Saturday, February 21, 2009


A recent jaunt to one of the blogs I follow has once again inspired me. I am not a very disciplined person, and that is one of my biggest shortcomings. It is probably the single biggest issue my husband and I argue about. He has a specific laundry day, and all his laundry gets folded and put away immediately. My laundry day, however, is whenever I run out of clean underwear! And, it doesn't bother me a whit to rummage through a basket of once-folded clothes to find something to wear. Our closet is a huge source of dissension - his wire clothing drawers feature short stacks of neatly folded clothes arranged by type; my drawers are an explosion of straps and piles that were once folded, with splots of color escaping over every basket. My shoes are a mound that requires extensive excavation on a daily basis. My hanging clothes are neatly hung, but there is no rhyme or reason to their arrangement. This contrasts sharply with his arrangements of work shirts and pants, long-sleeved shirts, etc. All this about laundry is just one example of my approach to life - probably not a very good one, but it's all mine.

A long winded wind-up for what I really meant to say, but a blogger I follow, Jan Mader, is a children's author and writing coach, who has now extended her expertise in writing to those of us who struggle with that. Jan's posts challenge us all: students, authors, bloggers, parents, teachers, anybody or everybody with something to say. She challenges us to think about why and how we write, and she doesn't just throw down the gauntlet. She gets us actively involved in reaching into our heads and pulling out the seeds that we already have within. She encourages by asking questions and creating involving writing exercises. For me, a fifth grade language arts teacher, these activities are a goldmine! I am "creatively appropriating" (stealing) her ideas for use in my classroom. Not only do I think these exercises are valuable tools for getting kids to write; they are immensely helpful to me in getting my own thoughts into words. One of her recent posts, I Promise (, seemed like it could help me become more disciplined, so I'm going to try it. Here goes:

I promise to do my laundry more often.

I promise to get to work earlier in the morning.

I promise to grades papers in a more timely manner.

I promise to help out more with the goats.

I promise to keep my studio area cleaner.

I promise to email my friends and family more frequently.

I promise to weed out my clutter of books and magazines in the living room more often.

I promise to keep my nails looking better.

I promise to unload the dishwasher more quickly.

I promise to differentiate my instruction more.

Now, the part Jan promises is easier: Pick the one of these that "jumps out" at you, and write for five minutes about just that one. And she is right - one does jump out at me, and that is the last one, my promise to differentiate my instruction more. So . . .

My promise to differentiate my instruction is something that I have been thinking about my entire teaching career. I always say that school teachers see a very narrow slice of someone's life and abilities. We have a consigned set of activities that we value, and that slice, many times, does not coincide with an individual's talents and abilities. I am not a huge advocate of the talented and gifted programs in schools because I believe that everyone has something they are better at than someone else and that all children should have opportunities for enrichment. I think every child should have an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) designed just for him or her. BUT - once again that culprit, time, is the issue. So, I just began attending some classes being offered by the ODE for gifted education that I think will help in differentiating instruction for all students in my classroom. The concept I'm studying is called compacting, and it should help by letting students show me what they know, and allowing me to skip reteaching those concepts to them. Also, compacting involves more student choice in assignments through the use of interest inventories and learning modalities, which should increase student motivation.

Okay, I've written for more than five minutes here, but see - Jan was right! When I chose the promise that jumped out at me, it really was easy to write about because I am passionate about it! If you are reading this, I encourage you to visit Jan's blog to see what she has to say. It may be just the spark you are looking for to jump start your own writing or to help a struggling child begin to communicate more freely. Now, for me? I'm going to investigate those other promises, one at a time, to see what I can figure out to do about them!


  1. Okay, you've brought me to tears. It IS you who is amazing. You're the teacher that every child deserves to have. You are the one with the unique stories to tell. You are the one who makes me want to keep writing and writing. I'm so grateful to have met you.

  2. I'm the lucky one. Since I'm not a classroom teacher, I don't have to get really involved in the revision terrors. I encourage teachers to have an anonymous drawer. Kids can leave first drafts there and then come pick them up in a different drawer after teachers have made suggestions. Somehow it is easier for kids to take critiques when they don't have to feel threatened at all. Of course teachers can't always do this, but if they'd just give it a shot for a paper or two, I think things might change.

    Also, in a classroom where kids are comfortable sharing what's realtive to their hearts, minds, and lives, they are also more ready to accept "communication challenges"...Ask "what did you mean by that? Can you paint a better picture for me?"

    And yes, sometimes colored pens do stand out more and are necessary. I think Alya (sadly) met with a teacher who didn't understand the importance of her comments (red pen and all). Lots of kids are completely stalled in the writing process for this same reason.

    When I visit a school, I always ask for the kids "who can't write" during my lunch hour. They always can...they're just afraid.

    I'm going on and on. I know from all that you've said that you're fair, encouraging, and involved. That's all any child could ask for....

  3. Stuff is good, Christine. All creative people have stuff. I had to laugh...your post was so flattering I showed it to my husband. He said, "Her husband's just like me and you're like her!"

    I said, "I didn't show you the post so you could compare our laundry baskets!" Good grief!