Seeking the Sacred

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How do I find my way down this path? I am given a path to travel down, my district’s version of Common Core as given to use by the sample units created by the state. These units, idiosyncratic labors of love created by various teachers throughout the state,  provide me with a framework and daily lessons. These units don’t seem to be traveling the pathway to the Common Core that Calkins suggests I travel.  Here I am, though, traveling this rough and rocky path I have been directed to walk upon. As I travel down this path, I find that there are places I want to stop and spend time, and there are other places I’d like to avoid altogether, yet I travel with my collaborative companions (as our district likes to see us all on the path together) feeling like we must stay close to one another.

I recall the paths I traveled down before with my literacy guides Atwell, Calkins, Gallagher, Anderson, Rosenblatt and many more.  And here I am now, moving forward but seeking the sacred from the past.

My writers have had no choice, and my writers haven’t found their voice. I’ve read the mandated books—we’ve gone deeper. Choice books are found in the media center, but little is done with those texts. I am slashing the obstacles out of my way as I forge my way along this new path, but I find myself wondering what I can do to keep what was sacred before—memoir to make meaning out of life and to find your voice, time—time to read and write.

Sure my kids can find textual evidence and can respond to a text like my students have never done before. They are more college ready—they will be able to write the essays of high school and college better than the middle schoolers of the past.

Still, though, I wonder what I have lost. I am not helping them find their true writer’s voice. I am not helping them find their passion as readers and writers. And I am not sure my students have any idea that putting the pen to the paper can help them solve their own problems, discover who they are or who they can become. Poets are not found in the walls of my classroom today. Academic writing—the writing that exists between the four corners of the text—has its place and its purpose, yet personally connecting helps kids understand so much more. If all these students are prepared for high school, college, and career, but if  I haven’t shown them the true power from reading and connecting and writing for self discovery, then I will have abandoned the many guides that have helped me find myself.

I will continue to seek the sacred from the past and present as I travel this path of Common Core.

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8 thoughts on “Seeking the Sacred

  1. This sentence, “Poets are not found in the walls of my classroom today,” was so honest and so sad. I imagine you are yearning to help your students find the power in becoming a real writer. You can do it. Let your olw guide you.

    Here’s to the best for you and your kids in the year to come!

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  2. I think you’ve helped me decide that my OLW should be sacred and not seeking. I have always been seeking, but I haven’t always been seeking the sacred. There is that which is sacred to reading and writing, that which is sacred to family, that which is sacred to maintaining your health. I think this “one little word” will help me forge forward as I continue to seek in new ways. Thank you.

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  3. I teach in an independent school & we choose many things that we believe are ‘sacred’ Maya. Your post is both sad & inspiring to me, in that you are seeking better paths that will take the common core to deeper places even though you feel the need to follow the mandates. I admire you for not forgetting what is real & what is important. Happy New Year to you!

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  4. Jaana

    I hear your seeking voice. I also hear your desire for the sacred in the classroom. Don’t give up! Sacred is nothing if not essential!

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  5. Hmmm. You bring up so many good questions. What truly is sacred to us as teachers? What must we hang on to, not for our sakes, but for the sake of kids? Hard questions…

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  6. Some paths are difficult to walk, even with others. I appreciate your honesty and heard such poetry, sadness and longing in your voice. Yet you are able to write in such a way that still honors the teachers who created those units. You are brave and courageous. I have am sure you will reclaim and protect what’s sacred for your students!

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  7. monty

    Great stuff here, Maya. The sense of melancholy is palpable, and I feel it myself, as you know. The thing that continues to trouble me about the CCSS implementation (which I touched on in my own post yesterday) is the way teachers are being made to feel beholden to those sample units. It sounds to me like you have some idea of how you want to get your students down the path while still preserving those things you find sacred. Why can’t you (and your like-minded colleagues) be free to find your own way instead of the way that’s been handed to you from the top?

    I’m becoming increasingly convinced that administration (site and district) is the missing piece in all of this. They have the power to really make a positive difference is they get out of the way and just let the teachers teach.

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