Saturday, January 15, 2011

Trying to Know Ourselves

I've been thinking about how important it is to know yourself. Or maybe, it is more the importance of being able to think and reflect about why we do the things we do. Then I started thinking, why am I having these thoughts? Maybe it is because I have some people pleasing flaws that steer my mind to obsess over if what I said or did in a situation. I sometimes overly worry, was I too harsh or hurtful? Most of the time my words/actions aren't overly anything because I am often harder on myself than I need to be. Maybe it is because of a conversation I had today with a friend who is trying to figure out how to be more balanced. As she shared her thinking, I thought about how I am often stopping to evaluate my priorities to feel more balanced. I have to weigh what I need with what my family needs with what my students need with, yeah, the list goes on... Or, maybe it is because I am trying to write about word learning in the classroom and I can't stop thinking about how important it is to share assessment data with kids. Sharing what I find out about my students from assessments even in the context of a simple conversation can help my kids become more aware of what they know (or need to know). All of these thoughts (I am hoping) connect to the story I want to share next.

Last night we visited old friends who have younger children, a little boy (Jonah, 4) and a little girl (Reese, 5). Before walking in their home, I reminded my two boys (one son was at soccer) who are 8 and 11, about how big they might seem to the younger kids. I asked them to give the younger kids some of their time and to play with them. After hearing a game of Hungry Hungry Hippos finish up, I decided to see how it was going in the play room. As I was walked in, I saw little Reese look up at my oldest son, who is towered over this petite Kindergartner and say with the sweetest voice, "Can you read?" I watched my son's eyes connect with mine first confused (because the 11 yr old was thinking, duh, of course I can read) then as I smiled he got it. He looked back at her and at the twinkle in her eye able to wisely smile back appreciating her amazement. "Yeah, I can." he said. In that moment I was amazed at little Reese and her appreciation for reading. She knows its possibilities and that she wants to be a reader. I know this because I could hear the wonderment in her voice and knew she understood the magnitude of reading just in the mere fact that she asked this deep question.

This little one is beginning to ask smart questions that will help her know herself and what a good habit to be in. She reminded me of how important it is to keep asking questions of myself and of others when it comes to trying to know myself each day. In first grade, we also have been in the habit of trying to know ourselves. We end the day with time to think and elaborate (if time) on a question that you might want to reflect about. "What went well for you today?"

(photo from Creative Commons by Ken Bosma)


Karen Szymusiak said...

What a great post, Katie. It made me think. I have struggled this weekend to be everything to everyone and realized that I need to take time to reflect on things.

You've told a great story that says so much about you and your family - connections with old friends, good parenting, pride in the choices your children make, your thinking about the children in your class...

Just a wonderful post today. Thank you.

Cathy said...

Thank you for this post. I think we're always struggling to figure out who we are, what we believe, and how to manage it all. Well, at least I know I am.

Sometimes, like your son, we possess gifts we are completely unaware of having. These gifts are such a part of who we are that they often go unnoticed until someone brings them to our attention. Your son didn't really think of the gift of his reading, he just can do it. To this little girl it made him amazing.

Maybe that is our role in the classroom as we work alongside children each day; to help them to be aware of the gifts they have.

I remember high school English. Oh, the pain. My sophomore year I had a teacher who marked every paper with all of my mistakes. I would read the paper and see the grammar mistakes that I unknowingly had made and really didn't know how to fix. I never looked forward to putting my pen to paper in her class. My senior year I had an English teacher who wrote on my paper all of the things that worked well in my writing. It was so much easier to continue to do what worked and grow from there.

I like the way you end your day with "What went well today?". I think we could all learn a little from that.


Deb Frazier said...

I loved your post, and Cathy's comment! It's refreshing and so true that we all posses talents and gifts that we are not aware. But, I was also struck by Reese's question. Reese knows where she wants to go, she has a goal on mind. As we question ourselves and struggle (it's always a struggle for me) to find balance we need to make sure we are working toward the right balance, with the end in mind.

In my classroom, I am reminded how important self-assessment and goal setting is in helping my kids work toward the end. I love your reflective question that ends each day (time permitting) "What went well for you today?"
I want to try this!
Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Katie Dicesare said...

Karen Cathy and Deb-
It was so awesome to read your connections to this post. Karen, I so connected back to your be everything and everyone. Cathy, I chuckled at your story from HS English and started thinking of my supportive and less supportive teachers and how they impacted my own identity as a writer. And Deb, I too was so struck and continue to be struck by little Reese's question. As we left that night, my husband told Reese how she would enjoy coming to our house to read all the first grade stories we have and she was about to jump in the car with us. She was the kind of kid I could curl up and read with all day long.
Thanks for all of your thoughts.

Anonymous said...

It is so good to hear other people articulating my feelings and beliefs about teaching and the search for self. Sometimes I feel so alone because I don't see the other teachers I teach with exploring these questions. I try to keep them hidden. I fear (there's that word again) I am thinking too much. Yet, it amazes me to see how much learning I do on my own as a direct result of this constant self-assessment. It's nice to know the struggle and analysis of our selves and our students is so deeply valued by others.

Julie said...


What a refreshing post. I think many of us reflect on the balance in our lives and like you, I often ask myself if I am meeting the needs of all the important people in my life.

Isn't it great that Reese already knows the power in being able to read? She is a lucky girl and will probably have a life filled with lots of things wonderful things to read! I love how you end your day...what went well? It's not only a wonderful way to end your day at school, but also at home. It reminds me of a game we play at dinner called, "High/Low". We go around the table and tell our high and low for the day. It often ends in laughter because my son knows what I'm going to say every day and he mimics me when he says, "My low is that there aren't enough hours in the day and my high is that we are all sitting around the table eating dinner together." Even though he thinks it's funny, having the people we love around us is really what matters most.
Thanks for the great post Katie. :)