Questions

This blog has always been designated specifically to my students. However, tonight as I ponder the “why’s” of what MCE teachers do everyday, I am compelled to write this post for those of you who may question why.

The most frequently asked questions I have heard this year are 1) “Why do you read so many depressing stories in 5th grade?” and 2) Is this a Common Core “thing”?

Please indulge me for a moment while I express my joy over the literature we read in 5th grade. Beauty is certainly in the eye of the beholder. The literature that has been chosen for the fifth grade reading curriculum has come about over a span of five years. It has been a progression of realizations that has led us to our author study on Lois Lowry. Some may say that her books are too depressing…not appropriate….needing to be censored and edited too much. I say, those who think that either have not read her books, or have not seen the beauty that I take from her stories. Her Giver quartet gives a picture, when read together as intended, of true redemption and compassion.The lessons and discussions that come from each of these stories include seeing the beauty in our world, realizing that without despair, we could not cherish hope….without fear, we could not value freedom….without pain, we could not appreciate joy.  How many of us adults learned such beautiful life lessons such as this as fifth graders? Empathy, compassion, grace, mercy, and diversity are just a few of the topics discussed within these stories. Lois Lowry enables us, through her stories, to see the beauty in our own world from seeing the struggles in her characters’ worlds. Many of us do not have the slightest clue what it is like to struggle, to need. These characters know pain and turmoil on a level that we have never known in our safe worlds. Because of their struggle to escape their conflicts to find harmony and beauty, we see their pure joy over the wonders of a world as safe and colorful and happy as our own. So for the word “depressing” to be used to describe Lois Lowry’s literature, I cringe just a bit. Only because my heart is full of joy as I end each story with my class. My smile is a mile wide at the end of each story as my students realize the same truths I have time and time again. I have read The Giver twelve times now. Never once has it become old or mundane, because of the discussions and emotions that come about as a result of it. Please bear with me, if you are a concerned parent. Please trust that I teach these stories from a deep heartfelt place of love and compassion. Please know that my goal is not to check items off of a list to teach your child, but to give them a lasting memory of what beauty looks like. Beauty from words is the best beauty of all in my opinion.

Is this a Common Core “thing”… The simple answer to this question is a resounding no. I think the best way to express what I believe Common Core to be is to tell you what Common Core is not.
1. It is not a book of worksheets to be run off.
2. It is not a checklist of skills to be taught.
3. It is not an item that can bought at school aids.
4. It is not giving 5th graders 7th grade work and calling it a day.
Common Core, to me, means that as a teacher I am teaching in the most deeply connected way that I can. My students should be able to see how science, social studies, and reading all come together. My students should be able to tell me why an author feels the way they do based on the textual evidence from our stories. My students no longer have to tell me what is being personified in a poem, but how that personification contributes to the overall theme of the story. Deep thinking is required. Therefore, deep thinking is modeled on a daily basis.

I am not an expert. I am only a teacher with a very idealistic view of what teachers do and what students should learn. I value my profession more than you know and strive daily to build a community of learners in my classroom, who will one day become a community of leaders.

I will leave you with just a few of my favorite Lois Lowry quotes.

“Of course they needed to care. It was the meaning of everything.”
Lois Lowry, The Giver

“Be proud of your pain, for you are stronger than those with none.”
Lois Lowry, Gathering Blue

“But now he knew that there were communities everywhere, sprinkled across the vast landscape of the known world, in which people suffered. Not always from beatings and hunger, the way he had. But from ignorance. From not knowing. From being kept from knowledge.”
Lois Lowry, The Messenger

“The worst part of holding the memories is not the pain. It’s the loneliness of it. Memories need to be shared.”
Lois Lowry, The Giver

“They were satisfied with their lives which had none of the vibrance his own was taking on. And he was angry at himself, that he could not change that for them.”
Lois Lowry, The Giver