Friday, March 15, 2013

"I forgot that I might see so many beautiful things"

My students and I have been reading Wonder by RJ Palacio as our class read aloud since January. This week we came to a very pivotal moment in the story that brings out a lot of emotions, within the characters and also within the reader. Communities of readers are built on moments like these.

And despite the fact that my future in the classroom is uncertain right now, and despite my perpetual exhaustion since our Spring Forward on Sunday, it's weeks like this one that reaffirm my vocation and tug at me, reminding me why I'm here in the first place.

Besides the emotional catharsis of reading Wonder together, a couple other reaffirming moments happened in the classroom this week:

Moment #1
Earlier this week I had a dream that one of my students was single-handedly responsible for getting one of my favorite authors/illustrators, Adam Rex, to visit our school. When I told her about this dream the next day, she had this look on her face like she was blown away that she could manage to not only infiltrate my dreams, but that she was also able to carry out such an amazing feat as to get a rock star author like Adam Rex to visit our school. Her reaction to this new knowledge was, "Really? I was in your dream? And I got Adam Rex to come here? I could do that. Do you want me to do that? I'm on it."

Then the next day, this same student approached me and said, "Guess what Mrs. Shaum? You were in MY dream last night. Adam Rex did come to our school and for some reason you were wearing a big curly rainbow wig. But then you got mad because he poured caramel sauce over himself since he didn't want to repeat himself by doing chocolate syrup again, but he got it all over the carpet in the classroom so you were not very happy."

So Adam Rex, I apologize if you get a random email from a 6th grader in Michigan. My dream, accompanied by her own, apparently gave her a mission she feels the need to carry out.

Moment #2
Today the 6th grade Skyped with my friend Kellie who works for Walden Pond Press. When I finally met Kellie in person at NCTE in November, we spent a wonderful dinner together and the one thing that really struck me when she talked about WPP's books is how enthusiastic she was about the titles her imprint puts out for kids. I immediately had the idea that what better way to get kids to want to read WPP's books than to have someone directly from the publisher book talk them.

My instinct was not wrong. Kellie book talked four titles today and by the end of the day, this was the waiting list:

Notice that one of the books has a shorter waiting list than the others. Why is that? Because I was the one who book talked that one. So clearly Kellie is a rock star book talker, but also, I was able to reaffirm that it helps if teachers branch out and find other people and methods to get kids excited about books instead of doing the same thing over and over again. I mean, I've had The Fourth Stall in my classroom library all year, but it wasn't until Kellie book talked it that I had kids clamoring for it. When I talked to the kids after Kellie's Skype visit, a large number of them said, just as I did, that she was an amazing speaker and that she knew how to get kids excited about books. That was music to my ears.

*Title quote from the song "Beautiful Things" by Andain, which is also quoted in Wonder.

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