Friday, June 21, 2013

The Gifts of Summer: Space to Enjoy and Reflect

This week has been a week of both hyper-focused professionalism and hyper-enjoyable summer. What a blessing!

During the day, I've been working with my dear colleagues Margaret and Julie and a host of amazing teacher consultants with the Columbus Area Writing Project Advanced Summer Institute in Digital Composition.

In the evenings, I've been soaking up the beautiful summer weather, and the gift of time, with my blogger husband and two kids, including a fun night at Benny's Pizza in Marysville.  The silly, summer feel around our house this week can be best summarized by sharing that we are now the proud owners of a custom-made Mickey Mouse balloon (Thanks, balloon lady!).  Mickey is residing in the (currently unused) crib in the nursery -- Clark sleeps in our room -- and has stirred up many thought-provoking questions, like, "What happened to Mickey's nose at night?" (he deflated, dear) and suddenly maternal feelings, like, "I gonna show Mickey how I go to bed. He needs a diaper."

Clearly, the daily transitions between my personal and professional worlds are a bit more jarring during the summer than they are during the school year.  The other middle school teachers and I joke that two-year-olds and twelve-year-olds are really not so different.  Going between an infant and toddler and a group of professionals, though, is quite different, and can sometimes boggle my already boggled brain.

One morning this week, before #cawpasi, I squeezed in a meeting with Rob, a doctoral student doing research in my classroom.  Rob is himself a former teacher of young adolescents, so he has a great perspective on the blends of theory and practice.  He had to say very little in our conference Tuesday to make me realize that I need to revisit my beliefs about how children learn to read and write, because sometimes life gets in the way of me teaching in a way that I believe is best for kids.  In the summer, even while I'm juggling my fun mom time, I have the space to reflect and to pull myself back to my (ever-evolving) principles.

This year, I'll be teaching in a new grade level, and I know, come August, I'll be wrapped up in the nuts and bolts -- the new curriculum, the shared reads, and the ways that seventh graders are different than sixth graders.  I'll also be wrapped up in figuring out how to still be a 100% mom to my sweet babies and 100% wife to my husband. Too often, reflection unfortunately falls by the wayside in favor of survival. To avoid straying from the heart of workshop -- from the child-first mentality that's at the core of my teaching soul -- I need to make a habit of frequently returning to my principles, which I'm fortunate to reflect on and refine in the lazier days of summer.

Here's a snippet of what I recorded in the Google Document that I'll be sharing with the mentors who help me think:

I have so much rattling around in this brain of mine after a rich week of being on the "other side" of professional development -- the side of the person who is supposed to deliver the content.  Funny, though --  it turns out that I'm developing a set of beliefs about PD, as well, that in a lot of ways mirrors my beliefs about student learning. Stay tuned...
(#cawpasi'ers, that's how I end a post when I run out of time and battery ;))


  1. Gretchen, I love your thinking. That's probably one of the reasons I love you!! It's been a great week of working together and I appreciate this list. I haven't had time to reflect much...maybe on the plane tomorrow. :) I agree that this week and the teacher consultants have been amazing. I came out of the class with new learning and new things to think about. Enjoy the rest of the summer with your babies and hubby.

  2. I really sense and share your dedication to being a momma in the summer and do all the things that we miss out on during the school year. I also appreciated your list of principles; it encouraged me to think about mine. I look forward to hearing about how you like 7th grade (I LOVE it by the way!)