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True North

The heart of teaching literacy is this: to support learners as they become passionate, engaged, skillful readers and writers.

That is it. Truly.

As simple as this purpose is, there are countless distractors working to veer us from this focus at every turn. But don’t you let them.

However you can, whenever you can, and using whatever you can, keep this purpose in your heart and head as you teach each day. Write this statement in your plan book, paste it up by your clock, maybe use it as the monogram on your stationery (personally, I’d like it as a tattoo but I’m told it is too wordy). Seriously, I want you to place this purpose in your daily line of sight to ground you in why you do what you do—why you have followed your calling to this brave, beautiful vocation of teaching. It will help make all those distractors bounce off you like you’re wearing a super hero’s shield.

Make each instructional choice with this goal statement in mind. Reflect on each day with it, because it’s a powerful compass to evaluate what you said, what you saw, and what you taught that day according to your goal. It will give you the true north of what to teach next, and what you might want to go back and say or ask of a student with whom something felt unfinished, undiscovered. It will help shield you from the stressful journey of second guessing yourself. “Is this right?” I often hear teachers ask with a wrinkle of concern between their brows. “Is this what I am supposed to do?”

My answer is always: Did that help your students become more passionate, engaged, skillful readers and writers? If so, yes. It is “right.” If not, then, like Scarlett O’Hara famously said, “Tomorrow is another day.”

We teach with this mantra daily because we know that more passionate, engaged, skillful readers and writers are people who know more, do more, and are stronger, kinder spirits for this tangled up world we live in. This world needs readers and writers and, us teachers, day by day, are the nurturers of hope and possibility, peace and justice, and we do this nurturing by staying true to the most important destination: readers and writers full of passion, skill, and engagement.