Friday, October 10, 2014

Corn Fields


It is fairly difficult to play I Spy on a road trip in Iowa. I was recently amazed as hours and hours went by and the view out the car windows remained the same; enormous fields of corn, with the sporadic exception of a soybean field here and there. I will never see corn again without thinking of Iowa.

The purpose of the trip was to spend time with teachers in Iowa and our Daily 5 and CAFE workshops in Illinois. It was a joyful time. As Gail, Joan, Allison, and I got to know passionate, devoted educators, I couldn’t help but notice the delightful things that made each one unique.

Lisa Wilkins promises to keep her mini-lessons mini, so she wears Minnie Mouse ears when she delivers her focus lessons.


Jessica Hellberg has an infectious laugh and a deep level of appreciation for students. It was obvious in every interaction we witnessed that her students feel deeply valued by her.

When Karen Shannon reads to her students, they feel like they are in the book. She provides a variety of seating options because she believes her students should be comfortable.

Like the fields of corn that make Iowa memorable, it is the things that make us unique that our students will remember long after they leave us.

I recently ran into one of my former first graders who is now a college student. She remembered that I pulled her tooth and the teeth of others in the school, especially when parents sent notes begging me to remove the dangling pearls.

My mother recently heard from a student she had 46 years ago. “Dear Mrs. Smedley, you were a great instrument in my life. When I landed in your classroom a short while after the death of my sister, you read to us every day. During that time, a miraculous healing was taking place in my heart and your reading was a great time of comfort. Thank you. Thank you.”

What is it about the landscape of your classroom, the unique way you teach, or your personal characteristics that will take your students back to a place and time many years from now? Preparing students for high-stakes tests and working hard to make sure they all meet rigorous standards is important. But we shouldn't underestimate the wonder and power of the things that make us unique. They are our rows of corn. We need to cherish them, embrace them, and let them shine.