I look up at the clock only to realize that I’ve spent twenty more minutes in this classroom than I had planned. Now I have less time to run back and grab my materials for teaching a first grade phonics lesson and whatever other tasks I had planned to squeeze in. I quietly apologize to Mary, sitting to my left. “I’ll have to read with you next time…”
It’s day four of school and I’ve read with more than half the students in this fifth grade class already. I’ve started each conference the same. “How was summer?” Followed up with, “How was your summer reading?” Some kids have rattled off lists of books they read and authors they loved. Others explain that they went to summer camp, sports camp, to visit their grandparents…No time for reading. I celebrate the reading and brush the other stuff away with a shrug and a “so what are you reading now?”
I learn about the clans of the Warrior series, the motivations of Billy Miller, and the crazy misfortune of the bully in Poached. I also jot down an English author a student, who visited family in England this summer, had recommended.
I share stories from the time I heard Jason Reynolds speak with Nolan, who is nearing the end of Miles Morales. We talk about Reynolds inspiration coming from reading rap lyrics, poetry. Nolan tells me the significance of all of the secondary characters and the themes he is thinking of- “people can change.” I take a few moments to let Nolan know that he is doing some pretty sophisticated thinking, despite his opening remarks about not liking to read much. I see the slight twitch of a smile as I point out Jason Reynolds’ track series in the classroom library.
As I rush to my office to grab my Phonics materials, I make mental lists of kids that need to find the right books-the ones that will really capture them. Another list of kids who need a refresher in thinking about the complexity of their main characters and another group ready to work on thinking about possible themes earlier on in their reading.
Then I think about how much fun it has been to talk to kids about books and how exciting it will be to watch them grow and continue talking with them this year.
It’s good to be back at school.