Goals are easy to set and easy to forget. I myself have a whole page–front and back–of goals for the new year written in my journal right now. Many I will try to keep, but many (unfortunately) will probably be forgotten by March. Goals are a wonderful starting place and absolutely ground us in our beliefs, dreams, and desired destinations and achievements. But true success, I have found, lies in the habits you form–and the people who support you–along the way.
Over the past few years, I’ve spent a lot of time focusing on how to transform myself as a reader, writer, teacher, and leader. What I’ve discovered is that it truly is all about the process, not the product. Along the way, I’ve discovered community, identity, and a love for literacy even beyond what I had before.
Not only have I grown, but I was also able to take many of these habits back to my own classroom to share with students and other teachers to spark their reading and writing, too.
Here are a few communities–some big, some small, all growing–that have had a tremendous impact on my focus on literacy:
- Slice of Life Writing challenges from the Two Writing Teachers. Almost five years ago, after much time spent lurking in the shadows reading the blog posts of others, I dove in and joined the March Slice of Life challenge. I diligently wrote every day that March, sharing my writing with others and reading their posts, too. Much to my surprise, I not only finished that March, but returned the following year…and the one after that…and the one after that. Writing every day for a month, sharing that writing with others, and joining the community again here and there on Tuesdays has taught me that “writer’s eyes” develop quickly, that sharing your writing isn’t so scary after all, and that there is nothing like sharing your own experiences as a writer with your students. Last March I challenged my own fifth grade class to participate and found that even my most reluctant writers shared a post or two.
- #MustRead lists. I don’t think I’m alone in having a huge stack of books on my nightstand, a lengthy list of “Want to Read” titles on Goodreads, and a shelf of “someday” titles on my bookshelf. Two years ago, inspired by Carrie Gelson on her blog There’s a Book for That, I joined a community of teacher readers who shared and compared our #MustReadin2017 lists and checked in with one another periodically throughout the year. In 2018, I walked into my classroom on the first school day in January with my #MustReadin2018 in hand, a visual representation of the books I wanted to read that I taped up in the window behind my desk and marked off book-by-book as I read each title during the spring. My students also spent a reading period or two early in January building their own lists, refamiliarizing themselves with the classroom library and exploring online book lists in the process. While I’m still working on my #MustReadin2019 book list, my January stack is already up and running.
- One Little Word (OLW). One of the most intentional, eye-opening, and grounding exercises I’ve engaged in and shared with students and colleagues is One Little Word. I began practicing OLW in 2017, choosing the word Embrace to guide me through the year. Last year, my students and I chose our words and decorated our classroom window with them, a constant visual reminder of our intentions. This year I’ve chosen the word Light. For inspiration and more information, visit the Two Writing Teachers’ OLW Round Up.
- It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? (#IMWAYR). Inspired by Jen Vincent of Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee Moye of Unleashing Readers, It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a weekly roundup of the book titles that are currently being read. Last year, I used Padlet in my classroom to capture Monday titles from my students. This year, as a coach, I’ve used a Facebook community group to pose this question weekly to the teachers in my district. Not only is it a great opportunity to share the books you’ve fallen in love with (or not!), but it’s always fun to be inspired by what others are reading, too.
- #BookaDay and #Classroombookaday. Years ago, Donalyn Miller challenged herself to read one book a day during the summer, sharing this goal on social media. From there, the movement grew, with teachers from near and far also committing to reading and sharing their summer #Bookaday reads on social media. Three summers ago, I was lucky enough to hear Jillian Heise share her twist on #Bookaday at a Scholastic Reading Summit, where she shared the impact of #ClassroomBookaDay and the ways in which she set aside time every day in her classroom to read aloud a high quality picture book to her students. Incorporating this into my own classroom–and seeing fellow teachers incorporate it into theirs–has transformed the way I think about read alouds and picture books, especially for older readers.
- #letswrite2019. This past week, Leigh Ann Eck of A Day in the Life sent out an invitation for teachers to set goals and intentions as writers in 2019. Similar to #MustReadin2019, Leigh Ann has designated checkpoints throughout the year to inspire and support one another. Yesterday I shared my writing goals here and am so excited to grow as a writer in this community and to share with others!
Each of these communities constantly inspires me to read, write, and connect with others around a love of literacy. There is great power in knowing others are developing as readers and writers, too, for both ourselves and our students. Here’s to a great 2019 of building habits, building community, and building stronger readers and writers!