16 February 2014

Little Nudges

I have fallen off the wagon and am finding it very hard to catch up and climb back on.  I think about posting often, but then do not find the time to sit down and get it done.  I started this post weeks ago, but after a couple of paragraphs it just sounded whiny so I made myself stop until I could get in a better frame of mind. No one wants to read a whiny blog, though I am sure this one has devolved into that tone often enough.  I have thought about just not bothering anymore, but an experience at a conference last weekend made me think again.  It was a small moment, but I have been remembering it all week.  One of the session leaders briefly shared the blog she had started just a few months before.  Browsing through it, I skimmed her first post where she outlined why she was finally jumping into blogging.  She stated that she had always struggled with wondering what she had to say that people would want to read.  A sentiment I can closely relate to.  But she realized that blogging isn't, or shouldn't be, about what other people will want to hear.  You write for yourself, not for the readers.

That statement has been nagging at me all week and it is why I am writing this today.  I am not writing this blog for you or anyone else reading.  I am writing it for me, and for Isaac and Matt.  Matt used to keep a blog when Isaac was young.  He stopped writing about the time I started.  Together, our posts chronicle Isaac's life and are a way of holding on to memories.  Isaac's development as a reader and the books we share is a major part of his growth and saving these moments is valuable to us.  And that is reason enough to find the time to keep posting here.

Not that I kid myself into believing that I will be posting with any more regularity than I have been in recent months.  The stress of 3rd grade is kicking this mom and librarian in the butt.  The high stakes have been set and policies have been adopted to ensure that all students are meeting the goal.  We are assessing and testing and setting nightly reading goals all while trying not to pass the stress on to the kids.  I can't keep up with what we are supposed to be doing each night.  Add to that the afternoons spent at GOFAR or board game club or mad science or church or drum lessons and often it is Thursday before I remember to ask if we are ready for the weekly spelling test.  Most weeks the answer is "no."

Added to the day-to-day stress is my struggle not to pass my angst on to Isaac.  I have had to remind myself many times since August that just because I was never satisfied with less than an "A" does not mean that Isaac has the same mindset.  He wants to do well and he is a solid student, but he can easily accept an average grade whereas "B's" to me always meant "bad."  It has been a hard lesson for me this year to learn how to set expectations that are realistic for Isaac's ability and personality.

The worry among many educators who are in the trenches, seeing the students every day, is that we are killing their love of reading.  Isaac is a good reader, falling right where he should for his age and grade level.  He likes to read, though it is not his favorite thing to do.  Most of the time the nightly reading gets done willingly.  I have come to the realization this year, though, that sometimes the best thing I can do to ensure that he likes to read, is to let him skip a day or two of the "30 minutes every day" routine.  Life is busy, as much as Matt and I try to keep a balance between work and down time.  And, though we (teachers) are trying not to pass the stress on to the kids, it seeps down.  A month or so ago it hit me, in the midst of an evening breakdown during which Isaac was in tears because he hadn't had time to play and here we were telling him he had to go to bed, that he is stressed.  He doesn't know how to articulate that, but the signs are in his behavior.

I am trying to be more aware of how our home routines are structured to help him deal with his anxiety, because the school routines are not going to ease up.  And if there are evenings when the choice is to force him to spend his last 30 minutes before bed reading or let him play a video game with Matt or watch an episode of Adventure Time, then reading may get pushed aside.  The next night he may choose reading over the game or the TV show, but ultimately it has to be his choice.  If I want him to choose reading later, then I need to allow him to make other choices now.

The effort he puts into school and the time he spends reading are his decisions.  All I can really do is encourage, help, set examples and nudge.  And record our memories along the way.

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