Friday, March 9, 2018

Slice #9- Bricks and grout

Seventh grade reading block.
I'm discovering it's all about the grout.

Those teeny tiny
seemingly insignificant conversations
that somehow hold the whole thing together.

Boy and boy and boy.
Passing time.
Racing down the hall, someone, usually with a girl in hot pursuit.
Downs lunch so he can head out to the basketball court.
That body needs to move.
End of class clean up.
D's willing to help stack chairs or erase the white board,
but he's also easily diverted to an arm wrestling match or quick boxing tournament.

2:00 every afternoon.
Reading class.
When I started with this crew in October,
D was like most of his classmates.
Leafing through books.
Eyes constantly moving.
Watching the world.
there might be something more interesting going on
and he didn't want to miss anything.

In the past month, D has finished
Jewell Parker Rhodes' GHOST BOYS,
Kwame Alexander's REBOUND.
And yesterday he started Alan Gratz's REFUGE.
He's downing about one book a week.
Shoving them into his backpack to take home every night.
Bringing them back a little the worse for wear.
But I don't really care

because D is becoming a reader.

I think it's partly because of deliberate decisions on my part.
In October, for example, I read Doreen Rappaport's
A Jackie Robinson biography.
Not really short, but not too long either.
Quick chapters.
A few black and white photographs.
Lots of stories.
The good, the bad, and the ugly.
When I was done, I passed it off to D.
He loved it.

That pretty much got him going.
And since then, it's just a matter of watching where he's at in his book.
Always being ready to offer a new title.
I just finished SUNNY
And I'm thinking D might like Jason Reynold's track series.
Or right now, I'm reading
Laura Shovan's TAKEDOWN.
It's about a girl who wants to wrestle on a competitive team.
I'm only a little way in.
But I think it's one D will love.
Or he might go his own way
and take off on an Alan Gratz marathon.
(Note to self: when I adjust the seating chart this week, I need to have D sit close to G,
who is a much more experienced reader,
and has spent the year reading everything Gratz has written,
and is also super calm and mature
and can help D keep that constantly moving body, and those zinging hormones in check).

But it's not only about those decisions-
the book titles,
the reading strategies,
the seating chart.
Those things are important.
Maybe even critical
to good practice

But this year,
after thirty years of teaching ,
I'm learning all over again
that's it's really about the grout.

Those other small moments,
ships-passing-in-the-night conversations
when D and I talk about the Rockies prospects for this year
or when I comment on the fact that he is still playing basketball
even though his friends have moved on to soccer
and he tells me he has been asked to join a competitive team
and feels like he's not as good as the other players
or when I ask why he wasn't at school yesterday
and he tells me his mom was sick
and he stayed home to help

It's those are the moments that hold
the whole teaching a kid to read thing

It's those moments that are the grout.

And teaching
is really about the grout.


Elisabeth Ellington said...

Oh Carol, once again you write a slice that brings my day to a standstill because I have to sit and pause and think and reflect and reread and revisit and wonder. Have you ever thought about going through your blog and collecting all of these amazing pieces into a book? I love the grout metaphor--the way these little moments and offhand interactions become the glue that binds the relationship? And the story of D. becoming a reader--so powerful and so powerfully told.

elsie said...

Elisabeth said it best, so ditto to every word. You are so caring for these students who need you the most.

Cathy said...

"Teaching is really about the grout." True that! It is all the little things that happen across the day. All the little opportunities to make a connection, slide in a book recommendation, or have a small conversation. I enjoyed hearing about D --- and am so happy D is becoming a reader. I don't think D is becoming a reader by accident.

Tamara said...

Yes, a book please. Or better yet, many books! You have so much to share, Carol. Your insights, your metaphors, it all gets at the true heart of teaching. But there are also so many important insights into how we live today; they deserve their own book!

Readingteachsu said...

Amazing observations about it the ‘grout’ of teaching.

Mschiubooka said...

So glad I discovered your blog through Elizabeth’s extra post! I also teach 7th graders, and this post so resonates with me... the grout analogy is brilliant. I’ve met so many D’s in my classes, and yes, the grout makes all the difference. Also, how did you get access to all those fantastic titles BEFORE they’re released? I can’t wait to dive into your other posts for more golden nuggets. Jackpot!