End-of-May Readings

As I read things via twitter or my RSS reader (still cursing Google for the death of Google Reader however many years later) I will open (or keep open) in tabs ones that really strike me. There’s no meaningful way to define that. I think it varies highly day to day and moment to moment. I am, however, hyper aware of the authorship of the pieces I keep open. Today, the five I have open, by four different people, are all by women. Two of those women are white. I want my reading to be diverse in as many ways as possible. It is something I am always trying to do better.


In my last post sharing pieces that really got me I included a series Kate Messner has been writing about her upcoming book, Breakout. The whole series is worth reading, but this post is extra so, in my opinion. She writes about working with expert (or sensitivity) readers.

That involved working with expert readers, or sensitivity readers, as they’re sometimes called. Quite simply, these are people who usually share elements of character’s background, and who read manuscripts for the purpose of shining a light on places where an author’s ignorance, lack of experience, or implicit biases are having a negative effect on their craft.

Her thoughts here are worth reading. As will be, I believe, her new book!

Two pieces came from Shanna Peeples, a former National Teacher of the Year. I heard her speak a few years ago and was quite wowed. The first of these pieces I read spoke to me personally.

Because I read Glasser early in my career as a teacher, I knew that shifting kids into a physical action, like 30-second improvisation of scenes we were reading or trying to write, created an action that began to change their mood.

She goes on to write about knowing this for kids but forgetting it for herself. I’m not sure I would say I’m good at it for kids or myself so it is something I have to work to remember. I tend to be super busy from the time I leave my house at 7 am until my kids go to bed at 8 pm (not to sleep, just to their rooms as I have told them my parenting time ends then). At 8 I then collapse. Exhaustion is a factor, but collapsing is probably not the best solution. I should either go to bed to rest/sleep or actually follow Shanna’s ideas here.

Her other piece quotes Peter Elbow so it was a given that I’d be on board with it. The story she tells at the beginning is both funny and powerful. She then goes on, briefly, to talk about what the story and Elbow’s writing mean for her and boils it down to a pretty clear set of steps:

Four Ideas to Get You Writing Now:

  1. Write without anyone looking over your shoulder.
  2. Write for ten minutes at first, never stopping to cross out anything or edit.
  3. Write out what’s really on your mind; don’t edit your “unacceptable thoughts and feelings.”
  4. Write. Now. Get back into it.

I guess this one spoke to me personally as well.

One of my favorite bloggers (and people, to tell the truth) is Fawn Nguyen. She teaches middle schoolers, something that never ceases to amaze me. This piece from her caught my attention because it addressed two things with which I struggle: House Cleaning and Lesson Planning. Fawn shares a ten-step plan for house cleaning that is both brilliant and hilarious (which also describes most of her writing and herself – and explains why she’s one of my favorites). I read the ten-steps for house cleaning and realized I could learn a lot from them, even if I couldn’t truly pull them all off. Then she went on to connect them to lesson planning and blew my mind.

Someone shared this final post on twitter and it introduced me to Lynsey Burkins. She’s a second grade teacher and she writes about not having a classroom behavior chart. At the start of the year this was clearly a concern for her students:

I remember listening to your passionate concerns. Not answering…just listening. I wrote down many of your questions and concerns as it helped me to better understand your needs. Ultimately, you wanted to feel successful. You wanted others to know you were successful. You wanted the classroom to feel “good”. And you also wanted to celebrate success.

Her ability to take in their concerns, hear them, listen carefully, and not rush to ‘fix’ things amazes me. She goes on to share all they are capable of doing now, after a year without a behavior chart. It’s a piece I want to return to before next year begins. I haven’t had a behavior chart in many, many years but I don’t think I’m doing what Lynsey did here in the way that I want to be.

Collecting posts like this reminds me of how grateful I am to be teaching in this time. To be able to learn from and with so many brilliant folks from around the world (although all four of these folks are in the states, clearly I need to consider that in who I’m reading…). I am truly grateful for it.


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