Saturday, February 25, 2012

Coming Soon: Slice of Life

Every March I brush cobwebs off the blogging keyboard and make time to write along with other writers/bloggers via Two Writing Teachers' annual Slice of Life community. Come on and try it with us. See Two Writing Teachers for the "how to" and just write.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Home Visits 2011

A few years ago as I began my training year as a Literacy Collaborative Coordinator, I grieved the loss of home visits in the beginning of my year. I missed them. They'd been a teaching ritual since 1980 (with a few years off when I wasn't teaching) and it was hard to imagine having students and not meeting their families. It was an important experience for me.

About that same time, two young teachers asked me about home visits. They were ready to try them. I got pretty excited about those two heading off to meet families knowing what the knocks on the door would bring; students proudly showing teachers their work areas, parents and student bonding with their teachers, the teachers having an opportunity to communicate face to face. I was happy they would get that feeling about a family that can only come from sitting on a sofa or kitchen table, sharing a cup of insam cha (ginseng) tea or chai or cardamom or Ethiopian spiced tea with them, them sharing what they know about this precious student and finally, sharing what they want to accomplish together.

This year I sat on those sofas, sipped tea, and listened to parents speak about their children along with my very willing co-teacher, the second grade classroom teacher with whom I teach literacy.

We brought student artifacts, a translator, our positive thoughts, and the hope we'd learn something. We weren't disappointed. How else would we know about our writer who had books he'd written from first grade stuffed in a drawer and couldn't wait to show them to us? Or about our budding reader who read her books to her baby sister everyday because both parents only spoke Spanish? What about the reader we continue to be worried about, who loves rabbits and his younger brother, whose mom is practically raising four boys on her own, barely providing for them?  We noticed many students share small spaces with lots of people. "Quietly working" can't really happen when it's a far off idea. A side discovery; one thoughtfully quiet, typically still student wasn't so quiet or still, as he showed off his exceptional ability to move. On furniture.

Those memories come to visit us just about every day. We can't reflect on our instruction without those memories. We teach small children with families who love them. Big house, tiny apartment, under the poverty line, well over it, rhythms of another language or fluent English spoken, our students come to learn and their families support them the best they are able.