Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Every New Beginning

"Every new beginning is some other beginning's end."  ~ Dan Wilson

Ending a school year is like finishing a marathon.  Having run a marathon, I can say running the last .2 of the 26.2 was the easiest.  The miles at the beginning of the end - miles 20 through 26 - were the hardest.  The same was true for me as I raced to the school year finish line.  As in my marathon,  the days and months at the beginning of the end of school - after spring vacation going forward - were my most challenging.   I was quite sure, at times, that I couldn't run one more mile.  But I did.  I finished.  And so did my students.  Together, we crossed that finish line -  a little tired and out of breath - but feeling accomplished.  Happy.  And already planning for the next marathon.

Just as it was an end for all of us, the next year's beginning appeared on the road just up ahead. Rising like a new hill to climb, we could see it, my students and I, so we paused a moment - neither here, nor there - looking back and looking forward.  Looking back, I wanted us to reflect on the year's learning as writers.  Looking forward, I wanted us to dream. 

Borrowing a thought from William Zinsser, I asked my students to write a reflective letter about writing well.  Some 5th grade thoughts on writing well:

I now know that grammar is important, but writing is from the heart.  ~MI

I learned that writing can be sloppy, that stories can be messy in your writer's notebook, that a writer's notebook is a place to feel free. ~DN

This year what helped me write well was when I got home I would think about what I wrote that day and what I would do the next day.  ~CJ

This year I learned that if the writer has feelings, the reader has feelings. ~ SJ

What helped me write well this year was bouncing ideas off somebody.  It helped me get some of the bad ideas out and then the good ideas started coming. ~LK

The thing that helped me as a writer this year is to take a break from a piece and then an idea will come. ~CB

What helped me write well this year?  The confidence and courage writers gave me. ~AB


I believe in the power of positive thought.  We are what we think.  We become what we think.  I believe in self-actualization. Having been trained in Responsive Classroom, we begin every school year reflecting on our hopes and dreams.  This was the first year I ended the school year dreaming and hoping.

 "What a man can be, he must be. This need we may call self-actualization...It refers to the desire for self-fulfillment, namely, to the tendency for him to become actualized in what he is potentially. This tendency might be phrased as the desire to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming." ~Abraham Maslow

I credit my colleague, Becky, with the idea for creating dream boards.  She came to me in late February with a flyer for a dream board workshop.  I contacted the presenter.  Didn't hear back until months later and by that time, the end of the year was on the horizon and I knew I could do this with my students on our own.

My Own Dream Board

We spent three gloriously messy days surrounded by paint, glue, and magazine clippings.  Pom poms, ric rac, ribbon, glitter, stickers, burlap, and buttons gave texture and depth to our dreams. Teachers dream boarded alongside students.  Academic goal words like: ASK, CONFIDENCE, MAKE MISTAKES, ORGANIZE and STRESS LESS appeared on the boards around me.  Stuck in  puddles of glue right alongside were interest words like SPORTS, ROCKS, NATURE, and HORSES.  My students continued to write using an almost Found Poetry technique and remembered to feel with words like LOVE, PASSION, HEART, FAMILY, and DREAM peppering the paint.

We ended our year by dreaming about future beginnings.

Maybe endings aren't like periods at the end of a sentence.  Maybe they're like commas.  A pause, not a stop.  Maybe an ending is more like moment of reflective thought as we stand there on our life's path - looking back, looking forward - and walking ahead into another dream's beginning.

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