Resonating Still…

First published in 1908, Anne of Green Gables has been translated into over 30 languages, and is still selling well! The dream of an author to be sure.

I visited the site of Green Gables recently; my second time there, in fact. As we walked through the large tourist centre, fellow visitors spontaneously shared fond recollections of reading L.M. Montgomery’s books. During the summer months, they get over 2000 visitors each day!

Why is it that Anne of Green Gables has become so widely popular?

I recently delivered a session entitled Finding Ourselves in the Stories We Read. Is that what so many of us were able to do with Anne? Do we see ourselves in Anne as she questions her identity and searches for belonging? Do we connect with her desire for friendship–a kindred spirit as she calls it? Are we smitten with this unconventional family or Anne’s mischievous nature?

Whatever it is, this piece of literature is one that resonates. We never truly know what our students will connect with: keeping reading aloud! By exposing students to as much as possible, we are more likely to find something that resonates with each of them…

Words of Appreciation

Today, on this Mother’s Day, I am grateful for my mom. She is an incredible example of selflessness, kindness, and compassion. She instilled in me my love of books and all things literacy. We continue to share a passion for words, literally sharing our manuscripts back and forth–encouraging, polishing, and pushing–back and forth.

I am grateful for my grandmothers, no longer here with us, and yet with me every day. I hope to mirror their strength, spunk, and joy of life.

I am also grateful for teachers today. In so many ways, teachers fulfil a mothering role. From bandaids on knees to words of encourage, from steady support to inspiring hope.

Happy Mother’s Day to all who give a mother’s love, regardless of your role.

Inspired by Sport

If you’ve ever been to Edmonton during the NHL playoffs, you’ll know what I’m talking about: it’s hard not to get caught up in the swell of excitement. Last week, I saw a family–or likely an extended family: three adults and six kids–standing on a street corner adorned in Oilers’ jerseys, chanting “Go Oilers Go!” prior to game time. Thousands upon thousands head downtown to watch the away games at Rogers Place or one of three outdoor watch parties.

You can’t go anywhere without seeing flags waving from vehicles or people wearing jerseys, even in 30 degree heat. Heck, even my dog is sporting an Oiler bandana.

Rewind four decades or so and I was a student in a third-grade classroom during a similar wave of Oiler excitement. My teacher capitalized on the opportunity for learning, and still today, I remember the fun going to school during this time. She had us analyzing statistics, making predictions, creating graphs, writing opinion pieces and letters, anything she could think of inspired by the times. We ate it up.

Even if you are not a big hockey fan, if you live somewhere caught up by playoff action, why not capitalize on the hype?

Evidence of Learning

One of the best parts of a writing residency is when I ask students what they’ve learned about writing. Here’s a sampling from last month’s residency:

  • “I’ve learned that writing is actually fun!”
  • “You don’t have to be perfect. You can always fix things later!”
  • “I learned that it can take a long time and you can make lots of drafts.”
  • “Reading books helps us to be better writers.”
  • “You can find mistakes when you read to the wall!”
  • “Erasers can be our best friend!”
  • “We can do the same things other authors do.”
  • “When we’re writing, we get to create things from our own imaginations!”

I wish I could convey the enthusiasm of these grade 1-4 students. Their words will have to suffice.

Story at its Best

Last week I had a range of experiences: presenting to administrators and district leaders from across the country, presenting to 4-6 teachers on the new curriculum, creating resources on morphology for teachers and students, and working as a writer-in-residence with grade 1-4 students. The highlight, though, was in a grade one class.

Students were engaged and excited about the creative process, using their imaginations to create characters and sequential stories, in many ways oblivious to the many skills they were using to accomplish this complex task.

One student decided to use her own recent experience–the death of her pet–as the basis of her narrative. As she and I talked through her ideas, I had the privilege of witnessing this little one process her loss. As she began writing, she was able to express both her grief and her acceptance on the page–through story.

Was she creating a transformation story? Did she connect the plot pattern in the mentor texts with her own experience? Was she using her phonetic knowledge to spell words on the page? Was she sequencing her thoughts with each sentence she wrote? Was she attending to conventions such as punctuation and capitalization?

Yes to all.

More importantly though, she was working through one of her first experiences with grief.

Words of Truth and Justice

As educators, we do our best to teach students to wield the mighty power of words. To help not hurt. To empower not dishearten. To encourage not deflate. To seek knowledge and not spread falsehoods.

Haruki Murakami has said, “Words have power. Yet that power must be rooted in truth and justice. Words must never stand apart from those principles.”

How about these words? I hear not only the principles of truth and justice, but those of freedom and democracy. Grace Linn, you go girl…

“Hope has two daughters.”

The other day, after watching ten minutes of the news, I felt both disheartened and angry. Angry that an unborn child will never get to know his police officer father. Angry that another school community has been rocked by gun violence in the U.S.–an elementary school yet. Angry that gun regulations are slow to change because too many resist. Angry that lies are spewed as truth.

Then I remembered what St. Augustine once said, “Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are Anger and Courage: Anger for the ways things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.”

I will use my anger to fuel my courage. To speak out in the platforms I have available. To find ways–little ways even–to spread love and kindness to those around me, strangers included. I may not be able to change the headlines but I can influence the stories in my own circle, creating ripples with unknown effects.

Will you join me? Use your anger to fuel your courage… spread love and kindness in your own circles… create ripples…

Generate Hope.

Meant to Be

Last week in the middle of my work, I had a moment. A moment of realization:

I am doing exactly what I am meant to be doing.

As I create my next resource for teachers and students, I am using my literacy background, my love of language, my knowledge of pedagogy, and my creativity. I am both challenged and excited by my work each day. I love writing for teachers and students. I love the team I am working with. I love the energy and passion devoted to this resource.

True, I’m busy and working hard to meet deadlines. But I am enjoying every part of this process.

I am where I am because of a chance encounter at a conference in 2018. I am where I am because I took a risk leaving the security of a job I loved. No question: it was the right decision. Meant to be, in fact.

Supporting Parents

Last week I hosted another Parent Literacy Evening at an elementary school. I enjoy meeting with parents in this context and listening to the questions they pose. I share favourite books for various ages. I provide simple, effective strategies to support young readers and writers. I talk about the importance of the attitudes shared by parents and the environment created in the home.

Sometimes school staff are disappointed that more parents don’t attend. And yet, those that come, want to be there. Those that come, ask important questions. Those that come, positively impact the literacy lives of their children.

What more can we ask, really?

“Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.”

Emilie Buchwald

Supporting parents, supports their children, too.

“Know Thy Impact”

I’m in the middle of convention season and I’ve been meeting teachers and administrators across the province (with many more to come)!

I love educators who share a passion for learning and improving their practice: those who ask questions, refine their work, strive to be their best selves for their students. Those who know they can never stop learning.

Consider this convention season a mid-year opportunity to learn and reflect:

  • Do you capitalize on your instructional time with students?
  • Are your practices based on strong pedagogy?
  • What should you stop doing in your classroom? What could you start doing?
  • How are you a positive leader in your school?
  • How do you ensure that your students know they are safe and valuable in your classroom? Each and every student.

Our work is important work. We have the responsibility and the opportunity to impact student learning, self-concept, and well-being. As John Hattie has said, “Know thy impact.”

Your work matters. You matter… perhaps even more than you realize.