As I got to thinking about reading and writing workshop, I realized it’s not a lot different from a marriage.
September is like an engagement. You’re filled with optimism. It’s a new class, a new year, a new beginning. Everybody is excited and can’t wait to get started.
October is the wedding. The big event arrives: Children’s book baggies are filled with just right books, their notebooks are decorated. You have officially launched their reading and writing lives. It is a beautiful affair.
November starts out with the honeymoon period. You’ve got your kids reading independently, working in guided reading groups, you’re trying out shared reading, they are writing in their writer’s notebooks every day. Workshop feels like a well oiled machine until…
… one day in the middle of November when it doesn’t. You suddenly realize there’s an English Language Arts assessment coming up in January and you’ve got to finish that unit on magnets in Science and there’s a project on Native Americans sitting on the back table, and don’t forget Math. There’s a test coming up on that in March. And what about parent teacher conferences and report cards? Oh, then there’s Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hannukah, and Kwaanza.
We all long to go back to “the way it used to be” when the going gets tough. When you find yourself wondering why you ever wanted to do reading and writing workshop in the first place, remember to ask yourself if the cookie cutter paragraphs about “What I am Thankful For” were really better than the poem Thomas wrote about his walk in the woods and the memoir Kayla wrote about the last time she saw her grandma? Was it better when the whole class read the same book and Margie, Karen, and Dylan sat in the back fiddling with their pencil because they couldn’t really read it? Or is it better that kids race to show you an expression that Amelia Bedelia would use in a book that wasn’t Amelia Bedelia?
Like a good marriage, reading and writing workshop take a lot of work. The struggle is part of the deal.