Slice of Life: Best Laid Plans

All summer I’ve been reading, thinking, and planning how my next class will read, write, talk, listen, and learn together. I’ve gone to sleep imagining my room design.

Today reality began, and the enormity of it takes my breath away. I start to have that I’m already behind sensation. To reassure myself, I pull out my plans for the year. It looks reasonable all drafted in Google docs.  All I need to do is set up the room.

I arrive early and open the classroom door. Waxed floors gleam. Desks, chairs, boxes, and random pieces of furniture are in places I don’t want them.  The bookshelves are empty, and the cabinets packed.

I move tables, reposition book shelves, stack books,  empty cabinets, break a fingernail, remove a few desks. Baskets form with collections of mystery, adventure, school drama, biography, poetry. After a few hours, my imagined space starts to take shape.

Around 2:30, I call it a day and walk through the office, where two large boxes labeled 5th Grade Running Records, catch my eye. My plans to spend the rest of the day reading dissolve, and the data follows me back to my classroom.

Armed with a civilizing glass of iced tea, I open up T’s folder. I had his sister a few years back. I look through his running records, spelling inventories, writing samples. I go back in time looking for clues. I take notes. Student after student.

A profile of the class emerges. One of levels and scores. A snapshot. A valid and important one. The data provides me with a starting point. Teacher notes and student writing give me hints as to where I might go to meet each child as a learner. But that’s not all I need.

I know T’s level, but I don’t know T. What he likes to do, what he hates, how he spends his time. His attitudes toward reading, his ability to empathize and persist when things get difficult, his dreams, his wonderings.  Knowing T as a reader, a writer, a thinker, and a human is my job. It’s why teaching is ever challenging, ever fascinating.

This summer and every summer, I research, imagine, plan and create units for the upcoming year.  Units to grow readers like T. I’ve got teaching points, mid-workshop interruptions, and anticipated small group conferences, but it’s  just a map with an end of year destination. Once T and his 31 classmates enter room 5, recalculations are made, and we adjust the route. In a few weeks, we’ll hit start, and the journey begins.

Thank you, Two Writing Teachers for Slice of Life Tuesday. Read more slices here.


17 thoughts on “Slice of Life: Best Laid Plans

  1. Records are all well and good, but the year of knowing a child begins when he or she walks into the classroom. Here’s to T and the others who are lucky enough to spend their year with you.

  2. I’m always torn between the reading of the records first and the meeting of the kids first. You are right that the data you see there is just one part of the puzzle and that plans have to constantly be adjusted.

  3. Your writing places me right beside you. The thoughtful way you plan your year is inspiring. The data is only one piece of the whole child. It’s important that you know that. I wish everyone knew that.

  4. Yikes, 32 students! How fortunate to have spent the time mentally and physically planning . . . and yet planning flexibly. Waiting to meet the students to adjust, reimagine and continue planning! ❤

  5. T and the others are LUCKY to have a teacher like you, with the mindset that you believe : “Knowing T as a reader, a writer, a thinker, and a human is my job.” I think A HUMAN is so important. and as I read your post, I thought a teacher’s job is so hard because each T is still trying to figure out what kind of human they will be. Yet, through lots of reading and writing and thinking with you as a guide, I am confident that they will!! Have a GREAT year. I hope our paths cross. I’m planning to join my husband on a business trip to La Jolla in September. Is that near you?

    • Such a task, growing up! And, we are so privileged to be a party to it! LaJolla is beautiful. Right near my son’s school. Let me know when you’ll be in town; I’d love to see you!

  6. I got the feel of the school starting soon. The files have provided some data, once the students arrive you get to know them and their story. You’ll adjust your plans as needed. It is going to be an interesting year.

  7. “I know T’s level, but I don’t know T” – my favorite line, Julieanne. These students are so lucky to have you, you who have to “know” the students before you can lead them in a wonderful learning year. I love reading your thoughts of the planning it takes. On one level, summer break holds time to have fun in many ways, but in another part of the brain, always a teacher.

  8. Your thoughtful approach to the year is just what I’d love all teachers to do. I know these kids will have the year of their life because you get them and take them into your heart.

  9. And this is why you are so amazing: I know T’s level, but I don’t know T.
    I can really picture everything from your mindset to your time setting up your classroom. What a lucky bunch of kids are coming your way.

  10. You are an amazing teacher. How look forward to this, enjoy it. Above all knowing the difference between knowing the stats of a child and knowing the child. Wonderful post.

  11. T is so fortunate to have you as his teacher! This slice is inspiring. I just spent the morning in meetings and last week bruised myself multiple times by lugging around desks and tables and bookshelves to redesign my classroom. Despite the hard work, teaching gives us the chance to start anew every school year. I love that (thanks for the reminder)!

  12. I’m both scared and mesmerized by student data––in equal parts. I don’t want to look at them for fear of pre-judging, but I can’t stop myself in terms of wanting to see what’s coming my way.

  13. I love that you’re beginning to form an idea of who your students are now! You’ll meet them, greet their shiny beginning of school year faces and discover a million things together throughout this next most wonderful year. How lovely to be beginning with a snapshot of data! This also gives you an idea of the instructional road they’ve experienced before coming to you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s