Books, Friends and Joy, Part 1

NOTE: As I was about to move my home office, I read a post by a friend who suggested those of us in a coaches group post pictures of our home office.  This was motivation to get crackin’ and make things look good. Or at least, better.  A day later, Jess Lahey and KJ Del Antonia were chatting on #AmWritingWithJessandKJ about their lack of workspace, reminding me how lucky I am to have a space and how needy that space was for some love.  So the move and requisite purge began with a little kick in the pants from these three friends.

 I. HAVE. BOOKS.

At last count, four bookcases in my office and one in the basement. Stacks around the house and stashed in tote bags and baskets. About a dozen bankers boxes with children’s books.  After our fire in 2005, one of the movers said, “Lady, are you a librarian or something?”  “Nope, I am the Trifecta. Teacher. Parent. Reader.”  He didn’t get it.

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We replaced dozens of the books lost in the fire.  A decade later, I have SO many books – Kids’ books. Teacher books. Grown up books. Picture books. Well-read books. Unopened books. I am now trying to part with some of them, because… well, I really do not need all of them and they need more love and care than I can give.  It’s more emotional than looking at a scrapbook or photo album, perhaps because I never managed to keep either of those.  I AM really good at keeping books.   Continue reading “Books, Friends and Joy, Part 1”

Here We Go, 2016!

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January is typically the time of year for resolutions and starting over. We’ve all read the articles and blogs expounding  ways to lose weight, exercise more, read more, be more fully present, etc.   I hadn’t expected to write a follow-up to Here We Go, 2011, but I did in 2014.

As I began to gather my thoughts and energy for the return to school next week, I re-read that post and copies of the third graders who did the real work reflecting on hopes and dreams.   Go ahead, read the original post, Here We GoAs we transition back to our routines fresh from a two-week break, it will be imperative we remind ourselves of our guidelines and routines.   Of course, we’ll use the Responsive Classroom practices of positive teacher language, interactive modeling and loads of practice. This will happen in classrooms across the country this week.  Can you feel the energy of teachers who are willing to invest sometime early in the year to re-establish routines and re-connect with students?  The payoff is huge.  Really. Consider it an investment.

East into the year by taking the time to reflect collectively and individually. By helping students reflect on their hopes from September and then set some new goals for the remainder of the year, you’re helping them develop the internal motivators for learning, time management skills,  and showing them you value their thoughts and goals. It also lets you see how they’ve grown and where you need to help guide them during the rest of your time together.

Need some guidance or encouragement to do dig in and invest the energy to do this with your students? Margaret Berry Wilson shares some beautiful read  alouds in her post Revisiting Hopes and Dreams in the New Year.  Margaret also explains how  to Use Y Charts for Revisiting the Rules.  (Be sure to watch the video of Susie Gosh to see how she skillfully facilitates a third grade class discussion on this topic.) Both are inspiring and actionable, no matter what your experience with revisiting hopes and dreams mid-year.

For many, this  community-wide approach so this is a familiar January-jumping off point. Even if you’re headed down this road on your own, know that it builds community, lets students know you value them and helps ease that back-to-school transition for all of us.

If you’re a teacher, how do you revisit hopes and dreams in January?   And are you signed up to keep in touch?  Be sure to check the box in the top right so we can stay connected. And forward this to your teacher friends or share on social media.  There’s more good stuff to come in 2016!

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Lisa Dewey Wells

Savor the Rituals of the Season

We were a bit behind this year, but we did it. Eventually we made the annual trip to the bookstore to cull the selection of holiday children’s literature and to pick our new Christmas books.  Our family library for this micro-genre is in the triple digits.  We read favorites by the tree or at the kitchen table all month-long.  It’s one of those traditions that I hope we never outgrow.  I’ve also still got the fragile, red felt ornament that Mrs. Heinz made for me in Kindergarten, c. 1972, along with a box of ornaments that my mother and grandmother gave me every year until I was old enough to have my own tree.  My kids have their own boxes of ornaments they are given each year.  As we hang them, we retell the story behind each ornament. It often takes us a full week to decorate the tree in a format we call “grazing.” It’s leisurely, indulgent, and is part of the glue that holds us together.

December is the month for rituals and traditions. No matter what your holiday(s) or beliefs may be, if you have children, you have some traditions and rituals that you hone and perhaps hone as the years go by.  This memory making will stay with your child for years to come and not just at the holidays, and much of the memories your child will hold will be of the time spent with you.

Rituals and traditions serve to anchor us to our culture and family. They become familiar and welcomed, especially as our role expands or our memory and anticipation make those traditions richer.  As a teacher who has the privilege of watching children savor the traditions of our school (holiday performances, deliberate sharing of individual family traditions) and their own families, it’s still remarkable to me how much these traditions mean to children and how eloquently they can speak of what these mean to them.  Similarly, my own children are old enough now that they have nearly a decade of holiday memories – some of which they hold fast had firm to and others, which they scoff at in their adolescent way, but eventually then come back to participate.  Despite the heavy marketing of merchandise this time of year, what children speak most of is the time and activities they engage in with family and friends.

The rituals and traditions that mean the most to all children seem to emanate from being truly present, not the type and amount of presents. I hear children speak of time spent with parents and extended family, “artifacts” and objects, which symbol their beliefs and traditions and the memories associated with them.  For many children, this is a time to revisit favorite literature or movies, assist with decorating or baking, or to take a step forward to take on new responsibilities.  None of these are possible in isolation and are made truly memorable by the inherent companionship of family and friends.

So amidst the zillions of tasks and errands and responsibilities on your list this time of year, consider what traditions you share with your family. What rituals do you fully engage in to build those memories with and for your child?  Rededicate yourself to being fully present for those happening week or consider starting a new tradition or new begin a journal about what traditions your family shares at this special time of year.  If you take the time to honor it now and in the years to come,  you’ll surely help to build memories that anchor your child in the beliefs and priorities you seek to instill in them – and you’ll probably have a darn good time in the process!

Busy Parents, Caring Parents

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Last month I put out a survey to see what readers of this blog thought about parenting books and what type of book appealed to them. The results of over one hundred respondents were in some ways, surprising, but in other ways, pretty typical of the readers I’ve come to know in the blog-0-sphere.

Results that fell in line with what I expected:

  • Parents are busy
    Parents “try” to find time to read, but heck, it’s a chore. Life is busy.
    Nearly 50% of readers are age 31-40, with another 30% making up the 41-50 crowd
    The vast majority of these parents, 50% or more, have kids between the ages of 3 and 8

Somewhat surprising results:

  • If readers were to read a new book on parenting, it’s a pretty even 50/50 split on paperback versus digital. I’m a “hold it in my hands” gal, but definitely like the convenience of toting my reading material along, just in case I find myself with a few minutes to spare.
  • Parents are very interested in learning about typical child development. So much of what is out there on child development tends to be written in professional lingo – written for health care, mental heath care or educational folks. Curating and translating seems to be what parents need.
  • There are key traits parents what to instill in their children, most of which they welcome a narrative with proactive tips and strategies. These include empathy, resiliency, and creativity. Other traits reported ranged from spirituality to manners to compassion to work ethics.  Parenting is a complex job!

While this might not seem like earth-shattering breaking news, it’s all useful data for me. This journey to take years of blog posts and conversations with families and observations of children to translate them into a manuscript is no small task.

 

Some days, I like to think it’s a breeze, and then I realize, like parenting, it’s a journey full of unexpected blips and joys, and it is always, always a labor of love and commitment. Your input and honesty provides me with valuable insights to help guide me in this process. So again, THANK YOU  for taking the time to share your thoughts and to those of you who offered to be interviewed, I will be in touch to talk further.

Let me close with one more request. Many of you follow along on social media – that’s great! That’s how we roll in 2015, right?  Can I ask you also to sign up on Wonder of Children we well? (Check out the top right corner or just click on the link).  It is one more way to build a base and better know you – the reader. And I promise, your email is safe with me – it’s never something I’d share.

As we roll into December, I hope  you have plenty of opportunities to enjoy the gifts of the season – and the gifts you share with the children you love!
Take care,

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Lisa Dewey Wells

Ancient Lessons, New Readings, and Seeing the Positives

This year, I am not in a classroom.  I don’t have a new project or job or endeavor that guides me through the comforting practice of intentional goal setting, buoyed by a tight community of learners and thinkers.  Instead, there are shifts in our family ecosystem ranging from college apartments and college applications, to new jobs, and new health issues.  I find myself a bit unsettled by this amorphous change, despite knowing in the thinking part of my brain that change is a necessary and expected part of life.  As humans, we are wired to adapt to change by virtue of our growth mindset and our reserve of resilience.  It can be hard not to grip to what I’ve known and to see the positives in the change.

It’s with this awareness of my awareness of my unease, that I find some peace in the Augusts-as-Januarys of years past.  As I moved my daughter into her first apartment, she scoffed at me, commenting,  “you’re doing a lot for me…and I feel sort of bad…I need it but I don’t need you to do everything…” Ba-zinga.  In that simple phrase, she’s captures the rumblings in my head and all my internal and external fussing about.  I feel this deep internal need to nest and create space – now in her space – just like I have in classrooms for decades.  My seventeen-year old returned home from skate camp exhausted but elated, and fueled with a desire to dig into the college application process, his artwork and apply to his top choice early. He quickly let me know he will seek my help organizing those details when he needs it.  I silently nod as I look at the man-child who has wrestled with organizing details most of his life, but somehow, I know he is spot-on this time. Again, Ba-zinga.

It is the mother in me who feels the need to be “a good parent” as I rescue or fix or take care of both kids now.  Am I clinging to the days when they needed me to do more of that? My friend Jessie Rhines wrote recently about her propensity to grasp as her five-year-old started Kindergarten. The yoga teachings around aparigraha bring me solace as I send my kids into adulthood, too.   My desire to cling stems from the reality that work is nearly done, or at the very least, is undergoing a tectonic shift.  There are moments when I want to don a preacher’s robe and shout from a pulpit, “Can I get an AMEN?”  And then there are the moments when I look at my children standing above me and see them as toddlers splashing in the water table or rolling on the floor with a book or two or twelve.

Is This for You
photo courtesy of Maureen Porto

Continue reading “Ancient Lessons, New Readings, and Seeing the Positives”