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The Big Fresh July 28, 2018 Passion for Work

Brenda Power

It's your place in the world, it's your life. Go on and do all you can with it, and make it the life you want to live.

                                                                                     Mae Jemison


Recently I picked out a hanging basket for our deck at a local greenhouse a few miles from home. The greenhouse has been in the same location for almost a decade. Before the business was on the property, there was an equestrian-supplies shop, and then an ice cream parlor, and for a couple of years, a used-clothing store.

The locals swore no business would even succeed in that spot. And then the new owners bought it and threw up a huge greenhouse. Their passion for gardening led to a thriving trade with scores of loyal customers who return year after year. The plants are beautiful, and the owners clearly love their work. I know very little about flowers (the two categories I use to make my choices are pretty/not pretty and good color/bad color). Yet Gloria, one of the owners, seemed to have all the time in the world to explain the pros and cons of different baskets in terms of how much light they would need, and how much dead-heading would be required.

Before she rang up my purchase, Gloria carefully spaced a half dozen small fertilizer pellets throughout the soil in the basket. I marveled at the structure of the pellets, which had drupelets just like small berries. She explained, “Those allow time-release of the fertilizer -- the flowers would be set to bloom for nine months, if only we didn’t live in Maine!” We both laughed since we’d be happy to get four months of good weather before a hard frost. She insisted on carrying the huge basket to my car, and waved as I drove away.

There is something incredibly invigorating about watching someone with a passion for their work do it well. Gloria loves plants, knows plants, and gives any customer the sense that the best part of her day is sharing what she knows as she tends to each bloom.

That’s why I love watching teachers share their writing and reading processes with students. The delight when they discover a new author is genuine, and student interest is piqued with the insider knowledge of how a writer’s experience leads to a rough draft, as well as the tricks of the trade for polishing that draft. Process + Pleasure = Passion. It’s that equation that gets students to trust their own tastes and journeys as writers, and the confidence to share their work with classmates.

There are always more ways to open up your process of teaching and learning, reading and writing, to students. You can explain why you made your choice of the article of the week and rejected two others. You can crack open your writing notebook and show three of the best bits that never made it into a draft but still were worth recording. Time spent getting inside the mind of anyone who is accomplished at their craft is time well spent. It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give to your students.

This week we look at launching the classroom library and refreshing it throughout the year. Plus more as always -- enjoy!

Brenda Power
Founder, Choice Literacy


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Bitsy Parks explains how she designs her first-grade classroom library for "gradual release" throughout the school year in a way that allows students to build book-browsing skills:


You can join Bitsy Parks for our new online course on launching classroom libraries. This self-paced course begins August 20, and includes three-month memberships to Choice Literacy and Lead Literacy. Sign up by August 1 and receive a copy of the Simply Room Tours DVD, a $99 value:


Gayle Gentry reflects on how a colleague's simple request to reorganize a classroom library turned into coaching opportunities that had a direct effect on student learning:


Ruth Ayres leads our new online course on Getting Organized for Literacy Coaching. She shares tips and resources on scheduling, priorities, supplies, and building community early in the year. The self-paced course launches August 20, and early bird bonuses expire this week:



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Franki Sibberson explains how she watches students closely and adjusts her library based on what she sees all year long: 


Christy Rush-Levine writes about the push and pull of wanting to put books into students' hands, and needing at the same time to give them room to explore the classroom library


In this week's video, Bitsy Parks helps first graders early in the year engage with the library by introducing a series with companion stuffed animals to a small group:


Summer is rushing along. Are you feeling restored or refreshed yet for the new year? Suzy Kaback writes about the power of the sharpening stone:


In a bonus video, Katherine Sokolowski builds interest in a new book in the classroom library through a book talk on Wish Girl:


That's all for this week!

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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.