Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Slice of Life: Sometimes "good" doesn't mean good

Every Tuesday, the writing community of Two Writing Teachers hosts Slice of Life. All are welcome to participate by linking up posts or commenting on other participants. 
We are in the first couple of days back to school--those days when we all see each other for the first time, give hugs, ask how the summers were...

Today, I asked one of my colleagues how her summer was.

"Good," she said.

We had time, we were away from other people, and I remembered a medical issue someone she loves had been experiencing.

"How is ___doing?" I asked.

She opened up and shared the struggles they'd had and continue to have. Without writing more, suffice it to know that her summer had been really sad, and really emotional. Really, really sad and really, really emotional.

"I'm so sorry," I kept saying. I really didn't have other words.

Later, that same colleague came into the office I share.

"How was your summer?" my officemate asked.

"Good," the colleague answered before asking a few professional questions.

My heart hurt. I'm not sure I will ever ask someone again how their summer was without truly studying their response.

Sometimes good just doesn't mean good.

Peace to all my writing friends,

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Water Damage...Student Work is Irreplaceable

As many of you know, I am an avid collector of student work - charts, writing samples.  Over the past 15 plus years of teaching 4th and 5th grade, my students created poetry books, realistic fiction books, informational books, newspaper articles, book reviews, and more during our reading and writing units.  They added them to our class mentor text basket and gave many to me as gifts since they knew I loved using them as samples each year with my students.  Over the years, we created many class books to compile our favorite writing pieces and added them to our class mentor basket.  That class mentor basket had to continuously be upgraded to a larger basket each year to hold all the fabulous student mentor texts.

Even though, I don't have my own classroom any more in my new role as Language Arts Consultant, I still have that mentor text basket in my office available for all students to use, read, and enjoy. Former students, who come to visit, also love looking through them to reminisce and see how they continue to grow as readers and writers.  

Last week, I received a text message that a pipe near my office leaked and there was a lot of water in my room.  I immediately thought of everything ground level that could now be ruined from that water.  The books, post-its, bookcases, tables, and more that I personally bought over the years.  I was told they had to remove almost everything out of my room to dry out the carpet and that it would be dry in a few days.  All I kept thinking about was my books! You all know how much I love books and I would hate to see some damaged by water! 

Yesterday I went to school to see the damage and to put my room back together.  As I moved my bookcases, I saw some autographed books ruined by the water that were on the lowest shelf.  I saw clipboards, post-its, folders, and copies wet and damaged that needed to be thrown in the garbage.  I saw the bookcase that looks like giant legos, ruined by the water.  I saw foam boards, that we created as a class over the years, damaged from water.  I filled up two garbage barrels of damaged materials. But all of that can be replaced and bought again.  All of those materials are replaceable.  

Then I turned and saw my student mentor text basket.  I hoped it wasn't left on the floor where it could have been ruined.  When I lifted it up, drops of water fell.  As I removed the student work samples from the basket, I felt the soaking wet pages.   I flipped through and saw they were all ruined.  These are irreplaceable unlike all the other materials. These were one of a kind pieces from students. These were collected starting my first year of teaching in 2000.   As I looked at all of them laying on the table, tears fell from my eyes and I am not a crier! But this broke my heart.  This was years of hard work by my students damaged from water.  I immediately laid them out on the table and set up a fan to blow air on them to salvage at least some pages.  

I have always valued the power of student work and that is why I collect samples, use them as mentors, and share them with colleagues and students.  Yesterday I learned that not only is student work important, but it is also irreplaceable.  I take photos as often as I can of student work and I am so glad I do! 

Here are some photos of the damage: 

Cheers to student work!