This morning, I read Elisabeth Ellington’s post, Creative Caddy, and her words stuck with me. “I almost don’t want to say this out loud for fear of scaring it away or bringing some new doom down on all our heads, but I’m feeling hopeful this month.”
I think the hope was creeping in even before I read those words. All weekend, I was excited for today. Today was the day we launched our 7th Annual One Book, Two Schools experience. Each year, we select a book for our whole community to read together. We send books home with kids, we record chapters for families to listen to together, and we keep the book a secret until our big reveal. I’ve sometimes questioned this practice. Is it worth it? Do people even read the book? But for some reason, this year, I’m hopeful that it may be just the thing we need right now.
This morning, as we ran through how our first assembly of the year would go, something my friend Dawn said also stuck with me. “It’s just all about community. The school community. The family communities. The classroom communities.” She was right and I think that’s what I’m most hopeful for, that this experience will bring us closer together.
For so long, we’ve been socially distant, which has maybe just made us distant. But today, our school gathered, in two groups, for two separate book reveals. Kids entered the auditorium, some of them for their very first whole school (or in this case half school) meeting. Kids entered through the doors, side by side with their buddy class. So that meant, an upper grade student was paired with a younger student. They remained side by side, as they took their seats. They turned to each other for support while we played Wheel of Fortune to reveal the book title. They turned to smile at each other when we announced that they were now reading partners, for our giant bookclub. The older kids sat up a little taller when we let them know how important they were, a role model for their younger buddy.
Another reason, I’m feeling hopeful is that we chose Grace Lin’s, The Year of the Dog as our whole school read. We’re also fortunate that Grace Lin will be visiting our school in May. The reason this gives me hope is that, with social distancing, the culturally responsive work we had been trying to get off the ground seemed to also be distanced. While The Year of the Dog is not a new book, it does provide so many opportunities for discussion. Earlier this month we kicked off Women’s History Month with a whole school read aloud. In that book, our principal introduced the idea of mirrors and windows in books. As I crafted the classroom discussion guide for our One Book experience, I layered in places for kids to consider what parts of the story was a mirror for them and which parts were windows. I suggested places for teachers to talk about microagressions, for students to give the characters advice, and to think about what they would do in certain situations-in hopes that they will learn about themselves and others.
After our big reveal, buddy classes headed back to their classrooms to read the first few chapters of the book together. It was there that I saw the distance dwindle. Classes gathered together and jumped right into all of the opportunities that this book has to offer. Teachers were no longer alone in their classrooms. They had a partner. The energy felt so right as I watched mesmerized faces of all ages engaged in a story and turning to share their thoughts and ideas with their friends.
Today, hope crept in as we crept closer together.