Friday, May 20, 2011

Forget the Testing, It's All About the Reading, the Writing

I'm excited to be participating in Poetry Friday for the first time this week, and especially pleased that Julie Larios over at The Drift Record happens to be hosting today as I so admire her work.  I've been visiting Poetry Friday blogs from time to time, once my good friend Canadian children's poet Sheri Doyle showed me the way, and am amazed at the wonderful network of children's poets who come together here on a regular basis and share some of their work and the poetry that speaks to them. Now that I have my own blogging home, I look forward to being a regular contributor!

The other day I stumbled across a poem that resonated deeply with me.  Children's author Kate Messner, who is also a classroom teacher, so beautifully expressed the frustration she and thousands of other teachers grapple with these days when testing has become the ridiculous over-the-top-heavy measure on how our schools educate our kids through a poem she first read at the NCTE last year, called "Revolution for the Tested."  I'm not a classroom teacher but I work one-on-one with kids who are struggling, for one reason or another, with literacy, but who have the most incredible ideas, with brains just so primed to soak up knowledge and critically weigh what they're learning.  This poem speaks directly to the student, spelling out the real value of writing and reading, so so far beyond the scope of doing well on the test.  Every stanza is evocative; here's an excerpt on reading:


But don’t read what they tell you to.
Don’t read excerpts, half-poems,
Carefully selected for lexile content,
Or articles written for the sole purpose
Of testing your comprehension.

Don’t read for trinkets,
For pencils or fast food coupons.
Don’t even read for M&M’s.
And don’t read for points.

Read for yourself.
Read because it will show you who you are,
Who you want to be some day,
And who you need to understand.
Read because it will open doors
To college and opportunity, yes,
And better places still…
Doors to barns where pigs and spiders speak,
To lands where anything is possible.
To Hogwarts and Teribithia,
To Narnia and to Hope.

I encourage you to read the whole and to share it with a student, of any age.  You can find the entire poem on Kate Messner's website under A Tuesday Poem, which she published on November 9, 2010.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Taking That First Step

Hello World!
Just like countless others out there, I've been wanting to join the blogosphere for a long time.  What a rich, if complex to navigate, web of wisdom, connections, and community.  Many kindred souls, inspiring individuals, and all those fantastic authors for children whose books I've been devouring these last couple of years.  (Sigh!) but like many others, for some obscure reason which really makes no sense, I've been waiting for the perfect launch, some piece of elegant prose I write that wraps  up who I am in an insightful package that's likely impossible anyway, or for some magical perfect date on which to start (I've missed several already!), or other such nonsense.  The other day I read the advice to just plunge in and begin.  So....there's nothing in the remotest auspicious about this particular day, and certainly this first post reads quite pedestrian.  Nonetheless, here I go.  I gave my blog a name,  posted a spare two sentences about myself, and have now gone off to collect some incredibly wonderful books to put on my brand new shelfari bookshelves.  I'll take this one step at a time!