As we know, all professional development is not created equal. I've sat through a few here and there during the past 20 years of my career that weren't as easy to latch onto as others. Sometimes the speakers weren't engaging, but depending on the subject matter, I could usually look past that issue. More often than not, I wasn't as involved because the topic lacked importance or relevance for me. My students are really no different. That's why at the beginning of the year, I take the time to spotlight each child's name and learn whatever we can about reading and writing from them. Their names are at the top of the list of what's important in life.
The above quote certainly challenges me though. If I don't start with what's most important to them, I'm fighting an uphill battle and dragging them along behind me. Surely, there will be many who are predisposed to love every little thing we do. There will also be many who are simply normal and will give their best effort when the focus is on something that's important to them. I'll admit that it's not always easy to pull off. Bridging the gap between the types of things that are important to 6 year olds and the long list of items I need to teach them in 9 months takes purposeful and thoughtful planning. I'll also suggest that there's an essential difference between importance and cuteness. I'm not implying that cute is bad. I just know that we teachers like to cutesify things in an effort to make them appealing. Even though it's much easier to add cuteness to a lesson than to focus on what's important to the child, I believe Regie Routman would want us to start with importance more than anything else. She's of course right.
"What matters most to this child? Start there." Regie Routman, Teaching Essentials 57
Before you do anything else, you should visit Laurie. She's sharing her own Saturday Saying this morning, and anything Laurie shares is worth reading.