Inspiration comes in many forms and I’m sometimes surprised by the things that will spark an idea for my classroom. Sometimes it’s a song I hear on the radio or something I read in a book or a video on youtube. Most of the time it’s something completely unrelated to teaching and not when I’m consciously looking for teaching ideas. However, there are times when I’m actually out for some inspiration for new ways to approach this wonderful and mysterious madness called teaching.
Last week I took part in Learn East, an annual summer PD session that focuses on better ways to use technology in education. I’ve gone 5 of the past 6 years and always find so many amazing ideas. Generally I hear so many great ideas that it’s hard to know which to try out first. I learned about some great websites to try as well as Mystery Skype, Plickers (look them up, they’re really cool) using MineCraft as an educational tool and a score of apps to try out. I always come out of those conferences feeling inspired and wanting to get into the classroom to try some out. I know that I can’t use everything I’ve learned right away, that would be crazy, but some things like Plickers and Mystery Skype I would like to try out this year, though how I’ll use them will depend on what I’m teaching of course.
The other self directed inspiration source I’ve had this summer has been Donalyn Miller’s book Reading in the Wild, which I wrote about starting to read here. I finished it up today and was so happy to find lots of great form ideas in the back for ways that she tracks data on her students’ reading progress. Throughout the whole book I kept thinking of examples of students I’ve taught and even friends who are like the students she used in her examples. I thought about how when one of my friends suddenly became a reader and liked a lot of the same books I did and wanted to discuss them after, how much more that increased my enjoyment of the books I was reading. I thought about how my best friend and I don’t always agree on books but even that arguing about them deepened our understanding of our books and how I want to bring that kind of “wild reading” and sense of having a community of readers into my classroom.
Reading this book also inspired me to read more. It validated my standpoint that I should read at least most of the books that I put in my classroom library and that reading “children’s books” is not a waste of my time because it means that I can have more meaningful discussions with my students. There was a story at the end that Miller shared that brought a tear to my eye. It was about a student who was not a wild reader and had trouble sticking with reading and would rather wander the classroom or help out during independent reading time. I’m sure we’ve all had those children in our classrooms, sometimes three or four in a class. The story goes on to talk about how she discovered the Twilight series and loved it and read the whole thing and moved on to other books from there. To me it illustrated that even though I strongly dislike that series for SO many reasons (the writing, the relationships, the plot) that if a book brings someone into a love of reading, even if we don’t like it, it’s not all bad and hopefully that bridge book will lead to better books and the person will later be able to look back at that book and realize there are many better books out there.
Tonight there is going to be a discussion about Reading in the Wild on Twitter with the hashtag #ShelfieTalk. I’m looking forward to hearing what other educators thought of this book and what inspirations they will take from it to their classrooms.