Eight years old is not an easy age to lose a parent. Even when we’re older, the death of a loved one never comes easy, but it is a sad reality. This year it is a right in my face reality. I have one student that lost her mom last year and one that has a mom in hospice. What does all this have to do with words on a door and a read-aloud?
The gem of a read-aloud, Fig Pudding by Ralph Fletcher, if you haven’t read it please do in case you have a year like mine when your students need to hear it. Without giving too much of the book away, let me say it has funny parts that had us rolling with laughter, we sampled stollen, the bread made by Clifford’s Grandma each Christmas (no, I didn’t make it from scratch…thank you Amazon.com) and peppermint Peeps, and lastly and most importantly it showed my kids that people deal with grief in many different ways. It opened doors (no pun intended) for class discussion in powerful ways.
Instead of decorating our door for Christmas, my students along with our principals, music and PE teachers, and our counselor chose one word to help them strive to be their best in 2015. My student, whose mom is in hospice had never mentioned her mom at all (her dad told me she refused to acknowledge the situation) until this day when she boldly piped up and announced her word for 2015 was Hope because of her mom. This was a major break through and my other student who had already lost her mom spoke up and reported her word was Pray…and it snowballed from there. Each person chose a word and explained why they picked it. It was an heart-warming and eye-opening experience. I had just read the book One Word which caused this activity to pop into my head, I wasn’t expecting anything as lofty as the outcome, mainly I was just trying to avoid taking down the orange paper which was no small task at the time of the year when we are surrounded by red and green. I gave each table funky font alphabet examples to boost their creativity and make it interesting. They loved the activity and learned about each classmate in unforgettable ways (they may not know 7 x 7 but I guarantee they remember the owner of each word.
Words are powerful and so are read-alouds. It pains me greatly to hear teachers say they don’t have time for read-alouds, if we have time to breathe we have time to read-aloud! It is a vital part of our day if we want to show our kids a bigger, brighter, better world! We as teachers never know the impact a book will have on a child but we definitely know the impact not reading aloud will have on them, even if we don’t want to admit it. Please, plan your read-alouds as carefully as you plan your worksheets. Match them to your current class! There is no one size fits all. Do NOT read the same books year after year without at least incorporating a few new or different novels to stretch you as well as your students.
I’m not a stranger to loss having lost both my parents several years back but this past year brought more loss than usual along with more births than usual in my circle of friends. I received several texts proclaiming the births of newborns in 2014 and sadly read those reporting the loss of loved ones from many friends, the loss of a brother, a father, a mother and a dear friend. I grieve with those who have lost those so dear (mourn with those who mourn) and I celebrate with those who have welcomed precious bundles into their lives (rejoice with those who rejoice). This post is dedicated to you all with much thought and prayer. May God guide each of you in 2015 and may it be the best year you’ve ever seen!