Yesterday I drove to Casper, Wyoming to spend time with Dana (I write about her in Conferring: The Keystone of Reader's Workshop) in her new classroom in her new school
You should see Dana's room (well, maybe in a few weeks, she is still unpacking after all)... it's a wonderful place to spend time. It's a magical place full of wonder, wise experience, and depth. It's a beautiful place where children's learning lives are allowed to unfold slowly, developmentally, peacefully. It's a book-filled place coupled with children's voices. It's a place where the thinking of "little people" takes priority.
In between our chats, I discovered The Robin Makes a Laughing Sound in the wicker basket on the windowsill. Have you seen it? This is a charming book by Sallie Wolf. It's a sketchbook arranged by seasons... all about birding. It's the kind of notebook I suspect kids want to keep, full of notes, watercolors, thoughts, poetry. It's full of pen and ink drawings detailing observations, possibilities, wonderings. And, it gives us a glimpse into the life of an observer, in this case, writer Sallie Wolf. Great nonfiction.
Here's a little snippet of our conversation in Dana's room--
Me: I LOVE this book.
Dana: Oh, I know. I'm creating a basket of books around being a naturalist, an observer. It's lovely.
Me: I've never seen it. (pause as I read it) Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh. This is amazing.
Dana: (laughing) I KNOW. But didn't you tell me about it?
Me: I've never seen it. Never! Well, at least that I remember. But what a great piece to introduce writers to the power of a notebook...
I think Dana has a better vision of her new space. I have an appreciation for her risk-taking. I have new energy to take into my classroom in a few weeks (I haven't been in the mood AT ALL). We both have a plan in place for starting out the year (aren't you curious?). And, we both have a new list of books to consider.
Is it crazy to drive 300 miles (one-way) to see a colleague/friend? Nope. It's exactly what I needed. My mind was racing the whole way back to Denver.
I've got this small inspirational book on my "must have" list. It's going to fit beautifully into my plans. It's going to keep ME focused on helping my 4th graders develop a sense of wonder and hope, even as we move into the new territory around what others consider "core." By the way, I've been thinking of an apple... it's the stuff that sits around the core that we enjoy the most... the snap of the crisp red skin, the sweetness of the flesh, the juicy bits running down our chin. We get to the core. We know it's there. We know. WE know. We have it in our mind. BUT, what's important is what you find around it. That's the yummy kickshaw. I'm not worried. I'm worried about what's most important.
And, it's important to have a friend to share with... all 600 miles worth!