Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Inspiration from Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Today after school I took Rose for a walk. It was critical, she was beyond stir crazy. I grabbed my iPhone and checked Matthew Winner’s podcast and was thrilled to see a new one loaded up – and it was with one of my favorite authors… Lynda Mullaly Hunt!

Rose and I walked and I listed. Lynda’s new book, Fish in a Tree, is simply beautiful. I read it this past fall and fell in love. This book follows the story of Ally, who has given up on herself. Always moving from school to school, few teachers have ever taken the opportunity to get to know Ally, to know how much she is struggling in school. To realize she has dyslexia and that her behavior is a mask she uses to cover up the fact that she feels inferior. And then, Ally lands in Mr. Daniels class and everything changes.

Fish in the Tree is a love letter from Lynda to one of her favorite teachers, Mr. Christy. It is a love letter to teachers. It is also a love letter to students and a reminder than so many people do care about them.

In the podcast with Matthew, Lynda talked about what it was like to be a struggling student herself, what the impact of one teacher was on her life. She also shared her own experiences as a teacher and the importance of relationships with her students. Lynda shared this quote she heard about a year ago and it took my breath away:

Children who are loved come to school to learn. 
Children who are not loved come to school to be loved.

In two sentences, Lynda summed up why relationships are critical to me in the classroom. The last two days have not been easy in my room. I can tell it is a full moon. 

Children who have made strides have gone backwards. 
There has been lack of effort on so many assignments. 
And yet, as frustrated as I was, as I am, I still love them. 
And they know that.
We still ended the day on a high note. 
I book talked books with so many students. 
There were hugs, sighs, and start overs.

Tonight Liam and I sat and talked. He had broken a school rule about picking up snow after school. He didn’t get in trouble, except with me. I asked him to write an apology note to the principal. He wrote it and brought it to me, tears shining in his eyes. Liam rarely does anything even remotely out of line at school. (Home is another story.) He was rattled by this. We talked and he seemed ok. I looked at him and asked our normal line when someone is struggling, “Do you want a hug, kiss, and a start over?”

Tears spilled over as he nodded yes. He leaned in, sighed, and melted in to me. I hugged him and all was well.

And then, I thought more about Lynda. How many kids don’t have this at home? How many kids don’t have this at school? Sometimes I think we forget we are teaching kids, kids, not mini adults. They screw up and need start overs. So do we. Do we give those out? Do we make every kid, every kid, feel welcome in our classroom each day? Do they look forward to seeing us, or dread walking in our classroom?

I think about that a lot.

Lynda’s book makes me want to be a Mr. Daniels (or Mr. Christy) to every child in my classroom. I’m sure I will fall short, but I will work very hard to get as close as I can.

Fish in a Tree is available this Thursday. I hope you will check it out. This is a book you should not miss.