Little Words – Little Miracles


“When I didn’t get up you should have gone to Mrs. Skubik and told her I wasn’t listening.”

“You should have listened to me.”

They were both angry. One had just dumped the other out of “his” chair and onto the floor. We talked some more, and I tried to help them get to the idea that there were other ways that the situation could have gone.

“Well, I guess I could have listened to you.”

“Yea – I could have sat somewhere else too.”

“I guess we were both a little at fault.”

“Yea, I’m sorry.”

“Me too.”

This part of teaching is so important. It takes so much time. It is invisible to those outside of the classroom. It isn’t sexy, fun, cool, it’s untwitterable, and it doesn’t show up on test scores (well- not directly), but it is the life blood of a functioning classroom. And it is rewarding, but in the tiniest doses, like taking an 81mg aspirin for a migraine. It takes a lot to get some relief.

Earlier in the day during independent reading time, I watched J get up out of her seat, go and grab two books off the shelf, and walk back and slap them down in front of her partner. “This is what we are going to read now. Put the other ones away ’cause I don’t like them.”

“Well, I do. I don’t want to change books!”

I shot them a look. They stopped talking. When I was finished with my conference, I went over and sat down. Lots of anger. Lots of misunderstandings. Clearly, this partnership was not working for either of them. I usually try to help partners work their way through it, but you know –know when to hold ’em and know when to fold ’em– I told them I would work something out to change things up. I knew the problem was mostly with J, I knew her interactions with others was often problematic. She had a lot of difficult things going on in her nine-year-old life. I asked her if I gave her a few names, would she be willing to find someone she could work with. She nodded.

Turns out, there were two boys she thought she could work with. I went and asked them how they felt about adding a third person to their partnership.

“Oh sure, we could work with her.”

“Yea, and she could help us. She’s really good at reading.”

Wow, right under my nose, and I had no idea she had fans. How did I miss that?


Last year I posted up our favorite “words of the wiser” words from our read-alouds, those signpost words that help readers get to the most important messages a book has to offer. I am thinking this might be a good year to add our own words of the wiser, the words we use when we are being kind and lifting up our better angels.

So today I celebrate those words, those little miracles every day.

celebrate-image-1Thank you to Ruth Ayers for reminding me to celebrate. There are more here, and today is the 100th celebration day! WOW!



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8 responses to “Little Words – Little Miracles

  1. “It takes a lot to get some relief. Like taking an 81 mg aspirin for a migraine.” Isn’t it amazing how pausing to celebrate helps us find the little miracles? I love your idea of adding words of the wiser from your students to the displayed ones from books.

  2. This post is . . . well, wonderful. Full of truths and realities. Love it. Last year I posted reader statements that originated from my students – they were so proud of this and liked learning from each other. Thanks for letting us peek in at your room.

  3. Cathy,
    I’m glad you took the time to document this interaction. I’ve been trying to write more about this side of teaching. It’s not easy to capture the moment. You did it quite well.
    Thanks for celebrating,

  4. sallydonnelly11

    I’ve been thinking lots about all the things I do as a teacher that isn’t scored. YET, so important that I do in order to ensure order and learning. Your post gets to the heart of it. And you showed such wonderful patience!! It seemed fitting to me that you got rewarded through the boy’s response. Thanks for sharing!

  5. I think recording your own words to the wiser will be a very rewarding task for all your students. Your post is a reminder of how a good teacher shapes a student in life and not just in subject matter. God bless you.

  6. You remind me of an old Stephen Sondheim song “Putting It Together” & this part: “Bit by bit, putting it together
    Piece by piece, only way to make a work of art
    Every moment makes a contribution
    Every little detail plays a part . . .”

    You’re so right about those small parts that teachers do to help children learn the “wiser” words, how to make things work well in collaboration, in the group. Love hearing your story, and you should celebrate your giving some choices, and those two boys who were so welcoming. Perhaps they will help J in their own kind way.

  7. I like your “words of the wiser” idea. Thanks for sharing.

  8. I cherish the words that traveled with our students from last years read aloud work in your room. They are indeed wise. We were going over last year’s vocabulary words and one student said, “I like the word wise.” Isn’t that perfect, a student who loves a word.

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