a quote from my favorite author

“The most solid advice, though, for a writer is this, I think: Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive, with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell, and when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.”

-William Saroyan, The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze

Friday, June 6, 2014


“We need to shut off the noise that seeps into our classrooms so we can better listen to our students.”
by Dorothy Barnhouse

The noise to which Dorothy Barnhouse is referring in this case is that of mandates, materials claiming to be aligned with Common Core State Standards, and standardized tests claiming the same.  I believe it also includes the voices of district and building administrators urging us to adopt practices that fit their tidy checklists—practices that add up to effective teaching on rubrics far removed from authentic practices. 

I listened to far too much noise this school year. I listened to the noise of administrators labeling teachers for whom I have a great deal of respect as less than proficient at their jobs, and I adjusted my practices to try to fit into their rubrics.  I listened to the noise of curriculum leaders claiming that their interpretations of the standards and assessments of those standards were ultimately good for students, and I changed my practices in an attempt to meet their expectations.  I listened to the noise of mandates calling for rigor in the form of lexile levels and disengaging texts, and I made text selections to answer their call.

As the school year came to a close and I had time to breathe, time to reflect, time to face regrets, I realized this is the only one I have: I regret that I listened too often to the noise and not often enough to my students.

Having the summer to reflect and to renovate my instructional practices is one of the things I most appreciate about working in the field of education.  I intend to make good on this opportunity.  So, I have been asking myself this question: Heading into next school year, how do I turn this regret into positive action? 

This is the conclusion to which I have come: To shut out the noise and truly focus on students, I need to filter everything I do—every choice I make and every action I take through my beliefs.  I need to ensure that each time I listen to a mandate, standard, or directive I have considered whether or not it is a reflection of what I believe.  I need to be sure that everything I do is with the intention of helping students learn.  And I need to be able to articulate my intentions. 

This has led me to start a summer-long journey of discovery.  I want to explore my educational philosophy, the history of how I’ve become the teacher I am, who has influenced my instructional practices, what I truly believe about education—where I am and how I got here.  I want to discover my teaching heart and soul.  I want to capture and document it.  I want to package it so that next year it can be the filter through which my every teaching move is run. 

So, with the help of Ali Edwards, through all I’ve learned from her course Hello Story at Big Picture Classes, I have plans to spend this summer creating a sort of portfolio/scrapbook/journal to this end. I plan to share the process and end result here.  I would love for you to join me!


  1. I admire you very much, Christy, & would love to discuss this at All-Write, if we can find the time for a coffee or tea & a chat. I don't have the noise to include in my teaching, & wonder if we can think through that difference & wonder how to make your ideas authentic to the students yet following what is expected. What a dilemma you have painted.

  2. What a great idea, Christy. Spending the summer reflecting on this will help make you so strong in the fall. Can't wait to see what you are sharing :)

  3. Christy, The line in here that really got me is this: " I regret that I listened too often to the noise and not often enough to my students." Honest, painful, and true. I share this regret with so many other teachers. That's my struggle everyday. I look forward to see where this struggle takes you! Thank you for sharing so honestly! You made me feel like I'm not the only one who struggles with this!

  4. Love this post. Thank you for sharing. I teach pre-service teachers and will be sharing this with them. I talk a lot about the importance of developing a vision and teaching in accordance with your beliefs. I hope you'll blog regularly about your journey this summer!

  5. I've had this post open for weeks and finally reading your words tonight. I'm tired of all the noise too. I'm tired of trying to listen but distracted by all the excessive directives and chatter. I'm with you and I love, love, love your plan of action this summer!! I can't wait to "sit right beside" you on your journey and listen in ... "to discover your teaching heart and soul." That's awesome! May you have the power and strength to clarify and verify your roots that are keeping your best practices grounded as you move ahead even with all the noise ... because that noise will never go away.