Slice of Life: Christmas Past, Present and Future

I’m reading Thomas Newkirk’s Holding on to Good Ideas in a Time of Bad Ones. It’s dense and beautifully written.  And it’s got me thinking about my literacy journey. My Christmas past, present, and future.

The pre-teaching Christmas past.  I’m on the treadmill reading The New Yorker. I’d accepted my first teaching position. Fifth grade. I’m excited, yet in mourning. The job will require a shift in my reading life. No longer will I be able to read for personal pleasure. I will read to teach.

That day, a friend spotted my magazine she said, “I had no idea you were interested in such things.”

That day, I walked away from a private literary life. Knowing it needed to be shared.

The classroom teacher ‘s Christmas past. I sit at the kitchen table, pouring over texts to fashion questions that “match” the type of questions students have to answer. I spend hours on this work. 

That year, I faced reality: what mattered was reading that focused on responding to a question. If you could read well, you’d do well on The Test.

That year, I had Leeann* and Collette* in my class. They had passionate voices and stories that rocked. Their writing far surpassed their ability to read.  More than anything, those storytellers made me question my practice. It broke my heart that their voices were not celebrated or valued in school.

The first blogging Christmas past.   I sit at the kitchen table, writing a post.

That year, social media happened, and I found people with a passion for and about literacy. Social media, being social, encouraged almost required participation. Painfully and because I believed that I must do what I ask students to do, my blogging life was born.

That year, I received unexpected gifts. Close friendships. I had no idea my words could create relationships that lived alongside learning.

That year, the new Common Core standards were changing the testing world. Writing had to be taught. That gave permission to give writing a bigger space in the school day and to create a student blog.

Christmas Present: I sit at the kitchen table, reading student posts. They are far from perfect, but they are stories, opinions, ideas. They are writing for each other, not just for a unit of study.

This year, the student blog has taken on a life of its own.  I’m there as a moderator, but it is their space. Students thoughts and interests drive the blog. They have words to share.

This year, tests are looming. But still we take the time to write for each other, to share our voices and our stories.

Christmas Future: I sit at the kitchen table, reading student posts, filled with voice and passion. They aren’t perfect, but there are more than ever before. 

This year, students moderate blog posts and comments that instigate more writing. Writers develop specific audiences. Students start websites and blogs independent of their school life. Better technology and access allow 100% participation over the long holiday break. 

This year, testing still hovers, but it doesn’t consume. Student-driven writing filled with voice and personal purpose is alive.

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers Blog that provides a space to write, share, imagine, and give.

Dear Anna, Beth, Betsy, Dana, Deb, Kathleen, Tara, and Stacey, may your holiday be merry and bright.

Read more slices here.



9 thoughts on “Slice of Life: Christmas Past, Present and Future

  1. As usual, Julieann I’m totally wrapped up in your Slice, reading and wondering where we will be traveling and it’s always to an interesting place and in the holiday spirit, you didn’t disappoint with this one either.
    Merry Christmas to you and to all,

  2. I’m with Bonnie, you always write an engaging slice. Today we visited your past, present, and possibly the future. The future looks good for your students. They have a guide who will lead them and allow them to take the reins to direct their journey. I love that the kitchen table is key, just as my couch is for me. Merry Christmas!

  3. Love the idea of the teaching past, present and future! Know all your students- past, present, and future- are lucky to have you in their lives, as are we, your colleagues and readers!

  4. I love the Christmas past that brought the two of us together. Who knew blogging could develop lasting friendships? I want to believe in Christmas future more than anything. I love the way you think.

  5. Love the reflection, Julieanne; you have wise words to share with everyone, and I imagine with students too. There are moments when we find certainty, and though change will happen (always does), you write with such certainty about now, and the future that will be. Terrific stuff! Also love “They are writing for each other”. Just as we do, right? Merriest of Christmases to you and your family, and a Happy Beginning to 2016.

  6. I liked your approach to this slice. Wishing lots of voice and passion to your student writing! Your writing always includes both. Wishing you warmth and joy for Christmas!

  7. Julianne,
    I loved how you pinpointed the educational focus of testing as many turning points with your students. I too celebrated that the Common Core made it ok to teach writing. My favorite line is “they are stories, opinions, ideas” You show so well how you grew as a teacher responding to getting kids to pass a test to being a coach who moderates students to write what only they can write!! As ended wondering if YOU have had time to return to the kind of reading you did before you started teaching…I hope because that fuels YOUR stories, opinions and ideas!!
    Merry Christmas, my friend met through this awesome blog!!

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