Friday, April 4, 2014

Slowing Down and Pulling Over

Photo by Jim Richardson from National Geographic
Driving back from our high school today from a tri-state consortium consultancy about how our district supports authentic intellectual work and listening (for the fourth time) to Donalyn Miller's The Book Whisperer on audio, I slowed down for a family of deer who spontaneously jumped across in front of the cars ahead of me.  I was a few cars back, so I inched slowly up to them, as I typically do. There are always more to follow.   To my left, I saw seven or eight of them, turned toward the road.  To my right, one.  Does he pass to join his friends?  Does he run up the hill?  Running across the road would be hard.  It's a busy street, and he would be taking a risk.  But his friends had made it, so perhaps he could, too.  They're waiting for him.   The deer on the left stood poised, not goating him along, just waiting.  One even nonchalantly dropped his head and started to nibble on the grass, as if to say, "I'll just eat here; no worries; take your time."

Donalyn Miller, at the same time, started talking about students taking risks with their book choices, and how we, as teachers need to create the environment for them to do so if we want to create lifelong readers.

I pulled over on the side of the busy street.  Maybe because I've literally been hit by a deer before, or maybe I wanted to see how this all played out, I'm not exactly sure. But it was worth it because the seven or eight deer on the left side of the street all sprinted across the road, to the right, and stood beside the sole deer.  And then they all crossed the busy road together, right in front of me.

Is it an animal instinct to stick up for one another?  To take risks for each other?  To guide one another?   And if so, where do we, as humans and as teachers, lose our way?

Every day, I feel like we are leaving colleagues behind, students behind.  We speed through the days and the weeks to cover the content and make sure that we are doing it all right.  We're doing a lot right.  But sometimes, we have to stop, graze, slow down, and take a risk to go to the other side and help our friends cross the street.  Help our colleagues overcome their fears to cross the street.  Help our students to cross the street.  Walk with them across the street to show them that it can be done.  We have to show them that we can do it side by side.  We are in this journey together.

Those deer who had made it across the street already, they waited for their friend.  And when he didn't come, or couldn't come, or was too afraid to come, they went and got him.  Maybe it's not as hard as we all make it seem to just do what's right.  

I am a coach, a literacy specialist, a teacher, a friend.  I need to be better at crossing the street side by side my students and my colleagues.  I want to do better and be better.  And so I will.  


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