Out on a Limb

Last night, I did something spontaneous.

It’s a big deal because I rarely work that way. Typically, I’m an over-thinker.

But, I have been missing student contact. It’s been almost two years since I had a student group. Before that, you have to go back to 2004 to get to a year when I did not have any student contact.

I’m not talking about my own children. Although, my three boys were part of my groups – book club, writer’s circle, and garden club – at their elementary school. I ran another elementary garden club in a different district from 2017-2019, where I went in cold, not knowing any students. The group’s membership grew 400 percent from the first to the second year! The garden club to which my boys belonged , as well as the other two groups, existed at the elementary school where they attended class. Over the 13 years I hosted this initial garden club, I served 500 students! The writer’s circle ran for six years and I saw 36 students in that time. And, the book club ran for five years, with 25 students served with that group. The book club was for first grade students and supported early literacy skills.

These numbers reflect my love for students, my passion for teaching, and my tenacity for doing so as a volunteer! Money was not the drive, as I was not paid for any of my work with the exception of the second garden club position; I received a co-curricular stipend for that. Recognition was not the drive, for I do not believe many outside of our elementary building knew what I was doing. The students were the driver of my actions.

And, thus, I am student driven. I have, or so I have been told, a unique ability to assess student needs and develop actions to address those needs. Surely, after a year of altered learning platforms due to the pandemic, there might be some need or even desire for enrichment with an adult passionate about writing and the environment. Please do not read into this statement – I believe that teachers did the best they could this year with an awful situation. I also do not think that we need to act to fill in “whatever” might have been “lost” this year in terms of meeting learning goals.

In fact, I believe that students are resilient and this experience, whether hybrid, virtual, or in person, will give them some unique abilities to draw upon in their futures. Content is variable anyway, even in a “normal” year (based on my experience) as well as replaceable or replicable, and if we got rid of siloed subject learning and went with more of an interdisciplinary approach to teaching and learning, we would probably have to worry less about things “being missed.” Certainly, I don’t think less standardized testing would be a bad thing for anyone – students or teachers. I hope State Departments of Instruction and local districts, as well as advocates for students, will take the experience of school year 2020-2021 and move forward with some educational reform. We certainly cannot and should not return to what was the “status quo.” It is time to address change.

But, I digress.

Last night, I wrote a spontaneous FaceBook post asking if any students (in my local area) would be interested in having a writer’s group in April. It was impulsive, I know. And, the timing wasn’t great as I realized after posting that spring break starts today. But, I also had some immediate response from people that wanted to share the post, as well as one of the teachers I worked with during my previous writer’s circle group. I admit that none of the details have been worked out or if it will be even possible to hold such groups. (I proposed one for each, 3-5th grade and 6-8th grade.) But, I wanted to gauge interest levels first. If there is interest, I know I can find a way to make it work – maybe outside on public grounds or even inside at the library with social distancing and masks. I’ll figure it out.

Apple buds. © Carol Labuzzetta, 2021

All I know is that I miss my students, so I went out on a limb to find them once again!

Today is the last day of the 31 day Slice of Life Challenge sponsored by TwoWritingTeachers.org. This was the fifth year of my participation. Thank you for creating and supporting this daily writing challenge. I did it! 31 days of blogging!

10 thoughts

  1. Here’s to educational reform and changes for student learning. Thank you for driving students forward in literacy and for taking that risk. Here’s my favorite line and the only thing I learned in Finance: The greater the risk, the higher the reward.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a great idea! Spontaneous, yes. Thought out? Well, no, but that’s okay! Working with students in an extra-curricular setting is so much fun, and I wish you the best. I’m looking forward to getting back into the classroom in August, and I’m already thinking about how writing is going to fit into my plans–I can’t wait!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, having done this before, there aren’t to many details to work out. I am going to check at the library on Saturday to see if their small group meeting room might be available in April. The librarian is a friend and was our school librarian when I had my previous writer’s circle. It’s whether there’s enough interest or not. Have I had second thoughts? Yes. But, still happy I made a spontaneous decision and put it out there before I overthought it and talked myself out of it. I’m glad you are excited about having a classroom next year.


  3. I was shouting, echoing “YES!” throughout this entire post. The ache of not having your “own” kids to work with, the sense that you have your kids, and you also have your KIDS, the desire to work with teachers who want to become more aligned with what drives them as teachers…ALL of it. As for your writing group, I’m so excited for you! No, you don’t have all of the logistics worked out. It will be strange and messy and BEAUTIFUL, and I hope you’ll stop back every so often to tell us how it’s going. =))

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you! The post evolved into something I did not even really intend when I started. I am excited about having a group of students again. We’ll see how it goes! We might have to meet outside for a month – maybe a hike and write.


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