I went to Seattle with the goal of helping my good friend set up her new classroom – after being out of the classroom for 3 years, it is a daunting task. We talked “shop”, as usual, to and from the school, in the evening with a glass of wine and in the morning while we sipped our hot drinks of choice. We don’t always spend so much time talking about teaching, but at this time of year, it seems to be the uppermost thing on our minds.
Deanna tells me about the conversations she’s having with Ralph Peterson, meaning that she is reading his book, Life in a Crowded Place. Her table also has a stack of books that includes of The First Six Weeks of School, and Choice Words among others. I’ve been reviewing Julianne Wurm’s book about the Reggio Emilia approach and selecting activities from The Peaceful Classroom. Both of us have special notebooks set aside for our thoughts and sticky notes are poking from the pages.
I find that this “talking shop” is the richest form of reflection I do. Even though Deanna’s experience as a teacher is at the intermediate level, her questions help me analyze what I learned last year and guide me to set new goals. In her old job she had some contact with the work I’m doing so she’s able to ask direct questions related to my curriculum. I am not as familiar with her grade level, but I can ask questions about intent and the systems she hopes to put into place.
The most important aspect of our conversations is that I have a witness. There are goals I voice to Deanna that I hesitate to share with my colleagues. During the summer, I usually come up with new things I want to try out with the kids, curriculum, systems, or the environment. Voicing these ideas to Deanna is the first step to making them possible; she will ask about them later which means I’m held accountable to reason my way through them and either try them or have a good reason why I didn’t. Thinking aloud with her is the first step to the possibility I’ll open up about my ideas with others.
Since I can’t put furniture in my room yet because I’m waiting for the floor to be waxed, I’ll pull out my special notebook and jot down notes from the conversations we’ve had. I want to try to capture the analysis I did about myself with Deanna and summarize the goals for new projects that I was able to outline so eloquently in our car conversation. I’d intended for this blog to be a place of “witnessing” as well so once I’ve got stuff in that little notebook, I want to be brave enough to put it here as well.