It is the larger, more meaningful chunks of time we do have control over. Who do we spend time with and how do we spend our time? My friend Winston once gave me some simple advice after a performance that I have really taken to heart. It was an opening night party and many of my friends, family and coworkers had come to cheer me on. I was working the room as best as I could and not really enjoying anyone thoroughly because I was worried about hitting every table, thanking everyone for coming. I told Winston this and he said that I should just spend time with whomever I wanted to spend time with and it would sort itself out. I did. And it did.
Fourteen years ago I decided that I wanted to spend my time teaching children. To say that I love teaching feels like an enormous understatement. I share my time, knowledge and energy with the children and they do the same for me. It is a true gift to realize in the middle of the day, as I am conferencing with a student or engaging in a group lesson, that I am exactly where I want to be. I will forever be grateful for that continual realization.
One aspect of teaching that I find both fascinating and marvelous is the writing process and the way that children's writing develops. This is always most striking at this time of year when I am getting to know a new group of students. The stages of development are so clearly delineated. Presently we have a range of examples across the spectrum - all are to be applauded and celebrated. We must trust that with guidance and modeling all of our students, regardless of where they fall on this continuum, will grow as writers. We use their writing as a form of assessment. We build upon their current stage of development with an eye towards guiding them to the next level.
Below is a smattering of work from our first graders.
Initially children use their unique talents to draw pictures which represent either real life events or familiar stories.
The squiggly lines and marks then become random strings of letters that look more like conventional print.
This child includes not only letters but punctuation to accompany his drawing of Captain America.
The spelling of words also has a pretty uniform progression. Children usually begin to represent a word with the initial letter (S for sock), followed by the initial and final letters (SK for sock) and finally a medial vowel sound (SOK for sock). The inclusion of a medial sound or letter is HUGE, even if the vowel they write is not always correct."We will have fun at the ball game." This piece is moving towards more recognizable writing and spelling conventions but could use some shoring up with establishing word boundaries.