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12 December 2012 @ 09:16 am
Bricks in the Wall of the UNprogram  
Here is another of the key components of the UNprogram. It is a building block that is ephemeral, hard to pin down and, therefore, often overlooked. I am talking about TIME. It does not cost a thing in terms of materials/spending. It is flexible and can be used in many ways, too. Without it, all the books and pens and other tools are useless.

Some observations about TIME:

1. Kids need time at school to read.
2. Kids need time at school to write.
3. Kids need time at home to read.
4. Kids need time at home to write.
5. Kids need time to think, process, reflect, stare into space.

I suspect that those who read this blog already could write more extensively and eloquently about #1 and 2. I want to begin with #5 and perhaps work my way backwards to #3 and 4.

As I am drafting and revising this blog, I am using TIME. I sit and think, I occasionally make a note. I spend some time staring off into the distance (since I began working at this desk with a mirror on its back wall, this staring is sometimes discomfitting). I write some stuff, delete some stuff, revise some stuff, and continue to write and think and reflect throughout the process. Does it always appear that I am "writing" and not just "woolgathering"? Well, not to Scout who thinks that unless I am typing at a ferocious pace, I should break and spend time fawning over him (and this is not a bad way to take TIME for reflection, too, I guess). But to anyone who writes, it is apparent this is part of my own process. It cannot be rushed even though deadlines do help keep me more focused.

I also need this same TIME to process and reflect while I am reading. Sometimes I just have to pause and re-read, consider something, question, or search for a connection I am making to the reading. What does this look like? Well, to the untrained eye, it looks as though I am "not on task." Back in the days of formal observations, an administrator once told me he would come back when I was actually "teaching" since he had come to the classroom when my kids were involved in reading workshop, specifically silent reading time. I made him stay, told him to talk to any of the kids in the room about what they were doing. God bless the kids who told this administrator what they were learning by reading silently. And bless the administrator who saw value in my Free Reading Fridays and silent reading time daily.

TIME is a precious gift all right. It is a gift I hope we can give back to kids who are so overscheduled. Give them TIME. And talk to their parents (many of whom are also overscheduled) about finding TIME for their kids to read and write at home. Not talking required reading and writing here; I am talking about reading for pleasure, keeping a journal, writing notes, etc. At Open House, after going over my philosophy of teaching, I would talk to parents about the importance of making sure their kids had time at home to read and write. Since I believe in putting my money where my mouth is, I did not assign much in terms of homework. Basically, if someone did not finish a class assignment, it needed to go home for completion. But most work was done in class with me there to help. Of course, once I eliminated writing sentences with spelling words (and really even spelling words except for a list I created of important words to know: my name, principal's name, teachers' names, subject names, and the 100 most frequently misspelled words) and underlinging subjects and double underscoring verbs in the grammar books, and answering the questions at the end of the short story we read (what color was the eye in The Telltale Heart?!?), I found TIME for the things I valued: reading and writing.

I digress. TIME at home is important, too. I know some kids have to care for younger brothers and sisters (I did when I was in my tweens and teens) and do chores and practice skills (sports, music). So, how can they fit in some of the reading and writing time:
a. read aloud to younger siblings
b. write notes to Mom and/or Dad about highlights/lowlights of the day
c. write notes and cards for gifts received
d. take story dictation from siblings and help them write, too
e. read under the covers with a flashlight for 10-15 minutes past bedtime

One more thing about TIME: it is often the excuse I use for NOT reading and writing (and exercising, but let's not go there for now). It is an easy excuse to use. All of us are frazzled from the demands made upon us by the job, the family, and everything else we have going on in our lives. So, I get up an hour before I have to jump into the shower. I spend that time leisurely enjoying coffee, reading my Twitter and FaceBook and blog feeds (and this IS reading) and posting (writing). I also then pick up some book and spend some time reading just for myself. Sometime during the day I update the blogs. On one (ls5385blog.blogspot.com) I post out about the books I have read. On this one, I post about "stuff."

If I know a busy time is approaching (the week at NCTE/ALAN), I try to schedule some posts ahead of time and read a huge batch of picture books. Right now, I have blog posts about books scheduled into 2013 as I plan to take some time off between Christmas and the New year and spend it with College Girl and Career Girl and BH. Will I still read and write then? More than likely I will as it is part of my daily routine. But I do not have to if TIME gets away from me.

There is more to the UNprogram to come. But I wanted to close today with this quote from Gary Anderson. Gary is a high school English teacher and I love his blog. Today he reviewed PENCILS DOWN and pulled the quote you see below. Thanks, Gary, for the jump start for the day.


Asa Hilliard in PENCILS DOWN reviewed by Gary Anderson: "Usually, when people put so much emphasis on standards as a school reform tool, it means that they want to look like they’re performing a reform effort, but they’re actually moonwalking. They look like they’re going forward, but they’re going backward."
 
 
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