Sunday, August 13, 2017

Making Workdays Work For You

I truly love back to school. What I truly DO NOT love is walking back into this...
video
I've yet to figure it out: I can pack up this room in 1.5 days flat knowing summer vacation awaits, but it'll take me at least three times that long to set it back up.  (Even though I've been in the same classroom for a decade now...) What gives?

For all our complaining about kids with focus issues, let's face it: we teachers are the worst to have focus issues.  First things first: we've got all our teacher friends to catch up with after a [not quite] long [enough] summer break.  Plus, we bought loads of stuff over the summer [at the Dollar Spot] we've got to incorporate into the classroom decor.  And let's not forget we've got a meeting of some sort to attend every other hour. [Seriously- if I work with you, don't let me forget. Speaking of which, where's that new planner I bought this summer?  And the cute pens? Let me run out to my car and see if it's in those bags in the back...]

...this is my [large] bin of items I've purchased for school this summer

It's always amazing to me how quickly a teacher workday passes compared to a day with the students. Coffee, chat, work, meeting, chat, work, lunch, chat, work...the next thing you know you're pulling "overtime" on your first day back. [Do teachers call it overtime? Or just regular life?]

Every year, I say I'm going to do better.  So this year, I'm putting it in writing, both for myself and maybe for some of you if you're interested.  Here are some tips for making these short-lived workdays work for you in a way that will hopefully have lasting effects.

1.  Prioritize. 

Make your first tasks the ones that must be done in your classroom (furniture arrangement, bulletin boards, library organization, etc.).  Save small things, like writing name tags, to do at home in front of the TV so you don't have to stay there all night.

Start with the things that have to be done by Open House. As tempting as it is to reorganize the inside of a binder for a unit you're going to teach second quarter, don't do it! [That's a message to my later-this-week self.]

2. Socialize sparingly.

Don't get me wrong; I enjoy gabbing with my teacher besties as much as the next person. But oh how quickly time gets away! If you do want to chat, try to bring something into their classroom you can work on while you talk and remind them to do something while you talk. Then switch classrooms after a while so you can do a bulletin board while they do paperwork.

I still remember some solid advice from Erin Cobb from Lovin' Lit at the TPT conference two years go.  She said if someone is in your classroom talking and you just can't shake them, make up an errand. Say, "I'm going to the office, want to walk with me?" or pretend you have to use the bathroom. It's not personal; sometimes it's just necessary to get the job(s) done!

3. Set short-term goals.

I'm talking hourly here.  We all love a checklist, but by the end of the day, how much of it really gets checked off?  Count the items on your daily checklist at the beginning of the day. Then divide it up by how many hours you have in your classroom.  Then you'll have in your head, realistically, how long you have to spend on each task.  Otherwise, you'll still be reorganizing that first cabinet at noon when your teacher bestie yells, "When's lunch already?"

4.  Enlist help.

Especially if you have a couple of non-official teacher workdays to spend in your classroom, ask for help! I know we like to do it all on our own because we're perfectionists [control freaks] but I'm always amazed at how much non-teachers enjoy seeing the inner workings of a classroom given the chance. [This is not necessarily true of your husband, but he IS still required to come help you move the furniture.]

Ask a college student who hasn't started back yet or a retired friend to come help you for a few hours.   Before they come, make a list of things they can do without your help and while they're there, focus on things they can't do.  In other words, don't label folders or hang border if someone else in your life is willing!  It took me too long to learn this lesson, but it's a lifesaver.

5.  Give yourself a break.

Don't walk around and compare your progress to the teacher down the hall. Don't see something they did that you wish you had done and spend an extended lunch break running to Target to get the supplies to [almost] copy them. Don't feel like every corner of the room has to be perfect by Open House. It's okay to have a blank [but neatly covered] bulletin board and there comes a time when you have to shove the stuff you haven't organized in a closet and forget about it for a while. It's okay.

There are many aspects of the teaching profession that make it unique, and the magic act we perform on our classrooms in a week's time each August is one of the highlights.  This social media driven world we live in adds extra [but unnecessary] pressure.  However, the students who walk into your newly transformed classroom in the coming days are going to be much more interested in the smile on your face than the decorations on the wall.  I promise...so keep smiling!


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Five Reasons to Teach The Lemonade War


Click here to enter my latest giveaway!  Contest ends TONIGHT (8/1) at midnight!  

I know the The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies has become very popular over the last few years (maybe even too popular because it's hard to find kids in fourth or fifth grade who haven't already read it).  However, it's for good reason and that's why I chose it as my Summer Giveaway book.  Whether you win the giveaway, already have a class set, or have never heard of the book, I wanted to share a few reasons why this novel really is worth your time if you teach grades 3-5.

1.  The Lemonade War has direct correlations to standards in economics and personal finance.  Each chapter begins with an explicit definition of a word related to these social studies areas.  Then, the chapter illustrates that term with a kid-friendly situation in the plot of the story.  It really brings economics to life!

2.  The author changes perspective each chapter.  Point-of-view and perspective is an important standard in the upper elementary grades.  Reading a book that stays in first person limited but switches back and forth between the two main characters is a great opportunity to reinforce these skills.

3.  Davies' figurative language game is strong!  This book is chocked full of similes, metaphors, and idioms and even throws in an adage or two.  Some of my favorites (featured in my Comprehension Packet) include, "It was like having a chestful of bats, beating their wings, fighting to get out." (p. 4) and "Evan was a straight shooter." (p. 17)  And, of course, who could argue with Evan and Jessie's grandmother's voice in their heads warning, "Pride goeth before a fall?" (p. 96)  So many teachable moments!


4.  You can also easily integrate math into reading this novel, and my Comprehension Packet does just that.  From calculating how many cups of lemonade the characters can make to how much money they earned on any particular day, there are math problems scattered all through the book.  I often catch my students checking behind the math or arguing about the way the characters solved a problem.

5.  Last, but not least, who doesn't love a book or lesson that calls for a food and/or drink treat?  Once you finish the book, you must enjoy lemonade together.  That's a non-negotiable.  Even if you're like me and just buy the cans so you don't have to squeeze it or mix it X 24ish. That smile says it all!



Wednesday, July 26, 2017

N.C. Historical Fiction Must-Reads

I love all genres of children's literature.  I grew up on realistic fiction, dreaming of being a member of The Baby-sitter's Club.  I love fantasy; I rank Roald Dahl at the top of my favorite children's authors and I'm a huge Harry Potter fan.  As a teacher, I've seen the power other genres like mystery, graphic novels, and informational text has to attract reluctant readers.  But perhaps no genre of children's literature is more powerful than historical fiction.

We've heard it said many times: "Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it." I've invoked the famous quote once or twice in my classroom when my students ask "why" we have to learn about a particular topic or read a particular book.  I believe it, and I also believe the best way for children to learn from history in a way that makes as impact is to immerse themselves in it.  There's no better way to accomplish that than with a good book.

 

This summer I've been reading through the North Carolina Elementary Battle of the Books (EBOB) list and I recently finished Blue by Joyce Moyer Hostetter.  Any book that has me wiping tears on the beach on vacation deserves a nod and this one did just that.  I read a lot of children's books but only once in a while does the content truly change my personal outlook.  I want to share with you three historical fiction novels rooted in North Carolina that impacted my views on racial, political, social and/or physical oppression. These books shaped a little corner of my heart, and I believe they'll do the same for yours and any children with whom you share them.


We'll start with the one I read first and know the best.  You may notice this copy is well-worn, and that's for good reason.  Five years ago, my grade level heard about Soft Rain by Cornelia Cornelissen and we decided to start teaching it every year in every classroom.  We had all just missed it as kids (it was published in 1998) but we didn't want our kids to miss it.  I wrote a Novel Unit for it and we ran with it.  It's a simple book and definitely the easiest read of these three, but it truly has changed the way I feel inside every time I hear the phrase "Trail of Tears."  It is written from the perspective of a nine-year-old Cherokee girl named Soft Rain who, along with her family, is driven West from their North Carolina mountain home.  Year after year, we read this book and students cry out for reasons ranging from worrying about the main character's dog left behind to asking with big eyes, "How could the government do that?"

There are plenty of present day examples we can use to talk about tolerance, diversity and quality with children.  However, there are also age-old examples like this one that serve to show 1) we have made so much progress as a society but 2) in order to sustain that progress, we must be vigilant.  I tell my students every year it is up to them to be aware of what's going on around them, look at situations from other people's points-of-view and most importantly, to stand up for those who aren't being treated fairly.  I always hope that they'll remember their frustration at not being able to help Soft Rain when they find themselves with an opportunity to help someone else.


Next is the book that took me by surprise on my vacation.  I always take my Kindle when we travel, so didn't have any idea what this book was about when I started it on the beach that day.  Blue by Joyce Meyer Hostetter is the story of a young teenage girl named Ann Fay Honeycutt who lives near Hickory in 1944, as her father goes off to fight in World War II and polio strikes her small town, including her family.  This book is beautifully written, and Ann Fay's plight took hold deep in my heart as I turned those pages.  I just kept thinking how daunting these challenges were only 75 years ago and how fortunate we are to live not only in a time of relative peace but also of medical advancement.  This book offers much needed perspective today for the young and the old.

Added bonus: I just found out there's also a sequel (Comfort) and it's in my Amazon cart now!


I read Stella by Starlight by Sharon M. Draper school year before last when my EBOB team made it to the finals.  It was a pretty new release then, published in January 2015, and was one of the books we analyzed together.  The more I studied this novel, the deeper impression it made on me.  It is set in the 1930s and focuses on the daily challenges faced by an African American girl alongside her family and community.  We focus in schools on times of slavery, including the Underground Railroad and the Civil War.  But what happened next?  Reading this book goes a long way to fill in those blanks and to give children a deeper understanding of the long, hard and tense battle fought for fairness, respect and equality.  You can hear more from the author here...


Whether there's still some room on your summer reading list, you're lesson planning for next school year or you just want to enlighten yourself or your own children, I highly recommend getting your hands on any of these three novels.  As Sharon Draper writes in Stella by Starlight, "Words fall out of the sky like leaves, girl.  Grab a couple and write 'em down." (p. 156)  In this case, grab a couple and read 'em, share 'em, learn from 'em... It'll change your heart!



Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Teachers on Summer Break...

I saw this photo on Bored Teachers' Facebook page at the beginning of the summer and the image has stuck with me.  It cracks me up because 1) we do sorta act like that and 2) people really are jealous.  Teachers tend to get all defensive about this, arguing that we work 60 hour weeks during the school year and that if we didn't get a break we'd all go insane.  While that's true, it's also true that having summers off is pretty darn amazing!  In the last three weeks, I've visited the mountains, been to the waterpark, chaperoned my youth group at the beach, and spent a long weekend at the lake.  I'm home for a couple of days now just to pack for my next vacation.  Life is good and I'm not complaining!

With that said, even with all the strutting, real teachers never stop think about our students and our classrooms.  More than once over the last month, I've thought about this past year's students, laughing at something they would've found funny or remembering something I meant to share with one of them.  While we do cheer when that last bell rings, it doesn't untie those heartstrings.  And while still thinking about the last school year, I'm also preparing for the next, checking out teacher blogs and Pinterest for the trends of next school year (please, dear God, let them be less annoying than bottle flipping and fidget spinners).  Do I need a focus wall?  How can I make my classroom library more cozy? What Donors Choose grant should I be writing?  What novels do I want to read with next year's class?  Our minds are always going...

Not only do I have trouble slowing down my mind, I also have trouble keeping my wallet closed.  Just today I placed an order with Teacher Created Resources for polka dot border, nameplates, and a couple of bulletin board sets.  I polka dot border EVERYTHING and I must have a stockpile when I walk back into my classroom in August.  Right now, it's free shipping with orders over $49 if you have the latest catalog and the prices on those sort of items really are cheaper direct from the manufacturer rather than through Amazon, as much as I love Amazon.


[By the way, I get asked about those flowers on my front wall often.  I purchased them from Dali Decals on a Living Social deal four years ago.  They still have the exact flowers available at this link.  There are always deals for decal sites available on Living Social and Groupon.]

After I'd already placed that order this morning, I went to Target this afternoon to pick up some other things and they had begun putting back-to-school items in the Dollar Spot.  Furthermore, when I went to the back of the store the Target employees were stocking THE back-to-school section.  I felt like a vulture as I weaved in and out of their boxes and peered over their shoulders, but it was worth it!  I scored the following items...


These are THE best storage for markers for students.  I already have two in my classroom and was excited to snag a third to complete the set.  They don't collect dust and are very sturdy for five bucks.


Not sure if I'm going to use this at Open House or on the first day (they're about 5" x 7") but these were too great to pass up with 24 in the pack for $1!  While I have things like this I could copy, it's always nice to have something ready-to-go and so professional looking.  There are also some $1 sentence strips hiding behind there...you can never have too many!


I have an old schedule pocket chart and of course I've re-written those times every year so long that nothing matches anymore.  This 25 piece set with every subject and plenty of time cards is a great replacement for only $1!  


There were four of these posters in a pack for only $3 and I almost bought a nearly identical one online this morning for $3.49 for only one. Target to the rescue!


Last but BEST... this will be my second year using a teacher planner that I simply picked up at Target for around ten bucks.  Last year's was from a company called Blue Sky but this year this Mead one was calling my name with it's purple cover and cute font.  Is it bad that I thought about writing some big topics for each month in it already?? 

SO...while we know the most of the world is "hating us cause they ain't us" we also know that we're always on the clock in our minds... Even if our bodies are all kinds of elsewhere.  Happy summer break, friends!


Friday, June 2, 2017

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Battle of the Books

Where we come from, Battle of the Books is a big deal.  Each spring, the North Carolina School Library Media Association publishes a list of 15 books for 4th and 5th graders and 27 books for middle schoolers.  Students don't have to read all the books, but should read a few of them so they can contribute to their team.  The following school year (usually right after Christmas break) students begin competing on teams to answer trivia questions about the novels.  There are school competitions, district competitions, and regional competitions.  Last school year, I was fortunate enough to participate in two rounds of district competition with an amazing team from my classroom.


I love everything about Battle of the Books.  Anything that gets kids not only reading, but fighting over who gets to read what book next, has full support in my classroom.  EBOB (elementary battle of the books) gets my students excited about reading like nothing I've ever seen.  It involves teamwork, planning, cooperation and turns students (many whom normally wouldn't enjoy such a role) into leaders.  It's so much fun to coach and to watch! 


With that said, there are always a few holdouts and I try not to force kids to participate in the actual EBOB.  What I do instead, shamelessly, is force them to participate in my own class version at the end of the school year.  I have created over 1,000 Battle of the Books style questions for novels that I either teach or assign for homework throughout the year.  During the last week of school, we'll have our own class Battle of the Books.  My hope is that some students gain confidence through this activity to participate in actual EBOB next school year.

I group students into evenly balanced teams and make brackets using this free website.  In actual EBOB, every team plays every other team so if there is time I set up it up that way instead.  Sometimes I do two different rounds-- one in which I assign teams and then another where they pick their teams.  The possibilities are endless.  Actual EBOB teams have up to 12 members and 6 are competing together at any given time.  For a classroom version, I make my own rules as I go.

In order to prepare for our class battles, I print out EBOB questions for all the books we've had that year and make stacks of questions for each group on a large table.  I shuffle the questions so that they aren't all from the beginning of the book on top.  Then, I simply grab one question from each pile (or at least from most piles) and slip them into a envelope, one for each battle.  My EBOB sets contain 36 questions per novel, so there are enough questions to have at least 36 battles.  


You ask ten questions each round (five to each team, with a chance to steal if the first team misses it-- called a "redirect" in EBOB).  I try to include more than ten questions in each envelope so I can skip over any that I don't particularly like that day for whatever reason.  I've stored the question envelopes in a binder in plastic sleeves so that I can use it year after year.  I keep adding to the envelopes for each round, and during the battle I just skip over books we haven't read this year.


*ALL my Battle of the Books products are on sale for 20% through Friday in my TPT store.*
If you own the following bundles, EBOB questions have JUST been added at the same price so download your bundle again: 
Because of Winn-Dixie, Bridge to Terabithia, Bunnicula, Charlotte's Web, Dear Mr. Henshaw, The Egypt Game, I Survived the Eruption of Mt. St. Helens, 1980, The Last Holiday Concert, The Lemonade War, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, The Magician's Elephant, and Rules.

If you have questions about EBOB or would like to know more, I'd love to hear from you!  You can read more about the Elementary Battle of the Books here and the Middle School Battle of the Books here.  This is my absolute favorite last week of school activity... Check back here next week and I'll add some pictures of our class battles!

Update: 6/2/17
We got back all our Comprehension Packets for the year and started reviewing for next week's battle!






Sunday, April 16, 2017

That Was Never For You

I’ve tried really hard to be a teacher blogger.  Once in a while I get it right but more often I miss my old blog where I just poured out my musings.  So, if you’ll indulge me, perhaps once in a while, I’ll pour out my musings here.  Starting now…

I love Easter almost as much as I hate Christmas.  It sounds conflicting, I know, but at the least it reassures me that I really do love Jesus. To me, Christmas is confusing and chaotic, much like it must have felt for those living out the nativity story.  But the Easter story, while painful in parts, is so much more… love, hope, and peace.  To me, Easter brings clarity. 

At our sunrise service today, I experienced clarity.  I’m not one to often claim God speaks to me directly, but this morning He did.  As I reflected on my faith and found myself asking Him yet again why my life doesn’t look quite like most thirty-somethings on Easter morning (or any morning for that matter), I clearly felt five words in my heart: “That was never for you.”

Jealousy is defined as, “an unhappy or angry feeling of wanting to have what someone else has.” Is there a more powerful emotion?  We see it in ourselves, we experience it our relationships, and we try in vain to teach it out of our kids.   I fight it every day in my classroom. “I raised my hand first.” “He cut in front of me in line.” Or more seriously: “She doesn’t want to play with me anymore.” “They never let me play football.”    And don’t even get me started on trying to play detective when petty objects or snacks get stolen out of desks, lunchboxes and bookbags.

 What is it deep inside that makes us always want what someone else has?

It’s so hard not to think this way—not to focus on what we don’t have instead of what we do have.  But Romans 8:11 says, “the Spirit of God who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you.” And I assure you His is not a jealous spirit in this way.  In fact, it’s the opposite—humble, sacrificial, and unselfish to a degree we can’t imagine.   We get so hung up thinking it’s all about us, especially in this social media driven world where pride and comparison reign constant.

More often than not the things we get so hung up on were never for us in the first place.  We aren’t missing out if it wasn’t in His plan.  We aren’t being punished and we don’t deserve better.  All we deserved was the punishment He took for us on the cross.  He did so in order to save us from eternal Hell and in the meantime from a life spent meaningless... 


 If there’s one thing I’m thankful for today and everyday, it’s that.


Saturday, April 1, 2017

Ten Things Teachers Say That We Don't Really Mean

April Fool's Day is a day to say things you don't really mean and get by with it.  While we were lucky enough to have April Fool's Day fall on a Saturday this year so we missed out on sharing it with our students, it has gotten me thinking about how in our profession, we say things we don't really mean all the time.  I'd venture to say teaching is up there with used car salesman and lawyer when it comes to uttering untruths and getting by with it.  Just to name a few...

"If you do that one more time, I'm going to call [your parent, the principal, etc.]" Let's be honest. It'll take at least half a dozen more times before we reach for that phone.

"Of course I remembered there's a staff meeting in five minutes." Who am I kidding? I can't even remember to use the bathroom during the day.

"I know who made that noise and if I hear it again, there will be consequences." I have no idea who made that noise but hopefully that'll make it stop. And if it doesn't, I'll pretend I didn't hear it so I don't have to admit I didn't know who it was in the first place.

"I guess you're going home with me [to the student whose parent is late]." Has anyone ever once made good on this threat? I'm thinking it would make the news if we did.

"I've never had a class who has as much trouble handling this as you guys do." In truth, I've been just as exasperated with every class I've ever had at some point or another. But a little shaming can't hurt.

"There's no way you turned that in. I wouldn't have misplaced it." I sure hope you find it when you go back and check your folders again. Because it very easily could've gotten swallowed up in the constant mess that is my desk.

"Of course I don't have a favorite student." Except for maybe that one who always does what they're supposed to without asking me if they're my favorite.

"I spelled that wrong to see if you were paying attention." Does anyone believe that one anyway?

"I chose your groups for a reason." Sometimes they are differentiated, balanced, and well-planned for personalities and learning styles.  Other times, I'm tired and I just use Team Shake.

"I can't believe the school year is almost over."  Oh yes, I can.  I love my students dearly and will miss them truly but a school year is 180 days for a reason.  Eventually, we all need a break.

Hope your April Fool's Day was prank-free!  Maybe next year I'll come up with something as cool as that guy's hilarious spelling test.  But more likely I'll be too easy making empty threats and faking it 'til I make it.  What about you?


Thursday, March 30, 2017

First in Flight Day

There's nothing a teacher loves more than a themed day.  Crazy sock day, twin day, book character day... you never know what you might find when you walk into an elementary school.  My teammates and I love to plan themed days related to the curriculum for our grade level, and today was one of my favorites: First in Flight Day.


Here in North Carolina the Wright Brothers are an even bigger deal than the Super Mario Brothers.  Many of our students have visited the Wright Brothers Memorial at the Outer Banks and if they haven't, they've at least noticed our license plates say, "First in Flight." North Carolina history embodies most of our fourth grade social studies curriculum, and the story of the Wright Brothers is too much fun to shortchange so we devote a whole day each spring to the topic.


This is my favorite book for teaching about the Wright Brothers.  It's long for a picture book so I read a little throughout the week so the students can use it as a reference in a learning station on First in Flight Day.  My resources for that station are from this amazing product by Monica Parsons on TPT. Other stations include checking out this video and article from History.com (I used this product from History Matters on TPT) and a really cool virtual tour of the Wright Brothers Memorial from our school's subscription to Discovery Education.


By far, the most popular activity on First in Flight Day is paper airplane flying.  This year for the first time I used a very affordable book from Usborne called 100 Paper Planes to Fold and Fly.  It was well worth the $7.99!  I had each group choose three different designs to create and we tested which ones flew the farthest using the recording sheets in this product from Teachers Are Terrific on TPT.   If you don't have an Usborne contact, mine is Deanna; click here for her website.

  

Differentiated passages from the Bow Tie Guy and Wife have become one of my go-to resources on  TPT.   The Wright Brothers Differentiated Passages are a must for First in Flight Day.  This resource allowed me to justify targeted learning on an otherwise fun and fluffy day.


We ended the day up by doing a group poster activity using a poster size print out of this resource form Heart 2 Heart teaching.


Next week we'll start this exciting book for homework, and the kids will be ready!  You can download my FREE Reading Guide here.


Last but not least...what's any good themed day without food?  My recommendation for First in Flight Day is these adorable kite brownies from Little Debbie.  They are seasonal and sometimes hard to come by...especially if you're at the Wal-mart in my town this week because I may have bought 20+ boxes on Tuesday night...


But it was worth it!  These days are always a lot of work but they are so much fun!  And... they're what your students will remember.  What fun themed days do you have at your school? 


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

A SWEET Giveaway!

Enter below to win a class set (30 new books) of The Chocolate Touch by Patrick Skene Catling PLUS my Novel Unit for the book.

The contest runs through Wednesday, March 29th and I'll ship both the books and a paper copy of the unit by the end of the month.

Click here to read how I used this book in my classroom back in January.

Feel free to share with a friend!







Sometimes You Just Have to Pretend

It's getting to be that time in the school year when I just tell it like it is.  So much of our time together has slipped by, but I've got about a quarter of a school year left to shoot them straight now that I really know them.  And if you know me, you can imagine how interesting that can be.

One of my students sees everything in black and white.  It's either right or wrong, fair or not, makes sense or doesn't, and he's either all in or all out.  We've had some power struggles but we've also made a lot of powerful progress.  He beats to his own drum and does his own thing, but slowly I'm convincing him that sometimes you just have to bend a little.

Today we had an early dismissal.  On these days, we have lunch in our classroom at 12:00 and dismiss at 12:50, so not much happens after lunch.  As we cleaned up around 12:30, I told the students to pack up and choose one of three activities: unfinished work, homework or read a book.  As I looked around the room ten minutes later, every single student had complied with the directions- except my nonconformist.

"Get out a book, please," I said to him.  "Why?" came the well-rehearsed reply. "Because everyone else is doing something productive and you were instructed to do the same," I said.  "But I am doing something," came yet another retort, "I'm imagining."

His reply, though insubordinate, was so authentic that I almost stopped there.  But at that point I had 23 other sets of eyes watching me sideways to see what would happen next.  So I walked over to his desk and laid down a copy of Stuart Little.  "Then, hold this book, pretend to read, and imagine," I ordered.  His eyes widened, as did a couple of other sets of eyes at his table.  "So you're telling me to pretend?" he asked, and, of course, again, "Why?"

"Because not all your future teachers will be as nice as I am, and you're going to have to learn to do things the first time you're asked even if you're faking it," I explained. "Sometimes, you just have to pretend." I stifled I laugh as a mischievous boy nearby muttered, "I can teach you all about that," under his breath.

I know my advice today didn't fall under our minute-by-minute instructions for balanced literacy.  Pretending to read while imagining doesn't exactly substitute for self-selected reading.  But sometimes life lessons are more important than academics.

All through life, people are going to ask you to do things that you don't want to do.  Sometimes you have to dig deep and endure situations that you're not in a mental (or emotional) place to handle at the time.  But you've got to pick up the book, hold it in your hands, and pretend, even if you're just imagining, and even if (especially when) you don't understand why.  Sometimes it's not about you; it's about the person that asked you or the ones that are watching you.

Sometimes you just have to pretend.  Might as well teach them young...