Amazing Kids

Amazing Kids

Saturday, February 23, 2013

A REAL Classroom Library

My day started as one of the worst days ever. Really. Terrible. Awful. Yucky. Beyond-words-horrible. I finally gathered myself and went into my classroom, which I desperately needed to do in order to organize and prepare lesson plans.

I began looking at all of the books that have found a home in my classroom, thanks to gifts, donations, and making a little extra money on the side teaching piano and voice lessons. The bookshelves I scrounged up from all over the building at the beginning of the school year (thanks to Donalyn Miller's The Book Whisperer) seemed to be more than enough when I hauled them into the room. But over the past several weeks (maybe months) we have not been able to squeeze all of the realistic fiction on their designated shelves. Or the fantasy/science fiction. Or historical fiction. Shelves were bulging, books were spewing out, kids had given up and put them any old place due to lack of space. It's been tragic. Okay, not tragic. Wonderful. Yes...wonderful. (Although, the mystery section is still pathetically thin, in case you're looking to donate!)

Knowing things would have to be moved and another bookshelf - or more - would need to be conscripted into service, my mind was probing any possibility. I unshelved picture books I keep carefully guarded as read-alouds, put them on the piano bench temporarily, and reassigned that case for fantasy. After moving the piano and two other bookcases, the "new" bookcase found its home.  Ivan was happy, as were Charlotte, the BFG, Prince Caspian, Origami Yoda, Marty McGuire, Baby Mouse, and a host of their comrades. They could breathe! They could all be found by anxious fourth grade readers!

As this type of renewal continued my view on life was given a bit of a lift. The authors of these books have lifted me, all through their stories (and some through Twitter as well). Thinking of the kids' reaction on Monday lifted me, because I know they will be excited to explore. Finding - or re-finding - books I have yet to read lifted me, too. I brought one home to read tomorrow so I can encourage my kids to read it!

I should have taken a picture of my "updated" classroom library to share with you. Maybe I still will. It's wonderful. Yeah, it has some weaknesses (mystery books), but it's growing.

Never in a million years would I have thought we would have so many wonderful friends gracing our classroom like this. We have a genuine classroom library, with books that span generations of Newbery awards, including TWO copies (thank you, Mr. Schu, for one of them!) of this year's winner, The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, several copies of Wonder (R.J. Palacio), along with wonderful titles from Linda Urban, Kate Messner, Barbara O'Connor, Jenni Holm, Stephen McCranie, Tom Angleberger (oh, I knew I wouldn't be able to stop once I got started!)... and the list goes on!

This day was made better by being in my classroom - with a library  - even though my kids weren't there.

Friday, February 8, 2013

What Is Friday?

It's Friday night. My hubby is in bed. My younger daughter, who has been sick with the flu, is finally on the mending side of it and is soundly snuggled in her bed until who knows when.

What am I doing? I'm (naturally) thinking about what I want to be reading so I can pass on another book recommendation to my kids on Monday. I finally gave up on reading The False Prince before Bailey. She kept BUGGING me and it was about fourth on my list! What could I do?

So what is Friday to me? Everyone I know on the planet exclaims how wonderful it is to have finally reached this day. To me, it's the beginning of trying to catch up. I have books to read for my kids; I have spelling papers and sentences and stories to read that my kids have worked on so diligently. I have  math assessments to pore over to see who needs help with what. Oh. And I'm playing piano as an accompanist for a friend tomorrow morning.  I'll leave the house by 7:30 a.m. on Sunday to be at another gig and play piano and accordian. Plus about ten other things in between, some including my family. You know, volleyball practice (if she's well enough) and encouraging my husband during his science fair marathon, and so on.

Friday is the day to quickly come up for air. Then I dive right back in. So in this moment I'm remembering how wonderfully wonderful it was to have my kids talk about the similarities and differences between Chloe and Maya in Each Kindness (THANK YOU Jacqueline Woodson). I was so absolutely taken by this irresistible story that I have already passed it to all of the second- and third-grade teachers in my building, with the  goal to have every student in our building have this book read to them by the end of next week. I was amazed and encouraged by the overwhelming effect this book had on students at each grade level.  I'm disappointed that a couple of boys in my class eschewed the idea of emotionally relating to these characters and remembering how their lack of compassion disturbed me. It ticked me off, actually, but that's not for the public to know, and I was very "teacher" in how I responded to their lack of compassion, when I really wanted to... well, we'll save that for another day.

Friday is the day I reflect but also move forward, realizing there is little and precious time between now and the next day when I will again be with my young ones who need to have that positive, encouraging, and intelligent (in their eyes, anyway) voice speaking into their young and pliable lives. Friday is when I know there is still much to be done. It is not a time for sitting on my heels; it is a time for preparation for what is to come.

Friday (this week) is the day I look forward to delving into A Long Walk to Water (Linda Sue Park) and Our Only May Amelia (Jennifer Holm). It is when I plan to continue with The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z. (Kate Messner) and From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (E.L. Konigsburg). There is also, of course, absolutely indescribable joy in planning for next week, thanks to dear Franki Sibberson (The Joy of Planning). I am trying so very hard to stay a step or two ahead of them! Really!!

Friday. Everyone says, "TGIF!" So why are my shoulder blades so painful right now?