Friday, August 13, 2010

Days Like This: The Story of Dibels, A First Grader, and The Department of Education

I have a p.m. instead of an a.m. post today--all because I got to spend a glorious morning with my "Everybody Needs a Rock Friend" at her baby/adoption shower this morning at HTMS.
This summer Karon and her husband John adopted Isaac, an amazing three year old from China. Below is a picture of Karon ("Mommie") and her two adorable sons, Emerson on the left and Isaac in her lap. Yes, she's an amazing friend AND mother!
So happy for them all!

Now for today's "10 for 10" picture book story...

Poetry is my most favorite genre to teach--especially in writing, and for years I have read and discussed with my students the collection of poems in the book Days Like This by Simon James.
On page 10 in Days Like This, there is the poem, "A Lazy Thought" by Eve Merriam.

There go the grownups
To the office,
To the store.
Subway rush,
Traffic crush;
Hurry, scurry,
Worry, flurry.

No wonder
Don't grow up
Any more.

It takes a lot
Of slow
To grow.

That last line....."it takes a lot of slow to grow" is a message I live by every year in my classroom. It's a message that frees my students to be the children they were born to be and to grow at their own pace. This message also frees me to teach and learn alongside them, and "grow" them forward as learners and as people, patiently and steadily. Children deserve only the best teaching we can give them, and testing them to see who's top won't get us very far.

It is my hope that one day our government (both state and national) will see that it isn't the "racing to the top" that gets children where they need to go to be successful. Faster isn't better. Racing to the top to be a winner or a loser only makes us breathe harder, not learn more.
It is our job as educators to give our students quality teaching and learning experiences, and give them a place where their voices can be heard.

I live in a Dibels state. (Alabama offers much to be proud of in our schools, but this isn't one of them). Even first graders figure out quite quickly that this "assessment race" called "fluency with nonsense words" interferes with their independent reading time. Because I respect my students, value their voices, and won't give up until our voices are heard, I encouraged my students to write about their feelings when asked to miss reading workshop to take the Dibels test.
Below is a letter to our state department of education from Ella, a first grader.

It's days like this when I'd like to hug Simon James and Eve Merriam.
You go, Ella! Alabama Department of Education..... United States Department of Education.... Are you listening?


  1. What a pleasent suprize to see you this morning. It made my day that you came and I am so glad to have you in my life.

  2. Yup. We need slow to grow. So true.

  3. This is a message that Duncan and Obama (like Bush and Clinton before them) need to hear over and over again. It is one we know if we are actually in the classroom; businesspeople and politicians do not have this first-hand knowledge. Thank you for this lovely evidence of Ella's writing talent that also supports efforts against standardization.

  4. I REALLY hope EVERYONE is listening! Thanks for the great message. I have repeated~ It takes a lot of slow to grow often!

  5. Slow to grow is a great message to take away as I get ready to start a new school year. Huge thanks to Ella and her insightful letter!!

  6. Our kids come back this week. I want to hold that last thought in my head. "It takes a lot of slow to grow." I am so enjoying the stories that go with your favorite books!

  7. Thank you. After 32 years of seeing the truth of your words, I am hoping to figure out how I can do more to support them. Real teaching and learning is not expensive and complicated. It is joyful and powerful!

  8. I remember the first time I heard about "Race to the Top". I was appalled! I felt myself getting very upset at a staff meeting and I kept looking around at my co-workers and I was asking them, "Did he say, 'Race to the top'? Don't we all know that learning is a journey?" To learn anything well we must journey along, practice, share, listen, think, absorb, etc. There is no racing when we are learning well. If we race along our paths, we miss so much!!! Crazy days, indeed. Jodi