Congrats to Ticia, first grade teacher, mom of three (including twins -- wow), and winner of our Teaching Authors book givewaway contest! She will receive, per her request, a copy of the wonderful Sing-Along Song, by JoAnn Early Macken. And thanks to all of you, including Ticia, who so generously shared your own teaching and homeschooling experiences.
And speaking of contest winners...
The Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour takes place next February 1-5. The schedule is posted at www.jewishlibraries.org/blog. Please stop by to read our own April Halprin Wayland's interview, posted February 1st at http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/practicallyparadise.
So, I was just on the elliptical reading a fantastic mystery by Ayelet Waldman, the premise of which was basically that being an overwhelmed mommy is completely and totally normal. The relief I felt from reading this affirmation in a light work of fiction is, honestly, indescribable. My 20-minute workout also somehow spurred a plot idea to emerge, fully formed, in my tired brain. Takeaway message -- reading and exercise feed the soul and should be performed with utmost regularity. Of course I might have to engage a babysitter in order to do so, but that's another story.
"The rules" of society tell us, it would seem, that we cannot be good parents if we don't cherish every moment spent with our children. The truth is, I deeply cherish every pleasant moment spent with my children. But today, my husband and I had a rare afternoon date. When our wonderful baby-sitter texted: Where is the toilet plunger? and we returned home to a list headed "Patrick's Accidents," (five items in three hours) we were gladder than I can say for our temporary escape. Our babysitter might never return, but again, that is another story.
My composition students this semester -- and most semesters -- are all about "the rules." By the time they get to my class, most of them have been drilled mercilessly about topic sentences, thesis statements, and the five-paragraph essay format. When I tell them that they may indeed begin a sentence with "but" or use a sentence fragment as long as they do so in a purposeful manner, many honestly don't know what to do with this freedom. While I certainly believe that it is important to learn the rules before we break them, sometimes it seems that breaking them is the hardest thing to do.
I was a very conscientious child who burst into tears if mildly scolded. It wasn't until high school that I became conscious of my secret identity as a rebel. No, I didn't smoke, drink (though I sure do now -- thank you very much, Kate and Patrick), carouse, skip school or even a single homework assignment. But I was, (a trait I proudly recognize in my daughter now), a bit feisty. If I was assigned to write an essay on a "mythic hero," I tried to make it a little bit different. But I still wanted my "A." Some teachers, I learned through the years, reward and applaud what they see as creativity. Some do not recognize or appreciate what they see as failure to follow the rules. The latter kind of teacher crushed my spirits but, I realize now as a teacher and parent, would have helped others to flourish. The trick is striking an appropriate balance out of respect for our diverse learners. But (yes, I chose this word on purpose) -- is this ideal remotely possible to achieve? Experienced teachers out there, you tell me.
In honor of the rule-breakers among us, I am linking to an article about William Safire's "rules" of writing. Have your students do their own takeoff of this exercise based on the great Strunk & White. They can learn the rules at the same time they discover for themselves how (and when) to break them.
Jeanne Marie Grunwell Ford