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Routines + Acceptance = Growth + Gratitude

November 21, 2010

As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, most everyone I know is creeping along to some much-needed days off.  The hectic and productive pace of school is invigorating and challenging, but as we wind our way through November, most of us are bushed.  It’s easy to let things slip (routines, behavior, expectations) or to make excuses (“we’re tired,” “we need a break,” or “it’s the start of  the holidays”).  What we really   need is the familiar structure and the sense of perspective that let’s us appreciate and value all we’ve done over the past 10-12 weeks.

I like to call the familiar structure “old fashion school.”  This is the regular routine, sans interruptions and celebrations.  It can be wishful thinking, but when we can keep to our schedule, the frenetic energy that slips into our lives this time of year is manageable.   Recent posts on the Responsive Classroom blog has great tips on how to maintain these routines as the holidays approach.

Accepting and appreciating where our kids are as a class and individual learners can be more challenging.  Ditto for accepting and appreciating our own strengths as teachers.  In so many ways, we are fortunate to live in the culture we live in. Most of us have our basic needs met and are able to live in comfort and security. Yet we worry. Or we create problems where, really, strength and opportunity abound. I’m not exempt from this mindset, but I try to pull myself back into reality when I create unsubstantiated worry. As the song goes,

You’ve go to accentuate the positive

Eliminate the negative.

And latch onto the affirmative.

Don’t mess with Mister In-Between

For example, today started with my fussing about holiday guests and menus, our family’s upcoming participation in a fundraiser for the local homeless shelter this afternoon, homework and the two bulging bags of school work (including report cards) I brought home for the weekend.  And this blog, which seems to have slipped off the front burner over the past two weeks.  That’s  the negative or the Mister In-Between.

Rather than beating myself up about it, I read something encouraging from my friend Michele Woodward. Her post Thankful Thinking reminded me that these challenges are what makes life joyful and rich, so I needed to forge ahead with the stuff I can tackle. There’s the affirmative to latch onto this morning.

Oh, boy, am I glad I did!

I typed 11 stories my third graders have been crafting. Just the medicine I needed to make me really see the hard work we’ve all been engaged in over the past several weeks.  One of my struggling spellers, who is also a charming and caring sports-fan, wrote an amazing piece on a football game. And he incorporated nearly all of the mini-lessons on the craft and mechanics of writing that we’ve covered in the past several writers’ workshops. Ya-hoo!  And another writer who writes prolifically, included all sorts of details about feelings and reflections, not just the blow-by-blow details his stories usual reveal.  Eureka, we’re making progress!
Similarly,  the weekly letters my readers write to me shows that they are moving beyond summarizing details to add their evaluations of authors and illustrators and they are making deeper connections to what they read. This will be a great spring-board as we begin to make book recommendations this week.  The math assessments we did on Friday on data collections and line plots,  show organization and understanding of categorical and numerical data. Whew.. that’s growth.

So while it’s easy to be exhausted and discouraged by the longer, darker days of November, when I look at the depth of my kids’ work (and my own), I’m grateful for many more things in my life. The  growth in each one of these learners brings me joy as I take some time appreciate how much they have synthesized as the first third of the year comes to a close.  Oh, I still have goals and hopes for them and for myself, but in the bigger picture, there’s so much to be grateful for when you look at how far we’ve come!

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