Tuesday, November 10, 2015

What Matters?

A team of talented teachers hosted Family Literacy Night, an evening of games, workshops, book talks and fun. Beth Scanlon our school's reading coach and fellow slice organizes the team for this event. The literacy committee she works with began offering the night several years ago as a way to reach out to families, celebrate reading and build community.

Break out sessions, games, story time and crafts for siblings, pizza AND book give aways AND spoken word poetry on the patio, worth it for the late night at school.
Three moments sparkled for me this evening.

One, pre-game, a student I sponsor and mentor gave me a pep talk before my presentation. I was a little nervous to talk about students on social media. I hosted about social media session: the good, the bad and the ugly. I covered up students' account information and profile pictures, but I shared actual posts that students from our school published.

My student asked about my presentation. Listened as I summed it up and showed the slides. Then he said, "I have confidence in you."

And you know what? His words worked. They did so much to lift me up this evening.

How often do I tell students I have confidence in them? How often do I tell colleagues I have confidence in them? Encouragement matters. Choosing KIND matters.

 The second moment was a moment of strategy and craft. I wanted to start my session by listening to parents and teens. Talk less, listen more (I keep telling myself that, some days I succeed at listening more). This evening, I listened. I snicked a conversation strategy for tonight's session from a colleague and love how it worked. I do not know what my favorite social studies' teacher calls the strategy but I called it toss and talk.

Parents and teens wrote all sorts of concerns (anonymously) on the papers they tossed into a box. Here a few of them:
"He spends too much time on social media and does his homework late, making him tired."
"Addictive for kids"
"Steal each others' identity"
"Explicit content available for teenagers"
"Broke connections with the family" 
We started a good conversation in my room. A conversation that matters to me as a parent and as a teacher. Linda Baie asked "what matters to you?" in her slice post today. I've been thinking about Linda and the question all day.

Listening thoughtfully to one another matters to me. Being with the people--being fully present with and for one another-- matters to me.

Poetry matters to me too. Youth poets from the poetry club I sponsor performed at the end of the evening. We might have needed a microphone. We might have needed a clearer performance space. I could focus on things that were just a bit not quite right, but man, the poetry, the poetry was awesome. One of the poets, Widlin, did a piece he titled "Reptiles." I have heard Widlin perform this piece many times. I even once recorded it and posted it to YouTube (the sound quality needs fixing).


The poem, the poem, the poem is about a family and about age and about how the idea of home changes when the person who defines home in your heart dies. Widlin moved three moms who were standing or sitting near me to tears this evening. One looked at me and said, "I'm a nurse and wow... just wow. That was really great! I'm, I'm... I am crying."

I was too.

Eyes all watery, chest full of feeling. What matters to you? Linda asked. Kids, parents, people and their stories matter to me. Amazing, all.


  1. Oh Lee Ann, thank you for the mention, so much matters, and what you do/did at the literacy night, how you honored by listening, seemed to get it right by me. I love the menu, so exciting. Love that 'toss & talk' idea. I will share with my former colleagues! I love that you gained confidence from a student. We are all in this together, after all. The families must love this night that Beth started. Making memories matters too, & you just made some, didn't you? Thanks for a fully exciting makes-the-heart-feel-good post.

  2. Lee Ann, what a night this was!!! I love how you accepted the compliment from the student and allowed him to build you up!! I love the entire Literacy Night plan and the poetry and your presentation idea. WOW! WOW! WOW! And I love your focus on being fully present!! What a lovely evening!! Thank you for sharing!

  3. Most of all I think it is about the positive memories that were made about kids and the school last night. I was most excited to accomplish my dream that all teens left with a book. So much about the structure of this night was garnered from the work that teachers did at my daughter's elementary school. But it takes a team of people who show up and do the work.Thanks for your contribution and taking a risk to create a safe space to discuss social media.

  4. I applaud to the team effort that made this Literacy Night happen. Sounds like you were able to achieve what you envisioned and desired. I like Beth's comment about each teenager leaving with a book.

  5. Such a fun evening! I'm inspired by the wide range of activities you had at Family Literacy Night. Kudos to you and your team!