Summer, Classroom Communities, and You!

Greetings from August!

Summer Beach
Photo Credit: Karen Arnold @ publicdomainpictures.net https://www.publicdomainpictures.net/en/view-image.php?image=33915

I hope that you, like us, have been enjoying a relaxing summer with your family and friends. In this profession, it’s important to recharge and recenter yourself.

Many teachers also use summer as a chance for self-directed professional development. Reading new books and brainstorming new ideas, bouncing thoughts off other educators. It was great to see so many of you at Nerd Camp doing exactly that.

A lot of you are already back at school, or will be soon. I, for one, look forward to seeing your tweets about the things you’re doing as you start the school year.

We’d also like to invite you to share your work here on the Classroom Communities blog. If you’d like to write here about what you’re doing in the classroom, especially in terms of developing community and relationships, we’d love to have you!

Fill out the form at this page: https://classroomcommunities.com/want-to-be-a-contributor, and we’ll be in touch with you from there to schedule your post. Can’t wait to hear your stories!

Nice vs. Kind

 

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Our seventh-grade team chose ‘kindness’ as a year-long theme this year. We planned a variety of short and long-term activities across all content areas to promote kindness. Some of them have been very successful in my opinion, some of them not-so-much, but that will happen. Not every great idea works out in the end.

We are now approaching the half-way mark of the year and I have been thinking about whether this focus on ‘kindness’ has worked. Have our students embraced kindness? As teachers have we embraced kindness? Is our large seventh-grade community kinder?

It is too early for me to clearly see a huge shift, but small ones are happening. I notice students offering support to each other in the classroom without prompting. I see a lot more smiling faces. I see more students with a welcoming stance in my room and in the halls.

However, I keep coming back to the question of “Have I embraced kindness?” I think I have because it is in my nature to be kind. However, I am struggling to model kindness. It is not like I am harsh or mean to students, but I think I am modeling nice more effectively than kind.

I am learning it easy to model niceness, but more difficult to model kindness. I greet people by name, ask them questions, listen well, and work to be positive in my language. However, all of those concepts fall into what I perceive as being nice, not necessarily being kind.

I completely understand the world, especially the world of schooling, needs a great deal of nice. We need to acknowledge others, we need to offer a smile or heartfelt greeting, we need our ‘please and thank yous’, and we need to be quiet instead of saying something awful. Nice is not bad at all, but I don’t think it is enough because we can be on autopilot and be nice.

However, I think we need the grace of kindness much more than we need niceties.

For me, kindness is more intentionally active and much more personal. Kindness is showing acceptance and giving lots of support. Kindness is much more intrinsically motived. It is an act of giving with nothing expected in return. Kindness can also mean being strong enough to deal with difficulties.

As I am working through this year of ‘kind’ with my seventh-grade friends, I have been working on being more openly kind. And that is where I am struggling. When I check in on a colleague who has been ill, I am doing that not in full view of my students. When I have a quiet conversation with a student about a struggle she might be dealing with it is quiet on purpose and not in front of the entires class. When a student says something that is awful to another, how do I intervene without being awful myself?

I am working and thinking and working some more on how to model kindness, not just niceness. The other night I heard the phrase, “fiercely kind” I am fascinated by this because I think it hits at the essence of my thoughts about the differences between nice and kind. To be kind you also need to be ready to be fierce.

I will continue to be nice, but I need to look for ways to be more fiercely kind.

Student Quotes and Books to Provide Windows

I spend a lot of time listening and writing down things I hear my students saying. These quotes often find there way back into our learning together. Most of the books we read together have come from questions, ideas, comments, or statements that a student has said. Here are the top 5 quotes from students that have led to us using stories as a way learn about our world.

5. “Why do people call them Indians not Native Americans?”

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4. “What’s the whole point of gender as kid?”

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3. “Can someones culture be a costume?”

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2. “Why are people racist just because someones skin is different?”

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1. “Why are people upset about immigrants?”

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The conversations and questions didn’t end with these books they were just the first in a series of books, tweets, photographs, video clips, and podcasts that are working together to help us understand what we see, hear, and feel around us.

Reflection on Classroom Libraries

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“A good library will never be too neat, or too dusty, because somebody will always be in it, taking books off the shelves and staying up late reading them.” -Lemony Snicket

I once came across a quote by Lemony Snicket that read, “A good library will never be too neat, or too dusty, because somebody will always be in it, taking books off the shelves and staying up late reading them.” The visual that instantly formed in my head was a classroom library. Never too neat, never too dusty, somebody will always be in it…taking books off the shelves. Those words danced in my head as I envisioned the classroom library that I hoped to curate for the children in my room.

In my school district that is situated right outside of Columbus, Ohio we are provided with an initial classroom library. This initial library is selected by a group of teachers who create a list of books that would be appropriate respective grade levels. I consider this initial library just a start. The list…while a start, wasn’t created specifically for the readers in my room. In my mind classroom libraries are built each year based off the children that are living in it each year.

As I browse my current collection of books I can see the many children reflected from past and current years. I add books all the time. In the past I’ve used donations, written grants, always my own funds, and each year my entire classroom budget that is provided by the school strictly goes to buying books for the year.

Buying books happens all throughout the school year as I get to know the children in my class. Choosing books to add to our classroom library largely depends on the identities of readers that sit in front of me. The stories that they tell me about themselves and bring into our classroom space guide the book selection process. I look to see if the children’s interests, race, religion, gender, family structure, language, ability, national origin, personality type, socio-economic experience, and ethnicity are represented in the books that are currently in our library and add books based on the stories that will increase the mirrors and windows for the readers in the room. Rudine Sims Bishop forever changed me as she taught me about mirrors and windows in books for children. I believe classroom libraries should be filled with mirrors and windows.

A library is never too neat.” With the number of books coming in and out of our classroom library our system for housing books is simple. I currently teach third graders but to be honest our system was the same when I taught first and second grade students. We have baskets for realistic stories. Both picture books and chapter books are in these baskets. These stories the children say are everyday children stories. We have baskets for series books. Where they are early chapter books series or picture books series. Students know if a book is in a series where they should go to find it. There are baskets for “animal fantasy” books as one of my students lovely named those baskets. These are books with animals who exhibit human features. And there are baskets for fantasy, poetry, non-fiction, biographies, and author sets.

This system has made it simple for students for search for books and put them away. The simplistic approach has ensured that the classroom library is never too neat but many students are always in it searching and finding books the need to read all throughout the day.

Book displays have been a great compliment to housing books in baskets. The organized baskets allow students easy and quick access but displays also get them excited about new additions. I use book displays around the room to show case new books. We talk about them and think about where they would go in the classroom library when it’s time to put them in baskets.

Oftentimes I use books off the displays for our classroom book-a-day and random book talks. Classroom book-a-day started by Jillian Heise, a school librarian, has been a perfect way to get children excited about books. It’s a time of the day where I read a book for the shear enjoyment of reading the book. Also, doing quick book talks randomly throughout the day has been a fun and easy way that I’ve gotten children excited about books. Children have come to expect classroom book-a-day and my random book talks each day and they often tell me they have gotten ideas for their next book to read because of them.

Taking books off the shelves and staying up late reading them.” That’s the goal, right? Children taking books off the shelves and reading them. To achieve this goal in my mind it is not finding the perfect balance of older or newer books, only have popular authors, or only selecting award winning books. It is knowing the identities of the children in front of you. It’s matching books to readers who are reading them.

A book that was written twenty years ago that never won an award can do that just as a brand-new book that is the top seller can also do that. It is my job as an educator to be an avid reader of books for children. I need to know books well and be responsive to the identities of the readers in my room. To get children taking books off shelves and reading them I need to provide the books that reflect who my students are and their interests each and every year.

My classroom library was built and will be curated from the vast identities of children who have entered through the doors of our classroom. The books tell their stories. Reflect their interests. Have touched their hearts and have hopefully changed their human experience.

 

 

Listening to Students: The Most Important Feedback

The waitress placed four plates on the table: pancakes and bacon; an egg fried over-easy with buttery toast; a sausage, cheese, and hash brown omelette; and a side of corn beef hash for the table to sample.  I was eating breakfast at Sullivan’s, a local restaurant that I worked at through high school and college. Every year at our school carnival raffle, I donate “Breakfast at Sullivan’s with Mr. Bailey.” It is supposed to be a big prize for the students, but honestly it is one of my favorite days of the year and not just because Sullivan’s has the best breakfast in town.  I always leave the breakfast table with new insight about the students we serve and how they view school. Today was no exception as I met with two fifth grade students. We spent the early part of breakfast talking about our favorite books, family members, and sports we play. Right around the time the food arrived, the conversation shifted to what the girls liked and didn’t like about school, especially related to classroom organization and the learning environment established by different teachers.  The students were clear. They loved every teacher during their time at Hemmeter but loved each for different reasons. I sipped my coffee, fascinated by the things they were saying and secretly taking notes in my head. We do parent, staff, and student surveys every year, but they always seem somewhat artificial. This conversation at Sullivan’s was truly some of the best feedback I have received about the school. If you want to know what works for your students, take the time to sit down and ask them.  Have a conversation and let them share what is working and what is not working.

Here is what I learned:

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The furniture in the room matters to kids.  Both shared how they were initially disappointed when they found out they were going to be in a third grade classroom that was using tables instead of desks.  This may seem odd, but they both viewed having your own desk as a right of passage into the upper elementary. They wanted space for the books they were reading and the writing they were creating.  “Desks allow you to keep stuff that is personal to you at school.”

They also loved having different options for seating.  “It is so cool how Mrs. Howald lets you bring your own chair to school.”  A quick glance at Mrs. Howald’s room shows many students agree with this assessment.  Mrs. Howald has used a BYOS (Bring your own seat) approach to classroom design for the past two years.  The students get to take ownership over their seating. The classroom is filled with different seating options: exercise balls, wiggle stools, and all different types of chairs.  My favorite is a chair completely decorated in fancy faux fur. Standing desks, pillows on the floor, and camping chairs were also popular with the students. Most of all, the students loved having the option of what was comfortable to them.

Seating Charts

Both students preferred when teachers let them pick their own seats in class.  Not exactly a shocking revelation. However, the students recognized why teachers use seating charts, they just thought it was more powerful when students came to the realization on their own.  “In Mrs. Ode’s class, it was awesome because we got to pick our own seats. The class was also the best behaved for her.” They shared that the kids knew she was trusting them. She trusted them to choose their own spot.  She trusted them to choose the group they would be working with during the day. She trusted her students. And they responded. They shared that she used the app Flippity and when the student’s name was selected, they picked their desk.  The NFL draft version of seating charts. The students knew they would be moved if they didn’t follow classroom expectations. Guess what? Mrs. Ode didn’t have to move anyone the entire year. The students understood she was giving them ownership and they respected that.

Classroom Libraries

The classroom library was another topic where the students had strong opinions.  “You can’t just fill your class library with books and put them on a shelf.” The best class libraries are organized.  These students preferred books sorted by genre. They wanted them displayed in a variety of ways.

“Ms. Lewis has a cool classroom library.  She has a big shelf of books in the back with all the series and favorites.  She has another shelf in the corner with all the new books she has bought this year.”  A bulletin board hangs above the bookshelf where all of the students have laminated name tags where they use whiteboard markers to indicate the books they are currently reading.  She uses her window ledge to highlight books the students book talk. “In the front of the room, Ms. Lewis has a small bookshelf with all the March Book Madness books and another with our #classroombookaday books.  It’s so easy to find what you are looking for.”

They wanted the popular titles and appreciated teachers that asked them what books they wanted to read.  They shared that one of their favorite activities was going through the Scholastic Book Orders and picking books for the teacher to use their bonus points on to add to the classroom library.  “And get rid of the old books that no one reads. They are just taking up space.”

Independent Reading

This was definitely the topic they were most passionate about during breakfast.  “I hate when a teacher says, ‘You can finish that assignment during independent reading time.’  I don’t want to finish something during independent reading time. I want to read during independent reading time.”  Different teachers have different expectations during independent reading. “It can be hard to get lost in your book if people are moving around or doing their classroom jobs during independent reading time.”  They didn’t want to hear any excuses for missing independent reading time either. “It’s the best time of the day. I hate any day we miss it.” We strive to provide students at least 20 minutes (preferably 30 minutes) of independent reading time EVERY day.  However, half days, assemblies, school safety drills, and more can throw a wrench in that. The students made it clear though – this should be the LAST thing cut.

Classroom Environment

The students talked highly about all of their teachers.  They LOVED Every. Single. One. But for different reasons.  They loved Mrs. Ode’s because she did “Pop Shots” with the class.  “Mrs. Ode loves basketball. She even has a hoop in her room. When you do something to impress her, you can take a shot and win a prize.”   We talked about how it was cool when teachers share about their family and the things they love. In second grade, the teachers love Disney so they do a special unit on Mickey Mouse.  Mrs. Weber is a Harry Potter fanatic so she sorts her students into Houses with the sorting hat and has the students build wands. It didn’t matter what the teacher was passionate about, they just loved their teacher sharing that passion with the class.  

As the check arrived, we wrapped up our conversation.  They thanked me for breakfast and I thanked them for everything they shared about the school.  I asked if I could share what they told me with the teachers and in a blog post. Thankfully, they said yes. Sullivans

If we want to know what our students think about our classroom or school, we need to ask them.  This 45 minute breakfast session was one of the best forms of feedback I have ever received. The students were thoughtful and honest.  The ideas suggested in this blog post were those that were best for these particular students. They may not be the best ideas for your students.  If you want to know what your students think about the classroom environment, the classroom library, or independent reading time, you will have to take the time to ask them.

Conference of Revolution

“Kids can change the world when they are given the chance.”

These are words from the keynote address of Olivia Van Ledtje, otherwise known as Livbits, that set my very first NCTE conference in motion. It was at this moment, that I knew I was in for something special.

The NCTE conference has always been an event I’ve wanted to attend. Thousands of educators from across the country come to this four-day conference to hear the best and the brightest authors and literacy experts. This year, I was finally one of those thousands. Ralph Fletcher, Donalyn Miller, Jennifer Serravallo, Kylene Beers & Bob Probst are just a few of the many “literacy gurus” that I was ecstatic to see and learn from.

However, I quickly learned that NCTE was much more than just literacy conference. For me, it was a call to arms. I arrived in Houston expecting to gain some strategies and best practices that I could take back to my classroom. Instead, I experienced, among the 7000+ attendees, a collective consciousness of equity, justice, and freedom. I entered NCTE ready for professional evolution. Now, I’m ready for revolution.

I find it virtually impossible to share all the lessons I learned and highlights from the weekend. Instead, I wanted to share some of the most profound moments that have changed my thoughts about my students and my classroom community.

Opening Keynotes
Friday morning began with a series of six youth speakers who shared their stories of how they started raising their voices. After Olivia Van Ledjte started us off with her message about “being for humanity,” we were introduced to Jordyn Zimmerman, a student at Ohio University who had previously been unable to express most of her thoughts verbally. Now, using an iPad, she described her schooling with this, “I was desperately tired of being silenced…Every student should be given a chance. Students should succeed by design, not chance.”

Next came, other youth such as Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, Marley Dias, and Zephyrus Todd shared their voices that inspired me in so many ways. Yet, when Sara Abou Rashed stepped on stage to perform her poem I Am America, I was profoundly moved. This multilingual poet and author (and student at my alma mater, Denison University), took command of that room and took us to the depths of her soul.

“I am America, oh dear, America, I love you. Even at times when you do not love me…I am not ashamed of you. I am ashamed of what they have made you. America, they do not know you like I do.”

As she walked off stage to thunderous applause, I stood there wiping tears from my eyes completely transported.

I implore you to experience this yourself. You can find a performance here.

Why is Reading Is Important?
This is the question that Kylene Beers asked her fellow panelists Kwame Alexander, Pam Allyn, and Ernest Morrell. What seemed like a simple question turned into a rallying cry to save our democracy. Here are some highlights of the discussion:

Kwamé Alexander – “Reading is a connection with the source. We can access a part of our brain that allows us to imagine what’s possible. TV imagines it for us.”

Pam Allyn – “As a reader, I am changing, but the text itself is permanent. Text is permanence and transience. I can read myself into the world. Reading is about reading yourself into being.”

Ernest Morrell – “Reading provides access to worlds that are beyond your front door. We are lucky to have the texts we have, and reading the master authors…are like Beethoven in words. Reading is an expert describing the human condition.”

Kylene Beers – “If you’re watching something, or listening to an audiobook, what you’re reading is filtered through someone else. Literacy in this country has always been about power and privilege. The person who wrote the words has typically been empowered. Literacy has always been related to power. We are handing that power over to pundits on 1-2 TV stations. Letting them tell us how to think. Our democracy is now about what 4-5 people tell us to think. Reading for information is about saving our democracy.”

How can you listen to this conversation and not be forever changed? How can I not return to my classroom with a new sense of urgency and determination?

Schooling vs. Education
Saturday started off with another general session by Christopher Emdin, New York Times bestseller For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood. . . and the Rest of Y’all Too and creator of #HipHopEd. His keynote challenged the audience to rethink and remix our jobs as educators. Christopher Edmin took the entire NCTE audience to church. Every single person in the room was locked into him. As for me, I can honestly say that it was one of the best performances I have ever seen.

Throughout his talk, he floored me with statements such as:

“Our students need to know that the only person better than them is embedded in them.”

“A curriculum that is devoid of the recognition of the genius already in your kids forces kids to perform miracles and resurrect themselves to be present every day. If you don’t recognize that there is genius in me, you will feed me a curriculum that will make me invisible. I will need to perform miracles just be relevant.”

“Be a teacher, not a curriculum follower. Teaching is all about the remix.”

“Our job as educators is to create the conditions to allow for the genius that lies within them to be able to become present.”

Throughout his talk, as my mouth hung agape, I kept thinking returning to this idea that the current construct of “school” and a “classroom” is getting in the way of true education. Emdin states that “our job as educators is to create the conditions to allow for the genius that lies within (our students) to be able to become present.” Is my classroom community getting in the way of the learning? Does our classroom allow my students to feel that they only person better than them is embedded in them?

The theme of this year’s NCTE conference was Raising Student Voice. Having a classroom community is not about rules and structure. Classroom community is about having those difficult conversations. It is about innovation. It is about a disruption of the way it’s always been done to ensure that learning is not impeded by the schooling.

Classroom community is about asking the question to our students: “Am I serving you the way you need to be served?”

Beyond Thanksgiving: Indigenous Books Anytime

A minute ago, it was summer. Now, the leaves have all blown away, the garden has been put to bed, the sun only works part-time, and the snow dared to arrive in my part of the world. We are eyeball deep in the season of assessments, report cards, and parent-teacher conferences. We are all exhausted. But we have a break in sight. Despite Christmas commercials insisting we should have been shopping since the beginning of October, it’s Thanksgiving’s turn next.

 

The Thanksgivings of my youth were spent at Nana’s and Papa’s house in Indiana, family and friends crowded around folding tables, eating the turkey Dad carved with Papa and the noodle kugel Nana made for every gathering. Before the long road trip there, we celebrated and did activities at school: paper hand turkeys, coloring pages of cornucopias and Pilgrims and “Indians”, writing about what we were thankful for, and once, a feast that included venison stew made from the meat of a deer my teacher had hunted.

 

As I have grown more aware of how simplified, inaccurate, and white-washed my school experience was of Thanksgiving, I will work to do better as I teach this generation of children. We will not color stereotypical portraits of Native people. We will not teach that the Pilgrims and Native people lived in harmony or in an equitable symbiotic relationship. We will not talk and read about the Wampanoag or any Native peoples ONLY for a day or two…on the contrary, we will continue to talk and read about indigenous people in ways that challenge biased perspectives of history, invites critical conversations of Native peoples’ experiences, and centers them accurately in their own stories. We will be inclusive of Native voices in our read alouds, our classroom libraries, and our shared reading.

 

November is officially Native American Heritage Month. Much like Black History Month, and other recognized cultural spotlights, they were created to draw awareness and attention, as well as, to make space for celebration and recognition. These designated months are a tremendous opportunity to educate ourselves and others about cultures, ethnicities, and identities that deserve our time and undivided attention, and intended to encourage awareness and education all year long. But they can be a double-edged sword.

 

A highlighted month does not permit us to relegate diversity to a determined frame of time, a curricular unit, or as a means of comforting the majority. If as educators, we save stories by and about Native people only for November, if we don’t include representation outside of the month, then we guarantee that they will always be “othered”. What happens when Native children see books by and about indigenous people disappear from their educational experience after Thanksgiving? They disappear, too. However, if those same children hear books read aloud and find books in their classroom and school libraries by Joseph Bruchac, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Tim Tingle, Monique Gray Smith, Julie Flett, and more, they find their stories and people. They find their mirrors, their representation. Representational literature effectively communicates to its readers that they are worthy, their stories are real, and who they are is valuable and whole. For the many children in our classes who are non-native, these books serve as windows, glimpses into another’s experience, a way to grow education and empathy towards those different from ourselves.

 

This November, if you are making a point to read books about America’s first people, ensure you are sharing culturally accurate, truly representational texts, and elevating #OwnVoices texts created by Native authors and illustrators. Then, be sure to read, share, and shelve them throughout the year. Make that promise to yourself and your students that the stories and experiences of indigenous people are valid and normal any time of the year. Buy some for your classroom or get them from the library. Your library doesn’t stock it? Ask them to purchase it for circulation. Research, reach out, and read. Here’s a picture book resource list from Cynthia Leitich Smith and few of my recent favorites to get you started. Images and descriptions courtesy of Goodreads.com.

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Picture Book: “A look at modern Native American life as told by a citizen of the Cherokee Nation.”

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Picture Book: “…encourages children to show love and support for each other and to consider each other’s well-being in their everyday actions.”

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Picture Book: “Go on a Mission to Space with Chickasaw astronaut John Herrington, as he shares his flight on the space shuttle Endeavor and his thirteen-day mission to the International Space Station.”

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Picture Book: “Nimoshom loved to drive the school bus. Every day, on the way to and from school, he had something to say. Sometimes, he told the kids silly stories. Sometimes, he taught the kids a new word in Cree.”

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Picture Book: “Set in the Okanagon, BC, a First Nations family goes on an outing to forage for herbs and mushrooms. Grandmother passes down her knowledge of plant life to her young grandchildren.”

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Picture Book: “Circles are all around us. We just have to look for them. Sometimes they exist in the most unusual places.”

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Picture Book: “When Uncle and Windy Girl and Itchy Boy attend a powwow, Windy watches the dancers and listens to the singers. She eats tasty food and joins family and friends around the campfire. Later, Windy falls asleep under the stars. Now Uncle’s stories inspire other visions in her head: a bowwow powwow, where all the dancers are dogs.”

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Picture Book: “As a young Navajo boy, Chester Nez had to leave the reservation and attend boarding school, where he was taught that his native language and culture were useless. But Chester refused to give up his heritage. Years later, during World War II, Chester—and other Navajo men like him—was recruited by the US Marines to use the Navajo language to create an unbreakable military code. Suddenly the language he had been told to forget was needed to fight a war.”

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Middle Grade Picture Book: “When eight-year-old Irene is removed from her First Nations family to live in a residential school she is confused, frightened, and terribly homesick. She tries to remember who she is and where she came from, despite the efforts of the nuns who are in charge at the school and who tell her that she is not to use her own name but instead use the number they have assigned to her.”

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Young Adult: “#NotYourPrincess presents an eclectic collection of poems, essays, interviews, and art that combine to express the experience of being a Native woman.”

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Young Adult: “thoughtful story of a Native teen navigating the complicated, confusing waters of high school – and first love.”

 

Is it possible to have a Daily Connection Community?

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My first post was #pb10for10 list about Relationships.  Relationships foster, nurture, and hold together communities.  I recently read I Love My Purse by Belle DeMont and illustrated by Sonja Wimmer as a #classroombookaday selection.  I read it to foster differences.  I read it to break gender stereotypes.  I read it without realizing I would ponder this story for so much more after sharing it with students.

Maybe it was the multiple reads that let me think deeper about this story.  Maybe it was reading it slower in front of others.  Maybe it was searching for a nugget to share in this space that led me to more pondering.  I truly think it might be the message my student’s discovered about this book that I didn’t see with a quick read.

We and/or maybe just I often think about communities as groups of people I spend time with at some sort of interval.  I think about communities as a group that comes together for a cause, reason, or sliver of goodness.  I Love My Purse helped me see a community might be the same people you see every day on the path of your own day’s agenda.  Charlie begins his day with his dad, his friend Charlotte, Sam, a crossing guard, and Dad ends his day.  We might just call this Charlie’s daily connection community.

Each person questions Charlie’s purse wearing and each time Charlie answers, “Cause I want to.”  I love this response.  It’s truly all that is needed.  Eventually Charlie learns something about something each person wish they did and were hesitant to do.  Charlie takes his purse to school for another day and discovers his daily connection community is trying something small they’ve always wanted to do.  By Friday, his daily connection community is all on board with each of their wishes – embracing their hopes.

I think I pondered this book for longer than anticipated because it really shows how one person thinking for themselves can empower others to be brave and embrace their own wishes and individuality.  Charlie’s daily connection community has forever been changed.  I think what I discovered in my further pondering is how this story is about the unexpected community and how one person offers connection.

I recently had the pleasure of seeing Sir Elton John on tour and on the last page of this story, Charlie is looking a little “Sir Elton John-ish.”  May we all experience some of these words from “Sir Elton John.”

There’s an extraordinary healing power of compassion and love between people.                Sir Elton John