Sunday, March 13, 2016

SLICE #13- I Am Definitely Getting Old

I have recently realized that I am definitely getting old.

A Thursday morning in late January. I am meeting with the middle school team. I am a literacy coach and we meet most Thursdays to talk about reading and writing in the content areas. Today, we are considering how to make difficult reading more accessible to kids.  I have brought a strategy called "Three Texts to the Target." It's a strategy that I think I made up (although more and more I'm discovering that the strategies that I think I made up are actually just something I learned from someone else a long time ago and just forgot that I learned). It's based on Frank Smith's statement that all reading is only "incidentally visual," which is what I always use when I talk about the role of background knowledge in reading. "Three Texts" basically involves using three simpler texts before you read the target text. One of the text is generally wordless. Another might involve some words, but also some visuals, e.g. a diagram, or picture book. And then, if the kids still need additional help, the teacher might find a shorter or easier text, e.g. something from Newsela website. You could do the strategy any number of ways, the point is just that kids become familiar with the vocabulary and content prior to reading the more difficult "Target Text."

On this day, which happens to be the 30th anniversary of the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion, I have selected three texts about the Challenger. One of my texts is a quick film clip, not even a minute, that shows the Space Shuttle launching, and then exploding in the blue, blue Florida sky. My second text is a diagram that demonstrates the cause of the blowup. The third text is a lengthier article about the event. My plan is for us to begin by activating our own background knowledge about the Space Shuttle. I ask, "Where were you when the Space Shuttle blew up?"

Aaron, our social studies teacher was in fifth grade. He remembers that the whole fifth grade at his elementary school was in the cafeteria watching it on television. After the explosion, the students were quickly herded out of the cafeteria, teachers were crying, most of the students did not quite understand what had happened.

I was a second year teacher. The secretary came to the door, pulled me out into the hall and told me that the Challenger had exploded and that all of the astronauts had been killed. I remember going back into the classroom and teaching, the enormity of the event not really registering until later that afternoon, when all of the students had gone home, and I could watch the news clips myself.

And then it was Paula's turn. Paula is the newest member of our middle school team, a terrific, first year teacher.

"I wasn't born," she says.

Aaron and I both look at her blankly. She repeats herself.

"I wasn't born when the Space Shuttle Challenger blew up."

"Seriously?" Aaron, who is in his early thirties says. "Seriously? You weren't born when the Space Shuttle blew up?"

And that is the day that I realized just how long I have been teaching. And just how old I really have become.

There have been several other days since then.

Like yesterday, when a bunch of us were at school working on a Saturday, and the same sweet young teacher  asked me, "Have you ever heard of that site, "Humans of New York?"

Or when our second year special education teacher brought his mother, a retired flight attendant, who is visiting from Florida, to see the school, and I realized that she is probably about my age.

Or this morning, when I opened up an email from an administrator, and learned that I was going to have to do the Dab in an assembly tomorrow morning. I am a hip and with-it kind of gal, and I know (or maybe think I know) that the dab is a dance or rap move, but I don't know exactly how to do it. I am going to have to get on the internet today and do a little studying, to make sure that I am ready, so don't totally embarrass myself in front of a bunch of middle schoolers.

Yep, there is no doubt about it.

I am definitely getting old.


Terje said...

Your slice resonates with me. The first time I realized that I was old enough to be a mother to one of my colleagues was a scary moment. At least working at school, being surrounded with children, keeps the heart and mind young.

C.Crouch said...

I too have had that moment when I looked around and wondered how did I get to be the "old" one . In that moment, my former 4th grade student was walking through the door to be the newly hired teacher to teach with me!! the Dab cracked me up. That's why you are able to stay young at heart and current because you are willing to be a learner of all things (including the rad new dance move)!! Go get em!!

Tara said...

Ah yes...I have had many moments like this in my school, where the staff is younger by the day. And it's still a shock when a moment such as the one you described happens. :)

Linda B said...

Well, you know that I've had these moments, too, Carol. And I think you're great to try to learn the "Dab". Last year when I took over that class I realized that I was probably the age of some of the parents' parents. It was startling. And I worked with a few teachers who weren't born when the Challenger exploded. Yep, old.

Carrie Gelson said...

Oh my goodness, I have no idea what the Dab is and I am a little afraid to go searching. So I will cheer you on in ignorance and think better you than me! Like Terje, I have colleagues that I am close with and then realized, I could be their mother! A young mother but still. I love the wisdom and the bravery of the old though! So I say we celebrate it!

Karen said...

Oh Carol - this happens to me all the time. The context of something I am talking about can be lost on younger staff members. The other day, I was sharing a Hurricane Katrina article with a teacher, and she had to remind me that none of her students would have background knowledge of the topic because they had not been born yet. It seems like only yesterday.
I feel your pain.
But I love your idea of 3 texts and a target!

elsie said...

You aren't old, you are just wise in information of the world. How sad that huge events in our time are lost in their importance because it's just a piece of history that some have not lived through. I guess I'm truly old.

Joanne said...

I have been there and felt that! My last years of teaching I found that I was older that most of the Grandparents of my students. I was teaching 5th grade. I have often taught with new teachers who don't get my references to the past and I learned quickly to be careful.

We use something similar to your 3 texts - a nice way to engage in the a topic and make it easier.

Cathy said...

Your post made me laugh. I have had similar experiences of late. It began when I started realizing I was the same age as most of my student teachers' moms. Then there are the staff birthdays when I realize I was in college when many colleagues were born. If it makes you feel better, I have no idea what the Dab is, but I wish you luck.


Loralee said...

I understand!
Fun read!