came to me and asked, if maybe, would I mind coming to read that to her class too?

You bet!

If I inspire one more child to want to read, or to write, I’ll consider it a gift. But I’m also energized to write that sequel for them. The book’s still a little hard for most second graders to read on their own. But in just a few months they’ll be the kind of readers who can tackle chapters on their own. If they’re still interested in Will, I’d love to have more adventures to share.

Subtle/Sudden Changes

It’s the time of year when we look back at all those first day of school photos from previous years. We watch as our children turn from chubby cheeked, soft fingered new kindergarteners, to leaner big kids. Every year I posed my boys in the same spot on the front porch. It was stilted and staged, but I could see their height increase against the doorpost. My favorite fist day picture of all, though, is the one that happened by accident as my camera and I followed the boys down the driveway toward the bus stop. They stopped to play in a tree and in that one picture their little characters came through.

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Fast forward. More years than seem possible. But really only four.

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The boys’ schedules are so full that it seems lately I only get snapshots of them during the week, sans camera. Cheeks flushed red at the end of a cross country race. Hair damp and smell ripe after hockey practice. A helpful, “Sure,” when asked to help clean the kitchen at night. A grateful, “Thanks, Mom,” when delivering urgently needed band music. Carefully coiffed hair after the evening shower “so it will look like hair and not gel tomorrow.” A huge mountain of a backpack disappearing through the door in the still dark of morning.

Sometimes the snapshots I collect aren’t even from my boys themselves, but secondhand. At hockey, since the boys are with the team practicing, warming up, or actually playing, most of my time is with other parents instead of my children. And most of that time isn’t even while they’re playing but in the transitions before and after their games. (Hockey is often a nearly four hour commitment surrounding each one hour game–an hour to drive each way, an hour for pre-game warm up, and however long the kids take in the locker room afterwards.) There’s time to chat with other parents.

It’s still early in the season. My older son hasn’t even had his first game yet, so I haven’t seen him skate with this new team. After a recent practice I was standing outside the rink waiting to pick him up. I greeted other parents and one of the dads said, “Daniel is really looking like a captain in there. The team was having trouble with its passing and he was getting them back on track.” *Heartbeeps* He’s a second year bantam, so most of his teammates are younger and less experienced. Daniel had shared that his team seemed unsure of where and how to move the puck in certain situations. As a defenseman who can see the whole action spread out in front of him, he’s always called out suggestions to his teammates. We’d always thought of it as something defensemen do. Apparently, it’s something captains do. There have never been official captains on his teams. But this snapshot showed me a suddenly older and more responsible player.

Much to my son’s chagrin I’ve downloaded the app from school that lets me check his grades from anywhere. Last year was a rough transition to high school–in a new, more demanding district. Last year I felt like I was doing high school again. I had my own schoolwork, plus closely supervising whatever he had. This year, I’ve been feeling lighter. Quick check ins have been sufficient. When I get home, homework is mostly done. (The app agrees.) And when he’s out shooting hockey pucks in the driveway when I get home, he explains what he’s already done and his plan for later. (Who is this?!) Sunday night I thought we’d slipped back to our old ways. He was supposed to read two essays from the Federalist Papers and when I asked him about them what I got was, “Umm, checks and balances.?” with a half question in his voice. So we had an earnest conversation about how to read something as dense and jam packed as these essays. I read one and left mentor notes on post its. Fast forward to yesterday. When I walked inside, after our driveway chat about his very reasonable plan, there on the table next to the second Federalist essay was his notebook, page full of…notes.

Last year he would have argued. He would (probably) have avoided. But here’s a snapshot of my son as a suddenly more responsible (and responsive) student.

It catches me off guard sometimes how much they’ve grown and changed. Sometimes it takes an old photo…or a new snapshot…to see just how much.

We Make Our Own Beginnings

Beginnings are one of the things I love about teaching. Who doesn’t love a fresh start? A chance to do over–or do better.

two roads

Everyone else might only get one New Year’s Day, but teachers and kids have two. And to tell the truth January really plays second fiddle to the start of a school year. New Years resolutions so often seem reserved for body image goals, but at the start of school we reinvent ourselves. We imagine how our classrooms could look. We envision the kind of teachers we could be. We commit to trying new things, generally with a few specifics in mind. Anything feels possible in the moments before the beginning.

After days alone in the classroom, colleagues arrive and our visions shift and expand as they come in contact with one another. Convocation is like the soft start to the year. We’ve begun, but only technically since the primary purpose for our existence has not yet arrived. It’s a time to get situated and sorted…almost. There’s never enough time in this soft start to get fully settled.

Because now the buses roll in and the energy goes through the roof. Those first day smiles and hugs as last year’s friends greet you for the first time are the grand opening. Greeting uncertain four and five year olds for whom this is the first school beginning reminds us of completely new starts.

In October our narrative writing may have blossomed. Then blooms may have begun to wilt. No worries. We’ll have a fresh start in the new unit any day now. Towards November we may feel like our initial burst of energy is running low. But the new trimester is just around the corner. Then there’s the actual New Year. And on and on.

You see, what I love about teaching are the new beginnings and they’re everywhere. Some are marked on the calendar. Others are marked in our hearts. A child who has struggled to engage with reading finally finishes an entire book! After reading a new professional book we decide to take on a new challenge or to apply a new strategy. After a Twitter chat or a conference we find ourselves buzzing with energy from the amazing educators we met. So we choose to try something new.

I remember the advice Anne Shirley’s teacher gave her: Tomorrow is always fresh with no mistakes in it…yet.

alwys fresh with no mistakes

Well, if tomorrow is a clean slate, then why couldn’t I try something new? Why couldn’t I grow beyond where I began today? There’s no need to wait all the way to next September. And if I make a mistake, then the next tomorrow will be fresh and new again.

I can make my new beginnings any time at all. We feed beginnings on ideas and our own energy. They start as a spark, but we can fan them into something more. Were you looking for a cheerful campfire? Or are you ready to set the world ablaze?

That’s the thing with beginnings…you decide.

 

magic of new beginnings

Designing a Learning Lounge

 

You don’t know it yet, but this is a call to action.

OK, now you know!

 

The Connecticut Reading Association is planning something new for our fall conference to be held in November. Inspired by the ILA conference, we’re trying to coordinate a Learning Lounge space. The idea is that when we go to a conference we can learn from and be energized by the big name speakers and prominent experts, but we’re also energized and wowed by fellow teachers who are doing innovative and engaging things in their little corners of the literacy world. Sometimes the sideline conversations are as valuable as the main event. After all, we’re surrounded by people who love what we love!

The Learning Lounge is designed to be a less formal space where sessions run about 30 minutes and may even be interactive. At ILA I loved the publishers’ preview sessions, but I also enjoyed the home-grown title talks by a group of teachers who gathered because we all love middle grade literature. I’m imagining our Learning Lounge as a place where we put faces to the names of our Twitter pals. I’ve read about amazing ideas, practices, strategies, and projects in your blogs. You are local experts. And if I love reading what you’re up to in a weekly slice, just think how cool it would be to hear about it in person!

 

Here’s the Call to Action part:

What kinds of Learning Loungey things can you imagine? Are you headed to the CRA conference this fall and you’d like to participate? (I’m thinking of a certain small town poet. One of the TWT partners who happens to be local. And you!)

I have dreams of my digital PLN (that’s you) and my real world literacy life coming together.

Help me imagine this into a lively, relevant, and successful new feature of our conference. Please. And thank you.

Dear New Teacher,

 

better cabbage

Dear New Teacher,

You said you wanted a plant for your classroom. Here are three. Don’t worry, I checked. They aren’t poisonous, so no worries if a curious kinder puts a leaf in his mouth. As far as I know cabbages are hypo-allergenic. The girl at the nursery explained that no flowers means no pollen in your classroom. And, she assured me that cabbages are very easy to care for.

“How easy?” I asked her.

“Just put them in a sunny window and water them,” she guaranteed.

It didn’t seem like it could be that easy, though, so I pressed. How much water? How often?

To Grow Happy Cabbages:

Set them up in a sunny place with light and space to grow. Give them ¼ cup of water every other day, or so. Check their soil to be sure it’s dried out before you water again. Voila! You should have healthy, thriving cabbages.

Maybe that advice goes for your students as well.

To Grow Happy Students:

Create a bright room for them with plenty of space. Water them with new things to learn and things to bring joy. But check their little bodies to be sure they’re ready for more before you teach another something new. Signs of oversaturation may include leaking from the eyes or excessive wiggling. You’ll know they’re thriving if you see plenty of smiles and they’re leaning into learning like plants lean towards the sun.

Or maybe we could use a recipe for how to stay healthy as a teacher.

To Keep Teachers Alive and Thriving:

Be sure your environment is both energizing and soothing to your taste. If full sun is too much, consider turning the lights low for part of the day. Water frequently–no seriously, teaching makes you thirsty. Stay hydrated. Also water yourself with things that bring you joy. When you feel yourself starting to dry out, give yourself a dose of what makes you happy–reading books just for you, chocolate milk, a run, whatever it is. Also fertilize yourself with new learning. Consider a time release formula that will gradually bathe you in new ideas to consider or strategies to try rather than a one time application. Mentors and teams are great for that!

If the nursery girl’s advice was right you’ll have healthy cabbages, thriving kiddos, and a green leafy teacher-self. I mean a happy teacher-self.

If she was wrong, or if it is in fact more complicated to keep cabbages alive, no worries. You can always start over with new cabbages…or something else. Every week is a fresh start with your class. You’ll continue to build on the weeks before, but if one week is too wet, the next will dry things out. If your kids (or you) are feeling a little wilted from too much sun (or wind, or whatever) one day, you’ll adjust and bounce back in the days ahead.

An Experienced Cabbage Farmer

 

P.S. Don’t be alarmed, but not all your kids are cabbages. You may have peas, tomatoes, sunflowers, and more. The seed pack doesn’t come labeled so you won’t know until they start to sprout. Some will need a little more or less of the ingredients in your classroom (stimulus, structure, music, movement, quiet, independence). You’ll have to experiment. But they’ll all thrive on your love.