“Beginnings are always messy.” ~ John Galsworthy, English novelist and playwright
I teach writing; beginnings are always a mess: where does one start?
We Power Write (Peter Elbow) to foster the flow of ideas from ideas in the mind to ink on paper. But when it comes to starting a piece of writing, even with many ideas brainstormed in a web, free-write, or list, the paper in front of me seems too open. How will I fill it?
Students struggle with this, so we practice jumping into action, in the middle.
But what is the middle of a blog?
Fast forward to August 31st, 2010. The first day of school welcomes everyone with an evening barbecue. It’s a great time to introduce new staff, explain a few classroom projects in homerooms, and enjoy conversation with families from last year. Students who have graduated often attend and lament their leaving and entering the high school, a scary step. Students rush to their new homerooms — does it look like last year? “You changed things a little, Ms. Edwards.”
Yet, I have no picture of the barbecue to share. Most programs (from reading programs to federal “title” programs) expect schools to foster family involvement. On these occasions, we need pictures to add power to the words we enter on our reports.
So here’s my beginning, a reflection into the future to plan forward. For a history of how this blog really started, please refer to the page, pause2play history. One reason are these words from Teaching Unmasked by John Spencer:
“Still, in the middle of May, I always feel that I should have done more. I should have given better feedback on work. I see some students and think, “I hardly know you.”
I so identify with that. It’s a sinking feeling because I let the fast pace of forced objectives obscure the time needed to know each student. I should have slowed down, taken one more day for sharing, one more day for writing/conferences, one more choice project each quarter. Each of those would meet objectives and meet the human requirement of personalized learning.
I’ll continue to encourage students to jump into the middle to start their writing. And, on barbecue day, I’ll grab a couple students to document the evening using our class cameras. We’ll start a portfolio of our family involvement. Because that’s more important than the official report.
And, I will check more frequently, “Who don’t I know yet?” What project will build our community so each student is known?
This is what this blog is about: jumping in the middle of an idea, pausing to reflect, and planning how it will or how it could play out in the classroom community.