Monday, March 19, 2018

Now's the Time

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I first published this piece in 2015 and today as my son wings his way home to Singapore and we text about his schedule for senior year, I thought I'd repost it. 

My son's biggest complaint when he was a sophomore in high school was that he sometimes he got bored in some of his classes. "It's too quiet," he would say or  "the teacher talks a lot."

Who didn't get bored in a class or two in high school? I sure did. Who's been bored in a college class or a professional development session? I'd raise my hand for that one too.

A little boredom's not going to hurt him. In fact, some of that mind-wandering down time, may actually be good for him. But there is a difference between boredom and engagement.

Whenever my son talks to me about his classes, I wonder about mine. That's one teacher-parent bonus. Would my class have bored him or engaged him yesterday? If he had walked in yesterday, he may have gotten bored. But given a choice, he'd have engaged in reading a book. The writing practice part of the lesson, well, that might bore him.

The students in all but two classes were so engaged in reading or writing on Monday that they were silent save the hum of the air conditioner. They were  silent for a good twenty-five minutes. It about killed me.

The quiet, I mean.

It's not all that exciting to watch kids read and write. I mean, to me it is. I love to read and write. I love to study kids' reading habits and writing skills. But to your average person stopping by or to the everyday student not engaged in a book, it can look and likely sound pretty boring. It can sound like nothing is going on, like no teaching is happening or has happened.

We know that's not true. It takes a lot of teaching and modeling and conferring and talking to create a reading and writing community. It takes a lot of work to get to the silence of twenty-five minutes and every single student in the room is engaged in either reading or writing.

Every student in all but two classes. In September I anticipated this day. I know it takes time to get here.

That quiet --the whole class engagement-- happened yesterday. Now is the time. The book seeds I sowed are sprouting and growing. It is a sweet season in our reading and writing year. So much changes for the readers and writers in my classes between now and January.

Yesterday, Kids weren't asking me for book recommendation or interrupting their reading or writing time to ask a question about a project or vocabulary test. Kids weren't interrupting each other to gossip about the chemistry test or bemoan the AP World History essay they were writing. They settled into our routine quickly and got to their books and ideas.

The students were working. I was working to not distract them.

Oh, how I wanted to confer. Oh, how I wanted to talk about Before I Fall with Meghana. She's  on page 160 or so according to our Reading Record. Before I Fall is my favorite Lauren Oliver books and I wanted to ask her what she thinks of the structure. I wanted to show her on our our current learning progression or evidence-based scale how the novel she chose fits one of this month's instructional goal.

But I didn't (yet).

I wanted to interrupt and ask questions. I wanted to listen to what kids had to say about the books they were reading.  I wanted to ask. I wanted to push. I wanted to book talk new titles. I wanted to do, do, do but yesterday, I didn't. I let the kids do.

I didn't get them talking yesterday because kids need work time in class too.



  1. I remember sometimes feeling a little uneasy when that silent happened. But it was so sweet! And you are right, it takes a lot of hard work to get there.

  2. There is little whole class teaching at my school, so sometimes visitors would ask when we were going to be teaching, & I said almost never, sorry. You do lay the groundwork, with conferring & small groups, perhaps a whole class presentation, but your class yesterday sounds awesome, & how wonderful that you let it "be". Love hearing about your classes, Lee Ann!

  3. Congrats on your arrival - a sweet season indeed and all because you carefully laid the groundwork for students to be engaged in reading and writing! It's a sweet sound when that silence arrives. Kudos for stifling your want tos to give them

    1. work time (oops, didn't finish that thought).