Thursday, June 30, 2016

Worry vs. Fear

I opened a fortune cookie several years ago that read, "The opposite of fear is love."  I have pondered this fortune often over the years, applying it to several situations in an effort to better understand the actions and words of others.  Nine times out of ten, I agree with this statement.  I have accepted that people act and speak in ways that hurt others because they fear any multitude of things.  I used to think the opposite of love was hate but isn't hate really based on fear?

This fortune holds a different meaning for me this week.  This week I fear because I love.  My children are vacationing in England with their father and stepmother.  They fly home soon.  Given the international events of the past week, how can I not worry?  Hearing about a bombing at an airport in Istanbul doesn't make me too eager to have my children at a major international airport, even if it means they are coming home.  I know they are safe with their father.  I trust he will protect them and keep them safe at all costs.  But I also know that this kind of thing isn't something one can prevent, avoid or protect from.

So then I ask myself, "Is this a realistic fear?"  I wonder that often.  What is considered a reasonable, realistic fear when it comes to being a mother?  I remember when my son was in the early years of riding his bike around our small neighborhood.  The only traffic on our road is that of people who live here.  It is a dead-end street and everyone who lives here knows that children are out and about so they drive cautiously.  I appreciate this tremendously.  Still, in those first years when I walked or rode with him I would feel a pit of panic in my stomach as he rode closer to a corner.  Would an oncoming car see him in time?  Would he pull off the road and stop like he was taught?  I choked back a scream that held his name every time we approached a corner.  I didn't want to startle him or impose my worries on him.  But really, how does a mother not worry...All. The. Time?

Worry.  Fear.  I know they are very different, perhaps at different points on a spectrum.  I worry that the bus will forget to drop off my daughter at the end of the school day.  I worry that my children will be hurt or injured and I won't be there to comfort them.  I fear outliving my children.  So is this airport issue a worry or a fear?  All I know is that I cannot wait for my babies to be safe and sound at home.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Summer Writers...Summer Not...Yet

Writing is my least favorite thing to teach.  I am trying to change my belief that writing is not for everyone, that not everyone needs to know how to write a memoir or a powerful personal narrative.  I do believe that everyone needs to know how to express their thoughts, ideas and opinions.  But I am also stuck in the belief that writing is the best way for teachers to assess how well students are able to show their thinking.  So often I say, "we can't really measure how well a student comprehends what s/he reads because we are really assessing how well they can write about what s/he reads.

I do believe that there is an important connection between reading and writing and that learning how to do one well will increase interest, appreciation and skill in the other.  Strong writers are strong readers.  I have yet to see proof that strong readers are strong writers, but I'm not giving up yet.  Writing takes time, and patience, and stamina.  In a world where information is at our fingertips, thoughts are fleeting and words on the tip of our tongues, writing, real writing, just isn't something students want to take the time to do.  For students, writing is a subject in school, a product that is scored.  I don't want it to be this way anymore.

I am working on my own vision of writing in my classroom; where I am nurturing, coaching, and growing writers.  I know that to really be able to do this, I have to be a writer myself.  I have the summer ahead of me to work toward this goal.  I've outlined a few steps and write them here in hopes that posting them will make me hold myself accountable to them.  Writing them down makes them real.

  • I will keep a writer's notebook, just like I ask my students to do.
  • I will write every day.
  • I will collect memories, ideas, opinions, questions, mental images, quotes, anything that I can jot on the pages of my notebook. 
  • I will revisit my belief that writing is not for everyone and see how I feel about that in August.
This fall, when I return to my classroom with my new group of students I will have grown as a writer and will be better prepared to support them as writers.  I will.