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The Beauty of Imperfection

As I reflect on the start of my 27th year of teach­ing, I am struck by what an unusu­al first week of school it was. Room 212 was filled with a sense of calm that doesn’t usu­al­ly accom­pa­ny my first few days of a new school year. The fact that our school build­ing was closed all sum­mer due to con­struc­tion projects meant that I had just three days to set up a class­room before twen­ty-four eager learn­ers walked through the door. Exam­in­ing my beliefs helped me pri­or­i­tize my actions.

Cul­ti­vat­ing a class­room com­mu­ni­ty based on stu­dent voice, col­lab­o­ra­tion and kind­ness tops my list of what I val­ue as an edu­ca­tor. Cre­at­ing an abun­dance of authen­tic lit­er­a­cy expe­ri­ence is a close sec­ond. Fig­ur­ing out how to make both of these a real­i­ty from Day One was eas­i­er than I could have ever imag­ined. All it took was a healthy dose of embrac­ing the beau­ty of imper­fec­tion. 


In past years, I would have been fraz­zled try­ing to get every last detail of my class­room set up with so lit­tle time. The class jobs would have been post­ed. The birth­day poster would have been filled out. The bath­room pass­es would be hang­ing up. The take-home fold­ers and home­work bas­ket would be labeled. And every sin­gle bul­letin board would be filled with clever themes and designs. But not this year. This year I was hope­ful that my solu­tion to deal­ing with lim­it­ed class­room set-up time would not only avoid becom­ing stressed out but would actu­al­ly con­tribute to a deep­er sense of stu­dent agency. Again, all it took was a healthy dose of embrac­ing the beau­ty of imper­fec­tion.


I dis­cov­ered that involv­ing my stu­dents in the orga­ni­za­tion and design of our learn­ing spaces sim­ply meant that the things might take a lit­tle longer to com­plete. The words on the lists, signs and walls might not be care­ful­ly spaced or aligned and they aren’t spelled cor­rect­ly. We might have used more tape than was nec­es­sary and the recy­cling bin may have end­ed up with some extra messed up paper. How­ev­er, the beau­ty of imper­fec­tion has led to a num­ber of refresh­ing and pos­i­tive out­comes.

Engage­ment… check. Empow­er­ment… check. Enthu­si­asm… check.

As I look around the class­room, the sweet evi­dence of a student’s touch can’t be missed. I am over­whelmed with an even sweet­er sense of sat­is­fac­tion for our class­room com­mu­ni­ty that is being built with authen­tic and pow­er­ful imper­fec­tion. 


One Word

by Mau­r­na Rome

One wordThis year I resolve to for­go the typ­i­cal New Year’s res­o­lu­tions. Truth is, they rarely make it past Dr. King’s birth­day in mid-Jan­u­ary. Begin­ning this year, I’m com­mit­ting to a much sim­pler idea. It may seem trendy with a lot of recent hype, yet a quick Google search reveals a 2007 blog post by Chris­tine Kane intro­duc­ing the idea of a “one word” res­o­lu­tion (you can even down­load a free “Word-of-the-Year Dis­cov­ery Toolk­it”). In the past eight years, the con­cept of nar­row­ing down all those soon to be for­got­ten New Year’s res­o­lu­tions into a sin­gu­lar word has erupt­ed into a major pres­ence in the world of Twit­ter, pub­lished books, and blog posts (see list of resources at the end of this arti­cle).

The more I think about it, the more I like it. After a bit of reflect­ing, it was easy to choose my “one word.”  It encom­pass­es all aspects of my life… teach­ing, learn­ing, fam­i­ly, home, health and friends. It’s a theme I believe in, one that could pro­pel 2016 into a stel­lar year.

As I think about apply­ing this “one word” con­cept to life in the class­room, I am drawn to con­sid­er the chal­lenges and rewards that I expe­ri­ence each and every day and also how it might impact my stu­dents’ learn­ing. The dou­ble-sided coin of teach­ing and learn­ing must be exam­ined. My col­leagues and I encounter the heart-tug­ging, tough ques­tions, along with the nuggets of gold offered by our stu­dents, and every­thing in between on a dai­ly basis. As we think about our approach to lit­er­a­cy instruc­tion, we must also take our stu­dents into account.

My reflec­tion on a “one word” choice for 2016 includ­ed:

  • Do I col­lab­o­rate with my team effec­tive­ly, and enough, while also main­tain­ing my sense of unique­ness and spon­tane­ity?
  • Am I giv­ing kids enough free­dom and self-direc­tion in cre­at­ing their lit­er­a­cy life while also hold­ing them account­able?
  • When it comes to writ­ing, which deserves more time, atten­tion and effort: the for­mal process with a focus on mechan­ics or the open-end­ed, unstruc­tured, “free­dom to write what­ev­er” approach?
  • Is it pos­si­ble to pro­mote an effec­tive use of tech­nol­o­gy while also teach­ing stu­dents the val­ue of being unplugged and tech-free?
  • How do I mesh a sense of urgency and pas­sion for stu­dent learn­ing while also cre­at­ing a tran­quil cli­mate that evokes peace and secu­ri­ty?

One WordAnd now for the drum­roll please.… the “one word” I have cho­sen for 2016 is bal­ance. It’s more than famil­iar. We’ve all heard of bal­anced lit­er­a­cy, a bal­anced diet, and even a bal­anced bud­get, all desir­able and do-able. Yet for me, bal­ance is some­thing I seem to strug­gle to attain even though I yearn for it. I am hope­ful that the answers I seek to the ques­tions men­tioned above can be found by focus­ing on my one word, bal­ance.

A few weeks ago, stu­dents in my after-school “Lit­er­a­cy L.I.F.T. Club” select­ed a favorite word from a book they were each read­ing to cre­ate some­thing we called “vocab­u­lary bracelets.” At the time, the notion of a “one word” res­o­lu­tion had not even entered my mind. How­ev­er, now that the New Year is here, I am excit­ed to com­bine the two ideas.

On the first day of school in 2016, I’ll share my sto­ry about how and why I chose bal­ance. Then dur­ing the month of Jan­u­ary, I’ll invite my stu­dents to be on the look­out for their own “one word.” I’ll ask them to read with inten­tion, reflect­ing on words that might fit the bill for a theme or goal they might cre­ate for them­selves in 2016.  Then we will make anoth­er round of bracelets… “one word bracelets,” a per­fect acces­so­ry for the New Year!

How about you? What one-word theme have you cho­sen for 2016?

One word” author/advocates worth check­ing out include:

2007 Blog Post by Chris­tine Kane

A “Lead Learn­er” from Cabot, Arkansas by Bethany Hill

Com­pi­la­tion of #oneword on Twit­ter


Gifted: Under the North Light

Under the North Light
The Life and Times of Maud and Miska Peter­sham
writ­ten by Lawrence Web­ster
fore­word by Philip C. Stead and Erin E. Stead
Wood­stock Arts, 2012
ISBN 978−0−9679268−6−5 My hus­band, Steve, and I have worked togeth­er for the last 25 years. We have been mar­ried for 32 years, so it took us sev­en years to dis­cov­er that we would enjoy cre­at­ing and main­tain­ing a busi­ness, devel­op­ing it as our inter­ests and skills grew.… more
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