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The Big Fresh August 10, 2013 Awkward Is Good

Brenda Power

Always choose awkwardness over resentment. 

                                             Brene Brown                              

When I was younger, summer was prime time for reflection and relaxation. I always had big plans for my fall teaching, vowing to have a healthier lifestyle and more sane schedule. By August I would be reorganizing my calendar for September, signing up for aerobics classes after my workday, and booking more time for friends. It was all about what I'd do to have more balance and serenity in my life. And by October, my schedule was as overstuffed and stressful as ever.

Now I realize I spent too much time all those summers worrying about what I was going to do, and not enough time thinking about how I was going to be. I tend to avoid conflict, and in the past couple years I've learned the way to a healthier life for someone like me is to embrace conflict once in awhile. A friend gave me the advice to choose awkwardness over resentment earlier this spring when I was in a tough situation and didn't want to confront someone. Yet once we had the awkward conversation, the cloud of stress lifted from me. The relief was immediate, and greater than months of yoga classes or meditation.

If you're the type who is always putting others first (and many teachers are, since it's a service profession), it can be hard to choose awkwardness over resentment. And so we take on someone else's work, clean up someone else's messes, or do things as they have always been done, even if it means a crushing workload come September.

If you're brainstorming ways to get more balance and serenity in your school year, maybe the solution isn't to beef up your social calendar or fitness plans (not that there's anything wrong with that). Maybe it's time for an awkward conversation. When you think of a responsibility you have this fall that makes your breath shorten and your insides start to clench, what you're probably feeling is resentment. August is the time when summer is in full flower, and it may be the best time of the year to talk through roles and responsibilities with colleagues and administrators. There is nothing more corrosive than bitterness, or more freeing sometimes than an awkward conversation where you make your needs known.

This week we're highlighting resources to help you plan for assessment. Plus more as always -- enjoy!

Brenda Power

Founder, Choice Literacy


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Here are two features from the Choice Literacy Archives to help you and your students assess reading skills and needs.

Amanda Adrian explains why running records remain an essential assessment tool for elementary teachers in Tried and True Trumps Shiny and New:


In Eyes on the Fries, Gretchen Taylor helps her middle school students resist peer pressure as they analyze which books are "just right" for their independent reading:


This essay from The Reading Zone blog challenges reading assessment data that comes from commercial publishers with a vested interest in the results:


One of the best ways to learn what students know, value, and need is to have them lead conferences. Pernille Ripp has written a lot about the benefits of student-led conferences, and she's finally compiled her advice in a step-by-step guide:


Autumn in Maine is beautiful (we should know, since it's Choice Literacy's home state). Join us to see the leaves turn and the learning ignite at the Coaching the Common Core Workshop on October 12 - 13 at the Samoset Resort on the ocean in Rockport. Presenters include Jennifer Allen, Heather Rader, and Franki Sibberson:


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Franki Sibberson finds herself Rethinking the Assessment Binder as required paperwork from the state and district has flooded her classroom in recent years. Her dilemma? How to file every evaluation so it is organized and accessible (since she never knows when someone might ask for it), while still finding a way to keep the assessments she needs every day at her fingertips:


Leslie Woodhouse writes In Defense of Dictation, a critical tool for understanding young writers and their sense of story:


Tony Keefer explains why attitudinal survey data is important to collect early in the year, and shares different reading surveys he uses with students to understand their needs better in the first six weeks of school:


In this week's video, Katie DiCesare meets with a group of first-grade writers to talk about their notebooks, goals, and share examples of writing connected to a unit on character traits:


If you're looking for more materials on this week's theme, the Assessment Tools section of the website includes dozens of resources:


That's all for this week!


Brenda Power

Brenda Power is the founder of Choice Literacy. She worked for many years as a professor at the University of Maine and an editor at Stenhouse Publishers. Her publications as an author include Living the Questions and The Art of Classroom Inquiry. She has worked as a book editor and video producer for many of the authors featured at this site.