Sunday, July 13, 2014

let go of judgment, let go of expectation

I was in yoga yesterday for the first time in ages. Funny story - when I walked up to check in, it was taking a long time. I said something like, "Oh, I haven't been here in so long! Is that why?" The girl behind the counter was all, "No, it's slow, it's not judging you." I laughed and said, "Okay, well, I am!"

Then judgment came up again during class. It usually does. It's hard to hold the postures they want you to for as long as they want you to, especially when you've been out of practice for so long. We were doing my favorite - a static set of standing bow:
note: my foot doesn't go that high!
I did really good on my right side but not so good on my left. Was really wobbly and ended up falling out of it actaully. After that pose, she had the whole class bring their hands to heart center and do some breathing while she reminded us, "Let go of judgment, let go of expectation. You're here on your mat today, so thank yourself for that."

Which got me thinking about balanced literacy (I always find yoga paralleling work when I'm in class...I get lots of good ideas for writing there!)

Anyways, since I just presented this week three times, balanced literacy came up during each presentation and so that's how I made the connection.

Let's start with the Gradual Release:

If you're going to teach in a Balanced Literacy classroom, you're going to teach with the gradual release. Actually, if you're going to teach anything well, you're going to do this! You can't expect kids to know how to do something if you don't first model it to them and then slowly bring them into the activity. I heard Dr. Mary Howard speak once last year (she's a literacy consultant, I think) but she said, "Sometimes it's not just I do, we do, you do, but it's instead: I do, wedowedowedo, you do, OH! I do (again) I do, I do, we do, you do." You have to always look to your kids and give them what they need, and lots of demonstration and feedback  is a must!

So then a balanced Literacy classroom has the Gradual Release naturally flowing though it: You start with modeled reading (teacher does a demo) then move to shared (shared with the whole class). You give students guided reading in their small groups with leveled readers and kids are always doing the work independently. The same goes with writing. Then read aloud and word study are always flowing through each side of reading and writing.

Did you see that quote below? If you teach balanced literacy, you teach the reader. If you teach with the basal, you teach the program. So so true. Balanced Literacy isn't about opening a teacher's edition. It's about making decisions about your kids every day using all the information you have: Their test scores, their assessment data from a running record and comprehension conversation, you informal observations from class, your looking at the standards and then looking to your kids to find the balance, what you notice in their notebooks, in 1:1 conversations, the things they say in guided reading.

Balanced literacy might be using a short story from the basal, but building your lesson from your own head. You want to teach questioning to your kiddos? Great. Use the story in the textbook, but read it ahead of time and plan out where you're going to stop and model questioning. Figure the place in the text where you're going to stop to prompt kids to question together. Where will you stop and let them take a try on their own? What will you say to them? What writing will they do afterwards?
This is the thing with Balanced Literacy. It *is* messy, because there's no one from Pearson in a textbook there to tell you what to do. You'll make decisions daily about what your kids need. Sometimes you'll do the right thing and sometimes you'll have to go back and reteach. But that's what it's all about. Try it out and then revise.

And when you make the jump to this kind of teaching (especially after leaving the Teacher's Edition and all of *Pearson's Knowledge* behind) (that's what it is...the knowledge of someone else put down in a script for thousands of teachers and students!), don't judge yourself when things go wrong. Don't be so hard on yourself. Know that you're trying out a new way of teaching that is good for kids, and thank yourself for that.

Namaste :-)


  1. Thank you so much!! Let go of judgment, let go of expectation. Be thankful that I am here. I am going to remember this. It is powerful.

  2. Love this post! Can you come spread the word in my district? This has been forgotten.
    Not very fancy

  3. I haven't gone to my yoga class in almost a month now, and i think it's because my mind is too "busy" with other stuff. But then I thin my mind is so busy because I haven't gone to yoga! It's a repetitive chicken-and-egg cycle! But good for you that you made the time for it, Michelle...I will try to do the same.

  4. Oh, this is exactly where I want to go in my classroom! And messy (imhe) = learning. It looks disorganized, but order doesn't necessarily mean learning. Thanks for sharing!

  5. We are really lucky in our school that we are trusted to do what is best for our students. I love that I'm not bound by the textbook and I'm able to give my kids what they need. But sometimes I do tend to overwhelm myself!!!

    Camp Kindergarten

  6. Very powerful post, Michelle. We are lucky to have you in District 100. Thanks for sharing. ;)

  7. Love the fact that the person behind the counter had the quick witted mind to say it is not judging you - hilarious and yet SO true! We constantly think we are not doing enough and yet who is judging us anyway?! :)

  8. Such a thoughtful,informative, and encouraging post! I just love this and preach it myself: " If you teach balanced literacy, you teach the reader. If you teach with the basal, you teach the program". Thank you so much for sharing! :-) Lauren


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