As I write this, teachers and parents are engaged already in midyear conferences. The amount of preparation that goes into these conferences is significant. Lead teachers do most of the work and there are additional layers of staff support that round out the process. It’s a major wave of stories documented and preserved for safe keeping. I knew it was the topic I wanted to explore in my blog this week, essentially to tell the story of the stories. As I do weekly, I wondered how I would begin and what image I’d use. Within the first hour Monday morning, I had what I needed.
From my desk, with our office door open, I couldn’t help but overhear an extraordinary conversation going on in the hallway outside the Toddler 1s room. I could hear an enthusiastic teacher voice asking focused, guided questions. I heard the equally enthusiastic responses of an itty-bitty voice. Curiosity got the best of me, so I wandered out (camera in hand, of course) into the hallway to check out this intriguing exchange. What sounded like a delightful sharing of a story was actually an interview, that I’m certain revealed more information to that teacher than I can even image. From my perspective, vocabulary, parts of a story, prediction, productive and receptive language, and sequencing were just a few possibilities. It was masterful work.
Once the assessment process is completed, the writing begins. Each child at the Seed receives a progress report three times a year that includes a thoughtfully written narrative. The challenge of the narrative is to write each one so that it applies only to the child about whom it is written. Specific details and stories about each child must be included. It also requires each teacher to know each child. One teacher revamped the way she handles the “my day” reports this year, turning it into an archive folder for each student instead of sending home individual half sheets of paper. She was excited to report how this had transformed her narrative writing process because it gave her so much more material to draw from when describing her students.
When this school year began, as a staff we focused our professional development on writing and storytelling. It has manifested differently in each classroom, depending on the students’ ages and unique style of each teacher. Some stories have been told through photo/text documentation in hallway displays. Others are coming forth through heart maps and individual poems. One thing for certain, stories are everywhere around the Seed.
In addition to stories being shared in progress reports at parent-teacher conferences, we will hold an open house after school on Wednesday, February 15, called “Seed Stories.” It will be held in the multipurpose room and each class will have a display telling some of its stories. Lead teachers will be present to answer questions and explain how the work we do at Awakening Seed contributes to literacy development in each classroom. In addition to being an informative event, it will be a celebration of the Seed’s longstanding tradition of inspiring generations of students to use their voices as writers and storytellers for self-expression and advocacy for others. We hope you’ll plan to join us for this delightful, worthwhile event.