Thursday, May 29, 2014

What I've Learned This Year

It's getting crazy up in here. 

There are only days left of school, family weddings and graduations looming around the corner, and it's been in the mid-80s for a few days in a row. We might be a little distracted, people.

I recently took students to the Walker Art Center, namely the sculpture garden. Have I mentioned how GORGEOUS it's been outside?

I would like to say learning outside is highly underrated.

Spoon Bridge - Walker Sculpture Garden
It takes all my self-control not to skip around in the sunshine.
As my students reflect over the school year through various projects, it's only natural for me to reflect, too. Here are the top THREE things I learned over the 2013-2014 school year.
1. If You Give Them Books, They Will Read -  I instituted a huge read-fest this year with my students. I required my 7/8 graders to read 15-20 books and my 9-12 graders to read 20-25 books. Over the summer, I accumulated as many books as I could, and planned on getting more.
I read Book Love by Penny Kittle and Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller (The Book Whisperer, as she's better known in teacher circles.) I was so pumped, but unsure what to expect from my students.
I was blown away. I'm not kidding when I tell you that some of my students read 100+ books. On their own. They inspired me, astounded me, and motivated me to keep looking for titles they would love.
Now I know almost every single student's "book personality." I know Kenzie will want romance and Brandon will want military. I know Chris will want fantasy/adventure and Tim wants action and suspense. It's so fun to find a book and know the exact kid to match it with.
When they leave my classroom, I will have given them the tools to become life-long readers, and that makes me eternally happy. It all started with collecting books in my classroom. We have an AMAZING school library here, but unless I have great titles at their fingertips, they won't be as excited about reading.

Here are a couple of my students' favorite trilogies:
2. There Is Enough Time -  I used to think there was not enough time in the day to do everything I wanted to do or to be everything I wanted to be. I'd whine about how I didn't have enough time to make dinner or finish laundry or read or write on this here blog o' mine.
The thing is: that's an excuse. There's enough time. I have as much time as the next person, and I am the only one who really gets to decide how to use it. Like I said to my students today:
I've never looked back on my life and thought,
Man, I wish I'd watched more television .
 I have enough time. I might not manage it as well as I should, but there is enough of it.
3. Act the Way I Want to Feel - This is something I think I first realized in my 20s, but then I forget and have to remind myself. If I want to FEEL happy, I need to ACT happy. If I want to FEEL energetic, I need to ACT energetic. For some reason, this works!

For example, after school is a classic bad time for me. I'm snippy, frustrated, and just plain tired. But when I smile and act silly intentionally, suddenly I become lighter in my mood and am generally more pleasant to be around! (This thought is also talked about more in a great book by Gretchen Rubin called The Happiness Project.)

I dare you to try this. I'm always amazed when it actually works.

What about you? What have you learned this year?


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