Equinox

The spring equinox can be problematic for some of us. There’s a feeling of being at the tipping point when there are equal parts night and day. Everything is waking up. Cells are dividing everywhere. Pollen agitates and irritates. It’s both beautiful and miserable.  The balance is precarious in each moment. That’s nature.

All day I knew I “should” be celebrating the first day of spring, but instead, I felt a subtle, mild, but pervasive sadness. I can’t explain it. It just is. Tomorrow we’ll lean a little more deeply into spring and a little more the day after that. Maybe I’ll feel better then.

Image result for vernal equinox

Image from Google Homepage, 3/20/2019

Either Or

One of the things I have worked to develop is a mindset that does not say either/or. I have found very few things in my life that are clearly one way or the other. I’m more and more comfortable with ambiguity as I get older. It seems okay to see multiple perspectives.

Recently, I have heard and read Twitter threads that seem to set up an either/or that made me uncomfortable. They seemed to say: Either we’re all in on reading workshop, classroom libraries, and independent reading; OR, we pay the price for having less than that with too many students needing intervention.

I am comfortable with both workshop and intervention. Reading workshops with lovely classroom libraries and lots of independent reading time do sound ideal. Most students will thrive and flourish as readers with such opportunities. But I also know there are students who fake read because they are afraid to let on that they need help.I think we need to think about making it okay to be a kid who learns to read differently. Whether that happens in the workshop or outside the workshop shouldn’t be the issue. As a wise leader once said to me, “Intervention is not a place.” The important thing is that children are met where they are and given what they need.

Some may question why I spend so much of my time at school providing intervention, teaching students to decode text. The short answer is there is a need, and I’ve studied a lot about explicit, direct teaching for students who read differently. I enjoy it and love to see the incremental progress that happens as children start to figure out the code. It means that I often miss the fun of book clubs, discussions, and writing workshop, but if I can provide a bridge or stepping stone for a child to be able to join in one day, I’m happy.

Need to Say

Over nearly 44 years of marriage, we have experienced a lot of living. Looking back, I have some regrets, of course. Who doesn’t? But I wonder if some regrets might not be as deep if at certain points I had been a little more grateful.

So today, I’m just going to say what I need to say.

“Thank you, Steve.”

First, for going outside to check the garden. Even more, for picking 8 daffodils. Even more, for putting them in a vase on the dining room buffet so that when I came upstairs, tired after work, their yellow brightness was the first thing I saw.

It was truly the best part of my day. And I’m deeply grateful.daffodils

Keynote

In music, the key note is the home base.
It’s the place where all progressions lead and long to go.
Unless,
the key note is modulated to a new home.
Then, sounds come in new colors with new energy.

Yesterday, Jason Reynolds Keynote at TCRWP added a 7th chord to my head and heart. A leading sound. An invitation forward. An enlarged awareness.

He told his story. His powerful story of growing up in the drugs and violence saturated neighborhoods of Washington, DC. He rejected literature. “Atticus Finch don’t exist in my neighborhood,” he said. “Literature clearly don’t want a relationship with me.”  He told how rap and the poetry of Queen Latifah became the megaphone for voices of kids like him. He started to read and reread rap, the poetry of his time. Queen Latifah was his Langston Hughes, his Maya Angelou.

Much later, he finished his first book ever–when a sophomore in college. He became addicted to the act of completion. Then, he devoured books. Like a chord resolving to the home key. Complete. How many kids need the support to complete just one book? How could that begin the “addiction to the act of completion?”

A boy from the projects writes and gives a keynote. It was music to my ears.

“Nobody’s grown. We’re all growing.” –Jason Reynolds, Riverside Church, 3/16/19

Jason Reynolds

Columbus Circle, 2019

We’ve all been warned about stranger danger. Usually, I “follow the rules” and keep to myself on city streets. Walk briskly, with purpose. That’s what I was taught.

After a day of learning at Teachers College, I was returning to my hotel. I got off the 1 train at 59th Street and came up at Columbus Circle. Tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day and  today was the parade. When I came up from the subway, I was amazed at the traffic of cars, buses, taxis, bicycles, and people. I saw lots of green hats, shirts, beads, and heard talk of celebrations to come.

For some reason, maybe influenced by more generosity toward humanity, I ignored stranger danger for a few minutes. I stopped today when a young man said, “Excuse ma’am. Could I ask you two questions?” He showed me a badge and said he was doing a project/study and was asking people to gather data.

His question interested me. “What are two things you can’t live without?” He seemed surprised when I answered, “My family.” He commented that most people say, “My cell phone.” I felt an inner conflict about whether to listen or whether to walk away. Had I been an easy “mark?” Should I have more trust in someone trying to do good?

I knew the conversation was going to end with a plea for a donation, but as he told me about the non-profit he worked for, I became interested in their work. But still I questioned if it was legitimate. I hadn’t heard of the organization, so I came home and googled it. He had represented them well. I actually think I might donate. The world’s children need so much.

https://www.planusa.org/our-vision

 

New York City, 1967

When I was a young girl, my father often had business in New York City. He was an investigator for various government agencies. Often his work was not pleasant, but I think there was something about New York that he liked although he didn’t name it.

One day in 1967, he came home from a trip and said he was taking us all to New York to see Pearl Bailey as Dolly Levi and Cab Calloway as Horace Vandergelder in the Broadway musical “Hello Dolly.” There was to be what we called then, “an all-black” cast. My mother was so excited. I didn’t really know anything about it then, but I realize now that I got to see something unprecedented and very wonderful.

We drove from Virginia to New York. I saw my dad get pretty tense as he navigated downtown Manhattan. I knew to be quiet. We arrived at an old hotel. Daddy said it was old, but it was clean. Nothing about New York looked clean to my young eyes. The weather was overcast and everything looked gray and brown.  I remember we had two adjoining rooms. My sister and I each had a twin bed in a little room with one small window. In the next room, my parents had a double bed. The floors were wide-plank oak and they shone from years of fresh varnish. I knew I should be excited, but really I was more nervous than excited. The city was so noisy; I didn’t know if I’d ever get to sleep.

The next day, we had tickets for the matinee performance. I remember walking with my sister, just ahead of my parents, along a very dirty street. The stench of trash and urine stung my nose. I stopped walking when I saw a man sleeping in a doorway. My dad said, “Just keep walking.” Reluctantly, I did, but I wished the sidewalk were wide enough for me to hold my dad’s other hand. He was walking arm-in-arm with my mother who had her “determined” face on. Her back was straight, her lips pursed, and her hands clasped in front of her. It was confusing to me. Why was she so excited at home and so serious now?

All of that changed when we entered the theater. The overture started and her eyes lit up. A smile crossed her face. Dolly and Horace Vandergelder’s story began, and we were brought into another world. I imagined myself as a character on that stage and wondered what it would be like to fall in love someday with a sweet man like Barnaby, and wear a hat with ribbons down my back. Such dreams. I was such a lucky girl.

Hello, Dolly! (1967 Broadway Cast)

Flamboyant Broadway producer David Merrick never was at a loss to find the right publicity stunt that would save or prolong the life of his shows. Even though Hello, Dolly! had been hugely successful since it first opened on January 16, 1964, when receipts began to sag at the box office three years later he decided the musical needed a shot in the arm. His answer to the problem – a Black version with no less than Pearl Bailey as Dolly and Cab Calloway as Horace Vandergelder, in this musicalization of Thornton Wilder’s The Matchmaker by Jerry Herman. With Emily Yancy as Irene Molloy and Winston DeWitt Hemsley as Barnaby also in the cast, it officially opened to rapturous reviews on November 12, 1967 at the St. James Theatre, where the previous incarnation, starring Betty Grable, had closed three days before. This new version closed on December 27, 1970, bringing the total cumulative Broadway run to 2,844 performances.

Photo and Note from: https://www.masterworksbroadway.com/music/hello-dolly-1967-broadway-cast/

 

Team Meeting

Today in a team meeting, I was surprised by the passion that bubbled up from deep inside me. I talked about intentional teaching of strategies for deeper comprehension. “How are we making choices about what to teach tomorrow?” I heard myself speaking strongly about using quality materials for small group reading. “Kids deserve the best we can afford,” I said. I might have had a critical tone that I didn’t mean. I’m not sure. The struggle I have with being assertive without feeling guilty is raging in my head. Did I overstep? Did I say too much? Or, did I say what needed to be said? Will it make a difference for students?

I know I was reacting. We were having a data discussion and the scores were not good. Suddenly, I was overcome with urgency. I wanted others to share in the effort, to stop blaming the kids, to get off phones and computers and teach. It is urgent. We can’t expect kids to learn if we don’t do the work to teach them. I want success for these kids so much it hurts.

 

 

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