Start of the Year Reflection

I don't get a lot of time in my classroom these days. My husband is working a lot and my kids don't love to come to school for hours on end (hmph). So tonight when my husband suggested I spend a couple of hours there after dinner, I raced in. My furniture is mostly set up. I need to work on my library.

As I sat looking over my books to decide what would work best with Second Graders, I started pulling books I could use in the beginning of the year. I like to choose books that set the tone I expect. I want kids to be brave.
I want them to know it's okay to be different. I want them to know it's more than okay, in fact I prefer it. How Vanilla Pudding is alright but Lemon Panna Cotta with Berry Compote is thrilling!
I love to swap stories about how we got our names and why who we are at home needs to come to school too. I want to hear about their tradition of sleeping with confetti under their pillow before the first night of school. I want to know if their dad makes pancakes on Sunday morning and if he hides M&Ms in them.
I want them to be able to name the way they feel and spend time listening to music and drawing that emotion.
There is so much more. I started to feel like I was choosing too many books. Then I realized that I could probably fit in 2 or 3 each day and that made me feel better.

I also thought about some of the amazing people I've met on the internet and how they've cracked this job I do wide open for me.

One of those people is Cathy Mere who changed my teaching life because I knew I wanted to do more, but I wasn't sure what it looked like. She took the time to write a book that made sense and I use it whenever I am unsure what to do next. We have since become online friends and she never fails to share something I can use.
Another person who has transformed me is Carrie Gelson, whose blog There's a Book for That lives up to its name. She is relentless at reading and reviewing and helping her friends find just the right book. I plan to use one of her suggestions when I talk with my Second Graders about getting to know people for who they are and reveling in the possibilities.
Carrie brought me to the person who has changed how I feel about teaching writing and being a writer myself. Barbara O'Connor is the fantastic author of so many amazing books. We connected when I read The Small Adventures of Popeye and Elvis. Carrie tweeted that she loved what we did with the book, from making Yoo Hoo boats to drawing our favorite parts. Barbara saw the post and allowed me to invite her into my classroom via Skype. She shared her whole writing process with the kids in a way that helped them see how much goes into writing something from the idea to the writing to the research and the revision. She was just with us for about 15 minutes, but I remember it like it was two hours. We've become online friends as well and I value her and her writing so much. We will be reading another of her books next year as I am looping with my kids and can't wait to show them more.
I could go on and on because I have amazing friendships online with some amazing people, happily both men and women in education. You know who you are.

A great person whom I know in real life and online, Jessica Esch, says with frequency "Online affects Offline." She is one of those people who never fails to send a quick tweet or FB note letting you know you are heard. Follow her at @jesch30.

I strive to do this as well. I know you're there and I appreciate it ever so much.

Finally, as I sat and read a book that charms and engages me at every reading,
I  stopped and looked around. It was 8:45pm. There was no one at school but me. My room shows what I care about and will want them to care about. There isn't anything on the walls and there probably won't be until the kids start putting it there. Our books are all over the tables. My book character stuffies are strategically lounging about near their own books. My iPhone is crooning David Gray's Sail Away.

And then, I burst into tears.

But only because I love what I do and I can't wait for those kids to show up.


  1. Well, go ahead and make my day. Teacher like you are a blessing on this earth.

  2. Lovely, lovely, lovely- the whole story you told. I felt like I was there with you and your books and all of the possibilities. I wish you a wonderful reading year.

  3. Your students are lucky to have you--and so is the state of Maine. Enjoy your year!

  4. You always challenge and inspire me. Thank you.
    ❀ Tammy
    Forever in First

  5. I wish I could be a student in your room....but then again, I am an online student of yours. For what impacts me online with impact me offline :)
    Curious Firsties

  6. Kimberley,
    Sorry about the late response. I've been on the road this weekend and responded on my phone, but it didn't work. My smartphone isn't smart about commenting (or its owner isn't….anyway….).

    This was so sweet. I'm so thankful for our connection. Your posts, questions, insights, have given me so much to think about. I look forward to continuing the conversation in the new school year.

    As I read your post I felt like I was right there sitting beside you. You have so many great titles here. Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon has ALWAYS been a favorite of mine. I discovered Woobur during one of the picture book 10 for 10s and my students have always loved it. I need to check out Speckled Eggs and Hello My Name is Rudy. (My library card is a little maxed out right now…lol.) You were the one to introduce me to Happy and I look forward to sharing it again this year.

    I also have to agree about Carrie Gelson. Wow! She knows books!

    Good luck in the new year. Your students are lucky to have you!

  7. A beautiful post Kimberley. I went through a similar process in my garage today-trying to figure out what books to start with to set the tone for the year. Molly Lou Melon is one of my all-time favorite characters! I love the way Woolbur ends. The others I will have to check out. Our district is implementing a guided reading program this year, so I know I will end up ordering that book as well as the one about Ruby. Thank you so much for sharing your ideas! :)

    Not Just Child's Play