Overwhelm, sliced into snippets

Day 1 of a three-day Kittle & Gallagher workshop

  • I head to the workshop as excited as a child on her way to her first day of school. My mother-in-law has loaned me a backpack, and I love its compartments and the way it hangs from my shoulders. I follow the map, nervously checking that I don’t make any wrong turns. I even take my own picture. When I arrive, I look for my friends. We hug. I laugh and think that I really am like a schoolgirl. They have saved me a seat.

    Look at that backpack!
  • I don’t know everyone at my table equally well. I am nervous. I talk too much. I wish I had talked less, but there it is. You can’t take the words back.
  • I love the information that Kittle and Gallagher share. I love their philosophy. These are my teaching heroes. I sit half-twisted towards them on my conference-room chair, and I hover between listening and writing. I want to drink it in and to remember everything.
  • 180 teacher participants open their notebooks and write. If you listen, you can hear the pens move against the paper. I love being in a room of writers. I love the first quickwrite topic, too. We write again. I’m not as good at this one. I start to feel doubtful. “This is how your students feel,” I tell myself sternly. Inside my head schoolgirl me retorts, “Well, I don’t like it.” We revise. We write again. Better. We revise again. I’ve got this.
  • When we share ideas at our table, I can hear myself sounding confident. “I’ve tried this,” I say. “This works,” I say. “Have you considered this,” I say. Then suddenly, I am not confident; I’m worried. I need to be more questioning. I need to talk more about my weaknesses. I am talking too much. I’m not listening enough. I should be more critical of my teaching practice. Except that I *am* critical of my teaching. Wait, I’m too critical. My head spins. Lunch is announced. I heave a sigh of relief. Food will help.
  • The workshop slides include lists. So many lists. So many things to question. So many things I need to do better. So many things to consider. I feel like I’m just keeping up when, suddenly, Penny is sharing books her students love. I read all the time. I read so so much. I have not read most of these books. How will I ever read them? I write down all the titles but a part of me begins to despair. I need to read these books. I need to do better at writer’s notebooks. I need to keep a beautiful words log. I need to write every day. I don’t know if I can do this.
  • The day is over. The seven of us from our school board stay around our table, talking about the things we’ve just learned. Our voices overlap with ideas and questions. We are full of self-doubt and a sense of wonder and hope. The colleague I know least well offers me a ride home. I accept gratefully. No exhausted walk home from the first day of school for this school child. I need all of my brain power to process the day.
  • My mother-in-law has dinner for me. Afterwards, we take her beautiful golden impulsive Standard Poodle for a walk along the waterfront. University students still crowd the beach. Small children dart away from their parents. Mothers push strollers while toddlers trail behind. A tandem bike startles us. A family cleans up the ends of a picnic. The temperature is perfect and the low evening sunlight promises a beautiful evening.



11 thoughts on “Overwhelm, sliced into snippets

  1. Your post takes on the frenetic pace that your brain must’ve been feeling. Penny and Kelly are a wonderful presentation team. I haven’t seen them together yet, but I’ve experienced each one separately. I can’t imagine the volume of information and inspiration you are gaining. Thanks for sharing it. Please share more.


  2. At one of the workshops at the OAME math conference we were asked to start by solving a math problem. I had unknowingly sat beside two high school teachers. I was like you…full of doubt and wondering why I ever got it in my head that I know how to do/teach math! LoL I almost left the workshop but ended up so glad I stayed.

    This workshop you are in sounds so great! Do another summary today!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank god for the peaceful ending. I do love the energy/anxiety/impatience of the morning. It’s such a mix of the positives and challenges of a good workshop: too much information, but it’s all good. Thanks for conveying it so well. It’ll be interesting to see how the next days differ.


  4. The bookends here- the anticipation and excitement of beginning and the peace at the end- all after a thought provoking day. You captured the feelings of PD so well. The constant questioning and reflection on our own practice. I think this is what keeps us going as teachers, this constant learning, reflection, and growing.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Turns out we share a couple of heroes. I spent time with Gallagher and Kittle earlier this summer via their book _180 Days_. As for your slice, I enjoyed the snapshot approach and how it shows you in multiple lights (student, teacher, colleague, daughter-in-law).


  6. You have reminded me how exciting and nerve-wracking it can be to enter a school as a new student who is starting a challenging class. Enjoy the workshop! It sounds great!


  7. I am so glad you blogged right away with your reactions from the day! I saw your pic on Twitter and was so excited for you! I will be bookmarking this page and coming back to it.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This: “I talk too much. I wish I had talked less, but there it is. You can’t take the words back.” It’s hard to describe the fundamental level of kinship those words and that feeling sparked in me. If you imagine me in that room, I’m the one looking at you thinking, “Man, I bet she’s got it going on in her classroom!” Thanks for bringing us all along.


  9. Gallagher and Kittle are some of my heroes also – my whole approach to teaching writing is based on Gallagher’s, doing everything I ask the kids to do, modeling modeling, modeling, even and especially the thinking involved. I can imagine your brain is currently on overload! But how energizing and invigorating!


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