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Telling Our Stories



Who tells your story? Your parents tell it back to you at first, all the tender and embarrassing moments that you were too young to place into accessible memory at the time.  For most of your life, you tell your own
stories: to new and old friends, sometimes to strangers, to those who already love you or who may be falling in love with you, to your own children and grandchildren. After you are gone, your stories are held by those who knew you best: siblings, children, grandchildren, friends, former students, and former colleagues. If you have kept and left diaries, generations to follow in your family will come to know you as if you walked the earth together. If you become famous your lifetime, future biographers will tell their own versions of your story.

Eliza Hamilton tells us Alexander's story, as well as her own, in the Lin-Manuel Miranda song from the play "Hamilton". I know you've been singing or humming it to yourself since the first line of this post. Right? Eliza asks us, "And when you're gone, who remembers your name? Who keeps your flame? Who tells your story?" She also tells us, "I put myself back in the narrative." That line turns our teacher brain right away to personal narratives, often the first writing genre we try to teach, drawing from personal experiences, the stories our students love to tell. They love to tell their stories orally, yet are often more reluctant to start writing them down. We all know the experience: a flurry of raised hands, one child is recognized to speak, and the response begins, "Once....." Uh oh, not an actual answer, but a story. What do you do? Honor the need to tell our stories, or try to swing the focus back to the standard that must be taught in that 40 minute block? Not an easy choice, yet one that each of us makes several times at least every day. I have been guilty so many times of not only telling my own stories, but of allowing more than one student to get personal with their responses. The challenge to me as an educator was always how to draw the connecting lines so that the time spent will be meaningful in advancing the lesson for all.

Teacher Takeaways

I've been spending way too much time on ZOOM lately, and I don't have a class of students to meet with. Two ZOOM meetings and a Facebook Live each day for three days in a row this week made me feel your pain even more strongly, teachers. I applaud you and pray for you. One of my Zoom calls this week was a meeting of the three congregations affected by the Tree of Life mass murders two years ago. They were meeting to discuss a new book filled with narratives written by those who were either directly involved, or were close to the area or to the victims of the tragedy. My uncle is a survivor of that horrific attack. He deals with the after effects every day, and when he told me about the book and the meeting, I asked if I could attend. The book is Bound in the Bond of Life: Pittsburgh Writers Reflect on the Tree of Life Tragedy, edited by Beth Kissileff and Eric Lidji.

I was drawn to this topic at first because of my family's connection, but as I looked inside the book, I noticed that one of the writers had once, long ago, been a third grade student in my classroom. Of course I wanted to see how his writing had improved since third grade! I ordered the book on the spot! Listening to the writers as they read and discussed excerpts from the book, there were so many teacher takeaways. Two takeaways stood out from all the rest to me as a teacher. Neither was new to me, yet their importance surged in my mind, given our current situation in this age of the pandemic. One is the cathartic nature of just being able to tell your stories. The second is the way the same story is different when told by different people. Each of these, I believe, is important enough to make telling our stories a vital part of our teaching practice this year.

A Catharsis

Kids need to tell their stories. It's a release and a relief. Emotions are running strong right now for all of us. Stuffing our feelings deep inside isn't healthy, and storytelling can be a release. Kids need to be scaffolded into this practice. Start by honoring those responses that start with, "Once...". Plan for lots of short story responses in your morning meetings, and in the first moments of your lessons. Don't let the pandemic and our "new normal" be an elephant in the room beyond the screen. Bring it forward and encourage your students to talk about it. Becoming comfortable with talking about it can become a comfort with writing about it.

Text to Self becomes Text to World

Beginning with these mini oral histories and moving to journal entries, you are well on the way to longer, more traditional personal narratives. As kids start writing in journals, we need to be accepting of short answers as well as longer ones. A good way to ease reluctant writers into the practice is to allow drawing, diagramming, and even stickers to help fill the page at first. Most kids enjoy sharing their journal entries aloud. I wouldn't require it, but gently encourage it whether in small focus groups or with the class as a whole. An online bulletin board would be a great way to anonymously share some journal entries with the rest of the class. 

As you begin to teach personal narrative writing, journal entries that your students have been collecting are a gold mine of topics and prompts for writing. Kids can mark pages that they choose for future narratives with yarn, ribbons, string, sticky notes, or stickers that extend beyond  the page.. (Try sticking a second sticker to the back of the extended sticker to make it a little more long-lasting.) If you are collecting journal entries to show growth through the year as writers, journal entries paint a pretty accurate picture.

As I mentioned in my second takeaway above, writing about the same topic or event will look very different and unique from writer to writer. Many interesting and valuable lessons for writing can be drawn from this. Point of view, compare-contrast, even the basic elements of introduction, plot, characters, problem, and resolution will look different from student to student. The global lesson from this may be that it indeed matters very much who tells our stories.

I started a list of discussion/writing prompts to get you going, if you'd like to explore this more with your students. Just click below, and it's yours! (Background by Workman's Wonders on TpT)


For more ideas for moving from storytelling to journals to personal narrative writing, I hope you'll take a look at some of these classroom-tested resources from Rainbow City Learning! Just click below for the "Telling Our Stories" resource group.


Whatever your story, I wish you peace n the days ahead. Be well.





For more teaching inspiration for November/December, check out the amazing Teacher Talk blogs below. If you would also like to be a part of Teacher Talk, we are a group of teacher bloggers who share posts that are heavy on the ideas with just a little selling of our educational materials at TeachersPayTeachers.com.  For more information about joining The Best of Teacher Entrepreneurs Marketing Cooperative, go to https://bit.ly/3o7D1Dv.  Feel free to email me at retta.london@gmail.com if you have any questions. 







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Searching for Our Future Selves

 


I just finished reading a book that was hard to close. My mind is racing, and the blog fairies have shouted loud and clear, "THIS! WRITE ABOUT THIS!" I admit that it was the title alone that drew me in immediately. The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. Like many of you, 2020 has brought many challenges to me as well as many sleepless nights. Up way past midnight on most nights, and yes, missing my library, missing the chance to walk over to the new books section or the children's collection just to hold real books in my hands and to see what is new in the world of writing. I miss seeing my neighbors, old friends, former students, and the families of my students in the library. It's always been such an active and welcoming part of our community. So...when I opened my Kindle on one sleepless night this week and it suggested The Midnight Library to me, it was an impulse buy for sure!

This book was so much more than I had expected, both for me, and for the main character, Nora Seed. Nora is a girl living in the UK and having the worst year/worst life possible, in her opinion. As we meet her, she is contemplating suicide. The year 2020 has been so bad so far that I'm sure many of us can sympathize with her. Our curious natures as teachers and lifelong learners, though, must make us think ahead with some optimism. The killer hornets didn't get us over the summer as expected, right? 

Nora enters an in-between life and death place called the Midnight Library, where time has stopped exactly at midnight. A quote from the book: "...within that library, the shelves go on forever. Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived. To see how things would be if you had made other choices...Would you have done anything different, if you had the chance to undo your regrets?" This stopped me right there in my tracks. The very book that I had finished before this was Jodi Picoult's new one, The Book of Two Ways. In this book, Dawn Edelstein survives a plane crash and decides to go back to a life she left fifteen years earlier rather than home to her husband and family. The book unfolds with each life playing out in alternating chapters. My new favorite Picoult, and I have read every one. The two last books that I chose to read were so similar in theme that it has caused me to think, as teachers do, in lesson plan terms. How can I use what I have learned here to inspire and instruct my students? You do that too, right? 



This lesson-plan based thinking is what's allowed me to to continue my love of reading throughout my thirty-six year teaching career. How can I be a teacher who inspires a love of reading if I do not read myself? What? No time to read? What if you could find connections between what you are reading yourself, and what you are reading with your students? I did this with almost every book that was a whole class read, a read-aloud, or a lit circle (book club) selection that my third, fourth, or fifth graders experienced. My secret was to never reveal the title of the book I was actually reading as I wove stories from that book into the lessons I was teaching about a book made for kids. It was a real life lesson for text to text and text to world and probably text to self as well.  A time that I remember the excitement being super high was when I was describing events and themes in Ready Player One as we explored science fiction choices for kids. Another great connection was between Hatchet by Gary Paulsen and Wild by Cheryl Strayed. 

My lesson plan thought process tells me that that author Wendy Mass' Willow Falls book series, starting with 11 Birthdays (a Groundhog Day for kids) has a great connection to the last two books I read. The whole idea of living different realities and editing regrets could make for some pretty rich responses to reading, discussion, and eventually to writing of their own. The way that I would always present this to kids was through optimism though. Rather than editing regrets and living out different choices, what about looking forward to the kinds of lives they are imagining for themselves in the future? 2020 viewed in the rear view mirror as a blip in the radar, something they survived because, like you, they are strong, resourceful, and optimistic. Just a germ of an idea to get your lesson planning brain into gear! 

I made several portfolio connections to this idea of looking forward with optimism to how each child's life might play out over the years to come. I did this through writing letters to future selves, considering the "past" while creating possible futures in their imaginations. If this idea of including some futuristic thinking in your language arts practice or portfolio collection, you might want to explore my "Letters to Future Me" distance learning resource. (Can certainly be used in your face to face classroom as well!) 

These letters and poetry, with a little added art, make a beautiful stand-alone portfolio for the year or a great addition to whatever portfolio collection you already have in progress.



Here's a video preview also:



I hope this post has given you something to think about as you plan your lessons going forward, and I wish you the best ending that you dream of for 2020 along with optimism for 2021!





For more October ideas from our Teacher Talk bloggers, click below!  If you would also like to be a part of Teacher Talk, we are a group of teacher bloggers who share posts that are heavy on the ideas with just a little selling of our educational materials at TeachersPayTeachers.com.  For more information about joining The Best of Teacher Entrepreneurs Marketing Cooperative, go to https://bit.ly/3o7D1Dv.  Feel free to email me at retta.london@gmail.com if you have any questions. 



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Lead Like a Girl Part Two



 Four years ago, I posted Part One of Lead Like a Girl. Didn't realize back then that it would be a Part One, but waking up this morning, it occurred to me that it must be. The blog fairies are insisting that I write this one today. Part one was written in March of 2016. Today is September 19 of 2020. Today is the first day in a world without Ruth Bader Ginsburg. 

Ruth Bader Ginsburg left us last night on the first night of Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the Jewish High Holy Days, The Days of Awe, when the Book of Life is opened and God sits in judgement of how we, as Jews, have lived our life during the past year. We are offered an opportunity to atone for our sins, ask for forgiveness from those we may have wronged, and promise to be better humans in the year ahead. We ask God to inscribe our names in the Book of Life for the year ahead. Today marks the beginning of the year 5781 on the Hebrew calendar.  

I heard the news about Justice Ginsburg's death just as we finished watching the pandemic streaming version of Rosh Hashanah services. I took it hard, with disbelief, as if she had been a member of my own family. Many people that I know took the news just as hard. As a Jew, however, knowing that Justice Ginsburg was also a Jew, I remembered that a death during the High Holy Days has a special meaning. It took some searching, but it gave me something to do as I wiped my tears. Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death just as the Days of Awe were commencing, means that God judged her to be a tzaddik, a person of great righteousness, and though she has been extremely ill recently, she was given the full measure of the year 5780. Ruth Bader Ginsburg seems to have been judged by the One True Judge to have been a good and worthy human. I take great consolation in believing that. 

A political maelstrom is just beginning to swirl over which party will be awarded her seat on the Supreme Court. My focus here will not be on that, rather on the legacy she left to all of us, especially to little girls. I know we have all seen the baby and toddler RBG Halloween costumes, more I expect this year, and the myriad of elementary and middle schoolers who have chosen the Notorious RBG as their model for wax museum presentations. I'm sure that we will be seeing many more in the coming days. I even heard that Ruth is predicted to be a popular baby name in the months ahead. Why not? Her name is synonymous with strength, intelligence, and fairness. New parents could do worse than that in naming their offspring. 

Described as tiny "as a hummingbird", Ruth Bader Ginsburg grew up in an era very different from this one, destined for strength, determination, and power. Her mother's advice to her was to act "like a lady", and not to waste time on useless emotions like anger, resentment, jealousy, or envy. She learned that giving into emotions like that would sap time from productivity and achievement. Some advice as a young bride from her mother-in-law was to be "deaf" sometimes - tune out what might not be necessary or recommended for you to hear. To Ruth, "acting like a lady" meant clear-thinking independence. 

As a recent law school graduate and young mother, Ruth wanted to pursue her career in law. She had, as she told it, "three strikes" against her: She was a woman, she had a child, and she was Jewish. Acting "like a lady", or as I like to call it, "leading like a girl", Ruth shut out the unnecessary distractions and time-wasting emotions to become first a law professor, then director of the ACLU's Women's Right Project, then on to judgeship in the US Court of Appeals, and finally an appointment to the Supreme Court. Her entire life was lived in an "eyes on the prize" kind of way. In my opinion, her story is pure motivation and inspiration for our students, male or female. 

I just posted a Close Reads resource on Ruth Bader Ginsburg, much like my other Women's History Close Reads. (Also available for Google Drive.)If you'd like to receive some free sample pages to share with your students, be sure to sign up for my mailing list when the little box pops up on this post. You can grab some free Yoga samples at the same time!

If you have some students celebrating the High Holy Days right now, you may be interested in my Jewish Holidays SCOOT Bundle. The cards make for some interesting conversation in person or in an online meeting situation. I've been told that people use these cards while celebrating with family and friends at holiday times. Should work for ZOOM celebrations too. Try it! Fun and informative!


At Rosh Hashanah time, we dip apples in honey and wish each other a sweet year ahead. Whatever your faith, I wish you much sweetness and success as we continue to find our way through a challenging time. 

For more September teaching thoughts and ideas, be sure to take a look at these amazing blogs:





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Bitmoji Virtual Classrooms


 Bitmojis are everywhere! So far, few of them (including mine) IMO actually look like the real life people they represent, but they all strangely resemble one another. Maybe it means that we are all related somehow. Sure hope so!

And Bitmoji virtual classrooms? What's up with that? A virtual explosion! Teachers have poured  their hearts, souls, creativity, time, and resources into building and sharing these adorable interactive pages all summer long. I have joined an online group just to watch what they are doing. It is nothing short of pure genius! As difficult as distance learning seems to be, and as hard as the choices districts, schools, teachers, and parents have had to make in this pandemic time, the bitmoji classrooms have made me long for a class of my own once more. This thing is right up my alley! (Do people even say that anymore? Who knows? I've been in the house too long.)

I have viewed literally thousands of these virtual classrooms this summer, and of course, as a teacher for life, I have a few thoughts about the whole thing. Here they are:

These Virtual Classrooms are Nothing New

Since the dawn of Power Point, teachers have been linking slides to other slides to make cool presentations and to engage their students in what they are about to learn. When the internet took off, we got really fancy then. Webquests! Lots of super cool links imbedded into the slides to report back on. 

With the birth of website applications like Wikipages, we continued to grow as graphic designer wannabes and to add links for our students to explore. So guess what? A bitmoji virtual classroom is really just a way stepped up version of a linked introductory page to all the learning opportunities associated with that page. The only part that is new is the personalized emoji.

You Do Not Need to be Present on Every Page

Teachers, can we talk here? Seriously, the bitmojis are beyond cute. I know that mine is a distant version of myself, and maybe the way I see myself in my mind's eye, but as they used to say, "Close, but no cigar." (Colloquial from a 1930's fairground booth. You should know these things! LOL!) 

Anyway, back to your emoji. I've seen thousands this summer, and I always click on the real photo of the person it represents. All of y'all are cute, but your bitmojis seem to look more like each other to me than they look like you. As I peruse the teacher comments in my bitmoji facebook group, I have found that kids ARE somewhat amused by your bitmoji, but kids are legendary for loving their teachers and developing, in many cases, a lifelong bond with some of  those teachers. Use your bitmoji as much as you like, but please make sure to include a real photo of you in real life. Maybe hang a photo of you in a virtual frame on a virtual wall in your virtual classroom. Your students are missing that important physical connection with you as you begin the year virtually. Personally, I would use my bitmoji on the first (main) page only. Any linked pages really don't need your bitmoji dancing around and gesturing. Just my opinion. 

Close Your Door and Teach!

I read in the past few days that some districts are banning bitmoji classrooms. I don't usually understand why districts make all the decisions they make. I usually just squeeze my eyes tight, make a wish, and hope for the best. In this case, however, I believe that is distrust of the unknown. District leaders most likely have not taken the time to try out any of the virtual classrooms developed by their amazing teachers. I believe that they are objecting to the bitmoji part, not the organization of learning activities part. 

Sooo... enter my mantra from my thirty-six year teaching career: Close your door and teach! It means to say as little as possible to those "in charge" who may not understand what you are doing or trying to accomplish, and to go ahead and do what you know is best for your kids. Does your district really have time to check in on every virtual presence that every teacher in their district has? Of course not! 

If your district has said, "No bitmoji classroom!", why not just delete the bitmoji? It doesn't really look like you anyway, remember? Now you just have a super-organized and motivating lead slide for whatever you're teaching. How could that raise an objection?

Since my work was 100% done in a real life classroom (and I realize how lucky I was), if an administrator had a problem with my practice, I would make sure that he/she talked to my students to gauge their understanding, and requested a chance to explain myself. Be sure that your students completely understand why you have organized your virtual classroom this way, with the particular graphic representation that you have set up, and that they understand how to use it. I truly believe that these virtual classrooms have value beyond our current situation. They will make great start the day slides projected on your whiteboard or on your students' laptop screens when you return to real life school. 

For now, if you truly believe in what you are doing, close your virtual door and teach!

Don't Reinvent the Wheel!

Search on Facebook for "Bitmoji Craze for Educators". You will find literally thousands of pages already linked that teachers have created and shared. You will find tons of ideas there also, like creating a phone app for your classroom - great tool for parents! 

If you'd like to start from scratch and just soar with your own creativity and make your virtual classroom really specific to your standards and goals, check out the blog posts and virtual classroom clip art from my friend Amie at Glitter Meets Glue. My blog cover pic above was created with permission, using her middle school resource. If you are a TpT seller, you cannot use Glitter's virtual resources in your products. They were created for teachers to use in their personal virtual classrooms. 

Amie's virtual locker system for students is pure magic! See it here!

However you are headed back to school, I wish you the best year ever. You are strong, you are brave, and you've got this! 





TEACHER TALK IS BACK for the 2020-21 school year! Look for new posts from some of the best bloggers around on the third Sunday of every month! August posts are below!


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Distance Learning or In Person - The Buddy Bench


Teachers. We are tired! What a few months we've had, and what an amazing job you all have done, rising to the occasion of teaching from a distance! And now, the waiting game has begun. Will the new school year find us back in our classrooms, or will we be squares on ZOOM, or will we be expected to manage a hybrid practice? If you are tired, and need to lie down for awhile or go for a walk, I get it. Do that. Come back when you need this!

I believe that you are going to need this at some point though. More challenges lie ahead, and as my teaching colleagues have heard me say so many times through our years together, "I have an idea!" I'm embarking today on a blog series focusing on what lies ahead. The overarching theme is "Distance Learning or In Person?". Each new post will try to answer that question so that we can approach some important learning community issues in both ways. I hope you'll find this series helpful as you begin your new school year!

The Buddy Bench
What is a Buddy Bench? This concept has been around since 2013, when a second grader came up with an idea for lonely kids at recess time. The Buddy Bench doesn't even have to be an actual bench, but it does have to be an agreed upon meeting place. When a child sits on a Buddy Bench, it sends a signal to others that he/she/they would like to interact with someone. This could mean just talking or joining in a game. It's a great way to promote inclusion and to build empathy. I'm all for anything we can do to build these kids up from the inside out. The Buddy Bench is relationship and SEL magic!

The secret to success with your Buddy Bench is to discretely teach what it's all about and to model using it. When we installed one at my school, I discovered that the very kids who needed it most in order to find companions at recess were the kids who lacked skill in interpersonal communication. (Anyone surprised?) That's when I developed a set of cards that could be laminated and left at the Buddy Bench to serve as conversation prompts. You can make your own or find them here, but the important thing is to practice using them. Select a topic and try a model discussion. The topics on my cards all center on finding some common ground on which a friendship may be built.  What are your favorite kind of movies? Music? Ice cream? What do you like to do best at recess? What's your favorite joke? You get it, right?

The Buddy Bench in Normal Times
In normal post pandemic times, your Buddy Bench will be a fixture on your playground. Our PTA even added a second one right outside the office for indoor recess. Kids will use it to signal that they would rather not spend  recess alone, and other kids will join them. They will find something something to chat about, and may move on to a soccer match, a jump rope game, or a race around the track. They may even find a quiet place under a tree to read a book together. As a teacher (or recess supervisor), you need to kind of watch the bench out of the corner of your eye. If a kid has been sitting there for too long, either encourage a child (that you have pre-arranged a buddy position with) or go and sit there yourself. Start up a conversation. No one wants to put himself/herself out there as being all alone, and then stay that way.

My favorite nine year old told me today that the Buddy Bench at his school is just a place to throw your coat if you get too warm at recess. He went on to say that since everyone at his school is already such good friends with everyone else, the Buddy Bench isn't used anymore. My dad had an expression for that which, in translation, means, "It should always be so." I swear I heard his voice telling me that when I heard about this repurposed Buddy Bench! My wish for you is that yours becomes a coat holder as well!

In any case, your Buddy Bench should become a familiar sight and a familiar concept to your students. It's their signal to be good people and to include others whenever possible. How lovely to sit on the Buddy Bench on a perfect Spring day and chat with a new found friend! Sigh.

The Virtual Buddy Bench
At the beginning of a new school year, if we are still delivering our lessons remotely, kids within their new virtual classrooms will still need ways of getting to know each other. By making a virtual version of the Buddy Bench in their online learning environment, you will be adding in an important social-emotional component. You might also get better attendance (all other things being equal) at your online live lessons if the kids know each other in some way and look forward to seeing each other online. If you are setting up breakout groups in Google Classroom, it will be easier to group kids who know each other. We've all known for a long time that kids are more likely to participate in groups if the other people in the group are people that they enjoy being with.

To create a virtual Buddy Bench, the easiest (and most fun) way I could think of was to start with one of those Bitmoji Virtual Classrooms that all the cool kids (in teacher form) are creating. It's a compelling landing page for all of your online lessons, activities, and assignments to be linked to. Add a clip art Buddy Bench to your main page as shown in the first image below. When students click on the Buddy Bench, the link should take them to an activity page like the second image. They can find the prompt of the day or week on the Buddy Bench page. They will "write" their own short response on a virtual post it note and drag it to the virtual bulletin board. Too many students? They can drag notes to the white board and to cabinets.



Once all student responses have been collected, you can use them to group kids into breakout rooms for further discussion, or just discuss the responses at your next online meeting time.

The Socially Distanced Buddy Bench
If the miracle that so many have been wishing for occurs, and you find yourself back in your real life classroom, social distancing will be a must. Your socially distanced Buddy Bench can be set up as a center, as pictured in the second image above. Students should visit the center one at a time, carrying their own sticky note pad and pen. Remember, you don't need an actual bench. For a socially distanced situation, I would use a single chair or desk. Students could also write their responses to the buddy prompt at their own desk, and then place it on the bulletin board or white board when it is their turn at the center. Morning Meeting is a great time to share and discuss some of the responses.

Hope you'll find some of these suggestions helpful as you head back to school. You can get the prompts that I created by clicking on the cover below. Blank clipboard pages are available to create your own as well! To add them to your virtual classroom, just do a screen shot of the prompt that you want to use. I am working on a Google Slide version and will come back here to edit once it is ready!


If you like the virtual classroom backgrounds used in this post, you can find them and so much more to design your own virtual classroom settings at Glitter Meets Glue on TpT!

Check back here soon for the next in the series Distance Learning or In Person - What Are the Rules?










Untamed Teachers



Yinz! Yinz have got to read this book! (Yinz  = Pittsburghese for Y'all. As in Y'all! You have got to read this book!) Just trying to be authentic here. I'm from Pittsburgh. It would be inauthentic to say Y'all. But really - Read this book! It's summer, and you have time now.


I was scrolling through Facebook in the midst of our shelter at home order and came upon a video of Glennon Doyle reading an excerpt from her new book. She was, of course, sheltering at home also. She was on the couch with a quilt, just like me, but was wearing a fabulous and unique sweater. I was wearing PJs. She was wearing the sweater  that she had planned to wear to an in-person book tour event. I loved her voice, and the chapter she read, "Attendants", really spoke to me. It addressed the fear and anxiety so many of us were feeling at the time, and also reminded me of a specific situation I had been in during an overseas flight.

Glennon's reading sent me right off to order her book. I listened to it on Audible and added it to my Kindle library. When my podcast group, We Teach So Hard, decided to read the book together and discuss it during our Summer Reading series, I needed to order the hardcover and actually hold it in my hands. The cover is gorgeous - looks like poured paint and glitter - and the book made it easier to add tabs and to mark up. Our discussion also prompted me to replay the audiobook during my morning walks. Each section of the replay gave me a new thought for the day.

Glennon Doyle's works are all memoir and her life is nothing like mine, yet everything she writes speaks to me on a level that is meaningful in my own life. Try reading this one - I think you will find the same is true. I will talk about a few takeaways that I think are relevant to my teacher life, and I hope you will also listen to our podcast episode.

Cages
In the first section of the book, "Caged", Glennon talks about all the ways that women are caged and limited by the society in which we live. I personally think that our society provides plenty of limitation cages for humans in general. As a teacher, I have many times walked willingly into the cages set up for me. Heck, I even decorated them and added stronger locks to some. The cage of how a teacher should dress, the cage of what you can discuss with your students, the cage of standards to tick off, the cage of how parent contacts should go, and the tiny, suffocating cage of teacher evaluations. There's more, but these stood out to me. Doyle doesn't talk about the teacher life in her book because she is not a teacher (not officially anyway). But wow. So much there to apply to teaching. My teaching was pretty ordinary until I discovered the "key" of imagination. I freed myself and my students by shutting the door and just teaching. I invited my students to "live inside of their imaginations" along with me.

Keys
In the section on "Keys", Doyle talks about the inner work that must be done to break out of the cages. The one that spoke to me (other than "Imagine") was "Know". It took me years to break out of following the traditional molds of teaching because I was too frantically busy trying to stay on top of it all every minute of every day. When I finally took the time (during a seven year hiatus at home with my children) to consider what was good and not so good about my teaching practice, I was ready to return with something much better to offer my students: imagination, joy, and curiosity. I didn't need seven years, and neither do you. A short time this summer away from it all, and the opportunity to look inside is enough. Listening to the audio version of this amazing book is a wonderful trip inside yourself because every section makes you think.

Free
The last section talks about all the ways to break free and to be free. The biggest problem with all of this is that you have to be willing to "burn it down" (get rid of what you may have believed and held on to for your whole life) in order to find freedom. You may need to read, walk away, and go back later to review. Read a few beach reads in between! LOL! My application to teaching here is the ways in which I became a district leader in the last third of my career. I had burned down the expectations that were confining my imagination and thought of some educationally better ways to do things. Some of these were to trust the students to make good decisions during PBL assignments, to decide on the structure and rules of our learning community with the children rather than for them, and to add much more of the arts into my teaching in some unconventional ways.
By the way, you might not have "burned it down" on your own, but you sure broke into some new ways of delivering an education this Spring. You were expected to shift with just hours of warning from in person classrooms to online learning. From what I was able to observe from my perch in retirement, WOW! You nailed it, teacher! You are a cheetah and a prophet! (Read the book and you'll know why I have called you that!)

The We Teach So Hard podcast group would love for you to try these recipes while you make your way through Untamed. Hope you find time for peace and reflection this summer. Yinz owe it to yourselves!