Summer is so close, I can practically feel the warmth of the morning sun while
referreeing the Tween Drama Cup that is currently my life savoring the next book on my TBR (To-Be-Read) list. Of course, a lot needs to happen between now and that first, delicious day of summer (i.e., final exams, grading, classroom clean-up, more grading, end-of-the-year meetings, and did I mention grading?). For my students, June means end-of-the-year class surveys, and some of my poor learners curse the invention of Google Forms. Nonetheless, they humor me–as long I keep my surveys short. Which I do. Occasionally.
With this year’s emphasis on reintroducing our students to the love of reading, the end-of-the-year surveys looked a little different this year. Naturally, Chris and I wanted to know what worked and what didn’t with respect to our own professional practice in general; however, we were really curious about the efficacy of this year-long Literary Sandbox in which we allowed our students to play.
The results are in–and are overwhelming: Our students enjoyed reading for the first ten minutes of every class (Thank you, Donalyn Miller!), choosing many of their own titles (Thank you, Kelly Gallagher, Penny Kittle, and Donalyn Miller!), and replacing reading check quizzes and worksheets with real-world tasks like book clubs, research symposiums, and talking and writing about books. Almost all of the surveys validated how hard Chris and I have worked this year.
Except for one.
I’m not sure who wrote it. And while I’d like to pretend that I dismissively thought, It doesn’t matter who wrote it, I absolutely put on my super-sleuth hat and tried–to no avail–to figure out who it was. My pride desperately needed it to be Angry Andy or Sarcastic Samantha or Troubled Tom–anything to invalidate the outlier’s response. (Because accepting the alternative–that I failed to meet this student where he or she was during the entire ten months I was allotted–was too much.)
I’ve connected with many students this year. I have proof. And yet, I am absolutely drawn to those outliers. I don’t, however, think I’m alone in this. I wonder how many hardworking teachers and other professionals allow the negatives to overshadow the victories, robbing ourselves of joy by choosing to
obsess focus on the outliers instead.
While licking my wounds, I came across a great article, by @lindakardamis, that discusses the two choices we have when we receive constructive criticism: We can either “get defensive” and “dig in our heels,” or we can allow it to “catapult us to the next level of excellence.” In my personal life, I sadly opt for the former, taking my proverbial bat (book?) while sprinting home. I’m not proud of that and am a work in progress. Professionally, however, I aim (with bruised ego in tow) to embrace the latter. Summer is the perfect time to reflect on the year as a whole, allowing especially the constructive to shape the instructive.
Incidentally, the constructive comment was: “I feel like all we did this year was focus on reading.” On one hand, that comment affirms what my colleague Chris and I set out to do in our classrooms. But on the other hand, it’s a slice of humble pie that I hope will “catapult [me] to the next level of excellence.” And isn’t that professional development in the truest form?
So, as I slather my kids and myself with SPF 30 this summer, I will also reflect. And hopefully catapult.
Ready. Set. Launch!
*This post was originally published at fortheloveofreading.org, Beth’s collaborative blog with colleague Chris Gosselin.