Tuesday, November 28, 2017


I have been substitute teaching a seventh grade reading block the last hour of every day.
I absolutely love it.
When I started, in early October,
they could read for eight minutes.
I timed them.
A lot of them,
maybe most of them,
kind of fake read.
Some of them looked at me.
They rustled.
There really wasn't all that much reading going on.

But we persevered.
Book talked.
Read aloud.
Set firm guidelines.
(Right now, they have assigned seats.
no one goes to the bathroom or gets drinks during our reading time).
I dded five minutes to the timer every week.

Yesterday they read for almost 35 minutes.
Dead silence.
Everyone had a book.
Everyone's eyes were glued to their pages.
Only one student asked me how much longer.
And that was with seven minutes left.

E is not a kid who I would describe as a reader
He does not willingly engage with a book.
He looks for ways to get out of reading.
Our school is part of a project where kids get to order a book every single month.
He never voluntarily turns in his order.
I always have to hunt him down.

But yesterday, we had a break through.

He wasn't exactly reading.
But he was quiet.
he had a book.
About halfway through, I could see that he was getting a little antsy.
I had a couple of picture books that I was reading for CYBILS.
One of them was a picture book called STORMY SEAS.
I slid that onto his desk.
Told him he could look at if he wanted.
He flipped through the pages.
Was silent for another 14 minutes.
Not a total victory.
But a little engaged
with a book.

Usually we end our time together with a little sharing.
So far, it's usually me talking about what I am reading.
Or reading aloud a little.
(I'm hoping that they will take it over soon, but it's all about baby steps).
Over the Thanksgiving break I read REFUGEE by Alan Gratz.
I brought the book to class yesterday.
I told them how it's three seemingly unrelated stories.
The first about a Jewish family fleeing Germany at the beginning of WW2.
The second about a family fleeing Cuba on a life raft in the 1990's.
The third about a Syrian boy in 2015
I explained how at the beginning I wondered why the author had put the three stories in one book.
About how I kept watching for connections.
About how few there were and about how it sometimes even kind of irritated me, because I couldn't figure out how the stories were ever going to connect..
And then, at the end, the three stories wove together, the lives crossed. Paths connected.

His voice startled me.
He almost never talks.
At least not to me.
And definitely not to the whole group

"Hey," he said.
"That's just like what Ms. P said.
The stories seem like they are not connected.
And then at the end they do."

He was talking about A LONG WALK TO WATER, which his language arts class just finished.
And he was right.
The stories seem disconnected.
And they do come together
right at the end.
Just like REFUGEE.
The book I was talking about

I was absolutely stunned.
The contribution was huge.
I wanted to celebrate him.
But not so much that his friends would make fun of him.
Or that he wouldn't want to participate again. 
And so I acknowledged him.
It was just like th book they had just finished.
It was what his Language Arts teacher had said.
But I tried not to make a big deal of it.

Yesterday E became a member of the Literacy Club.

And it was a huge deal to me.


Linda B said...

It is something to celebrate, at least in your own mind, and a little bit for the group. I'm glad you get to do this Carol. I'm sure you're wonderful with the class.

Ramona said...

What a joyous celebration! And you had to keep it mostly to yourself (given the teenage mindset). I'm thrilled that E has joined the Literacy Club. Way to go, Carol. Small steps and big payoffs.

Tara said...

Wow...what a moment! And how wonderful to be part of what is changing this child's life forever.

Kyle said...

Every time I start to doubt myself as a teacher you share something that reminds me why I love to teach. Thank you!

Ruth said...

Wow, Carol, this is amazing. As a fellow seventh grade teacher with a room full of wiggly students this year, I loved reading it.