SOL 17: Becoming Smart

11454297503_e27946e4ff_h

“Now is the time to understand more, so we may fear less.”
Marie Curie

I was seven when I bought my first book with money I earned. My mother gave me a quarter every week for making my bed and picking my toys up each day. This precious coin always burned a hole in my pocket. I could hardly wait until our next trip to Hart’s Five and Dime.

This store was a mecca for me when I was a kid. I loved the bell that jingled when you opened the door. The air had a distinctive scent which might have been dust mingled with the comings and goings of a few shoppers. It was never crowded. The shelves were stocked with an eclectic assortment of household necessities: light bulbs, extension cords, dish towels, and soap. One aisle was devoted to yarn and needlework supplies. There was a candy aisle. And of course, a toy aisle. My sister always made a bee line for the Breyer horse models. I always went right to the books.

Near the back of the store, among rows of Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys, was a rack of Junior Golden Guides. These little books were almost square, about the size of a slice of bread. There was a Junior Golden Guide for what seemed to me like every imaginable subject. The first one I paid for with my hard-earned allowance was Seashells.

As soon as I got home, I raced to my room and assembled my collection of shells so I could use my prized new book to identify each specimen. I must have read that book a hundred times. Eventually I bought other titles from the series. Cats and Coins are the two that stand out in my memory. And so my life-long book buying spree began. I go through phases when I swear I’m not going to buy another book, ever, because I’ll never read all the books I already have. But then a favorite author publishes a new novel, or a new professional book comes out that I must read.

By Jessie Willcox Smith [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By Jessie Willcox Smith [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

This trip down memory lane began because of a statement made by Katie Wood Ray at the New England Reading Association’s conference last spring. I have always been a huge fan of Ray’s work. Her book, Wondrous Words: Writers and Writing in the Elementary Classroom changed my teaching. Her words have been front and center in my thinking ever since:

“We have to make ourselves as smart as we can be about our work so
we can be articulate about our beliefs.”

There are many ways we can “make ourselves smart.” Being observant and reflective as we spend our days with children is critical. So is reading the latest research from respected leaders in education, people like Katie Wood Ray and Vicki Vinton, Kylene Beers and Bob Probst. Reading the blogs of teachers from around the country, including many of us taking part in this writing challenge, is also key. These posts give us insight into how other teachers handle and react to the problems and issues we face in our own classrooms. When we realize we are not alone in our dilemmas, when we gather ideas and suggestions from other experienced educators, we feel more empowered to deal with the challenges confronting us.

Identifying my shells in my treasured Junior Golden Guide may not have been a milestone in world history, but it laid a cornerstone for a life of trying to make myself smart, a life of seeking to understand so I can do my part to make the world a better place.

Thank you to StaceyBetsyBeth, KathleenDeb, MelanieLisa and Lanny for creating this community and providing this space for teachers and others to share their stories every day in March and on Tuesdays throughout the year. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.

Advertisements

11 thoughts on “SOL 17: Becoming Smart

  1. This statement, “When we realize we are not alone in our dilemmas, when we gather ideas and suggestions from other experienced educators, we feel more empowered to deal with the challenges confronting us.” This is how I feel about you and the others I connect with for SOLC. I am empowered by your words and your work. Your seashell book reminds me of Ellie. Here’s a little push to get back to her story.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I loved those little golden books and the words you used to describe them… “These little books were almost square, about the size of a slice of bread. There was a Junior Golden Guide for what seemed to me like every imaginable subject. ” Thank you for your memories. They add into my picture of you. And thank you for the words of Katie Wood Ray. They should be on classroom walls.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I enjoyed your description of the store and I could feel your excitement for those books. I agree this community is a wonderful way to tap into our writer selves.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love Katie Wood Ray, and her words, ““We have to make ourselves as smart as we can be about our work so we can be articulate about our beliefs.” rings so true. I learn from others on Twitter and Facebook and even this #SOL17 in ways that I cannot on my own. I love this post, and I am grateful to learn from you! Thank you for being an important member of my PLN!!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Catherine,
    I’m so shocked. You don’t just google a topic? You don’t just go to Pinterest? You don’t just go to Teachers Pay Teachers? (definitely sarcasm)
    Thank you for this beautifully, thoughtful post about WHY reading, learning, and becoming smarter MUST be a goal for everyone! You are simply amazing! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Loved this, Catherine. Fun – Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys showed up in my post today as well. Your slice took me on a journey into my own experiences with a local five snd dime shop.our ending was especially touching – “… may not have been a milestone in world history, but it laid a cornerstone for a life of trying to make myself smart, a life of seeking to understand so I can do my part to make the world a better place.”

    Liked by 1 person

  7. So fun and delightful to read this, Catherine. I save those guide books because I too had a few of them growing up. I had a few shells given to me, but never got to the ocean until I was grown, so that sea shell book was fascinating, so many different ones and animals lived in them! Love your idea of making yourself smart, and making our world better.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Catherine I very much enjoyed your reflective piece concerning your reading life and the importance of continuing to grow our knowledge through reading. Your vivid recollections of that early book experience was a fine example of the primacy effect. Our initial reading experiences are critical to nurturing a life long love of reading. You have it, you share it. You are, as Regie Routman reminded me in her book, ‘Invitations- ‘Joyfully Literate.; We can never have enough books. Such a sweet addiction. Some potent messages here..

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s