Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Grabbing at Stars

at Two Writing Teachers!

It is better, I think, to grab at the stars than to sit flustered because you know you cannot reach them. -- R.A. Salvatore

This school year has been quite a challenge: new subject, new school, new age group.  Even though everyone (principals, other teachers, district administrators, all of you wonderful slicing friends...) keeps telling me what a great job I'm doing, I haven't been happy with my work.  

The way I see it, I've just been floundering around, constrained by time and energy, struggling madly to stay afloat.  My classes are just finally starting real thematic units (my strength and the only way I really feel like I know what I'm doing), just because I didn't have time to develop them earlier in the year.  (I love thematic units, but they take so much intensive planning and preparation!)  My writers' workshop just feels like we're floundering around, but there hasn't been any time to dig into that stack of books on my bedroom floor that I know will give me the guidance I need.  All of the handouts I've made and used this year are teetering in a giant pile on top of my file cabinet.  My desk and my Evernote are both strewn with exciting and wonderful ideas that I just haven't been able to implement yet.

Even so, all that is ok on the good days.  On the good days, I'm able to shove aside my perfectionism and celebrate all I have managed to accomplish this year.  I can hear excited voices engaged in purposeful conversation, feel the quiet peace of a roomful of riveted readers, and savor strong student voices alive on blogs and paper.  On the good days, I can see the students who have turned into readers and writers, who have overcome incredible obstacles, who have trusted me with their problems, who view my classroom as a safe and happy place.  They are my shining stars.

On days like today, the stars are hard to see in the midst of all the clouds.  Students are tired or stressed or goofy or hyper, or everything at once.  Maybe it's the end-of-the-year-itis, maybe just an off day, or maybe something happened at home that I can't even dream of.  That student in the corner still hasn't become a reader no matter how many great books I've nudged him with.  Those other students are churning out the same brief, flavorless writing they were slapping on paper months ago.  Another student doesn't even have materials out after three reminders.  It takes five minutes to focus for oral directions in one class, yet we can hear the nearly-silent air vent running when small group discussions are supposed to be happening later.  On these days, the stars seem so dim and far away that I barely notice them. Moreover, I wonder if I can ever clear the clouds away to make more stars appear.  

But if I squint really hard, I can see them.  If I narrow my field of vision, those gleaming little successes suddenly look a lot bigger and brighter.  The others may be hidden for now, but they're there.  If I keep trying, I might reach them someday.  I have to keep reaching.


  1. Some days are like that, I'm sorry that you had one today. Your optimism shines through. The stars are there, and you will find them again. Don't lose hope, just remember you do make a difference.

  2. Some days are like that. Keep looking at those shining stars. They are still there even when the clouds threaten to overshadow them.

  3. Many days I feel like that also. But then there are the days when I see remarkable student progress. One of my 9th grade boys (ESL student who did not really start speaking until February)said the other day when reviewing for US history test: "Ms. can you believe, she does not know who invaded Poland?" (He was talking about his sister.) Not only was he speaking English, but he was also sharing content all on his own!! I have great students!


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