It Turns Out We Haven’t Been Doing Nothing

I am not sure that title is grammatically correct, but it sure does sum up how I am feeling at the moment.

There is something about the onset of October that seems to make many teachers feel as if they have not yet accomplished anything. As we turn to a new month on our calendars, we seem to all take pause and ask ourselves, “How do my students still not know ________________?”

And then we panic.

We feel as if we have wasted time on all the wrong things. We feel as if we should be so much farther along by now. We feel as if in all other school years, we have already tackled so many more things and that in all past years our students have already accomplished so much more. We feel as if we do not have enough to show for our learning. There are not enough finished products. There are not enough standards met. There are not enough assessments completed.

And it can feel awful.

For me, it is always our Fall parent-teacher conferences that bring on this sense of panic.  As I sit at home, attempting to take care of my wife who just had knee surgery and pretending not to stress about work (which shouldn’t be that important right now, but is often all I can think about) I find myself endlessly worried about what I will have to share with parents next week as they come to me to hear all about the work that their children have been doing.

I worry because I have felt like we haven’t been doing anything at all. I worry because I sometimes feel like I still don’t know my students as readers and writers as well as I would like to. I worry because I don’t have much to show. I don’t have endless pages of reading notebooks filled and ready to share with parents. I don’t have many published pieces of writing to show. So what have we been doing?

Well, it turns out that we haven’t been doing nothing. It turns out that what we have been doing is establishing ourselves as a community of readers and writers. What we have been doing is taking time to learn about ourselves and about each other. What we have been doing is moving slowly so that we all know that there is a greater purpose for the work that we are doing than just meeting standards. What we have been doing is changing the way that we think about reading and writing and maybe even changing the way that we think about ourselves.

And the problem with all of this is that there isn’t always a piece of work to show all of the things that we have been learning to do. The problem is that not all of this work is directly tied to learning objectives and common core standards. The problem with this is that there really isn’t any problem at all except sometimes our current world of education makes us feel as if it isn’t enough.

So how do I know that it is? How do I know that this work matters? Well, I look to the kids. Because after all, it is always about them. If the work we are doing isn’t helping them to become better readers and writers, then none of it matters at all. So I need to give my students a chance to reflect. I need to give my students a chance to tell themselves and to tell me how things are going.

So I created this reflection for my students to fill out this week. I wanted a place for them to reflect on the things that AREN’T on their report card. I wanted a place for them to share with me, with themselves and with their parents what they have learned how to do even if there is no finished, polished product to prove it. I wanted a place for them to realize just how far they have already come and just how much they have already learned how to do.

And it turns out that this reflection was as much a tool for me as it will be for them. Because as I stopped to think about what skills we have been working on, I gave myself a chance to see just how much nothing we really had been doing.  When I write it all out, I see how much value there is in the work we have been doing. I see why we aren’t further along. I recognize that without this work we would actually be further behind and not farther ahead. Giving myself a chance to reflect allows me to feel more confident about where we are and why we are there.

So when I meet with parents this week. When we talk about what we have been working on and what we have been learning to do, I will be able to share my students’ reflections. I will be able to share my own thoughts on where their children are in all of these very important skills that don’t always get talked about because they aren’t written out in our standards and you won’t find them on our report cards. But like I’ve said, that just doesn’t mean that they are nothing. Sometimes, these things, these skills that aren’t always formally assessed and reported, they are the ones that matter most of all.

Here is the reflection that my students will be filling out this week: Fall Reading and Writing Reflection

One thought on “It Turns Out We Haven’t Been Doing Nothing

  1. Pingback: Revision Is More Than Just Fixing What Your Teacher Tells You to Fix | Crawling Out of the Classroom

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