All Quiet on the Prairie

All Quiet on the Prairie

Things have been quiet on the blog for a while because life has been just the opposite. Between working, traveling, trying to finish a book and various other fun problems (such as a botched basement floor installation and an email gremlin that tells me that emails I’ve written have been sent but then somehow don’t arrive), my life has been pretty crazy. In fact, it’s been to so crazy that as I read other bloggers posts about the one little word they wanted to hold on to for this (relatively still) new year, I decided that my word this year should be breathe. Just breathe. Then breathe again, in the hopes that by breathing I might get closer to some of those other words I considered—like balance, perspective and simplicity—that simply seem out of my reach right now. And maybe, just maybe, that breathing is working because I’ve found a bit of time and space to share here some of what I’ve been up to.

Complexity-elegance-visualFirst, the book: It’s working title (which is subject to change) is Embracing Complexity, which would be followed by a colon and a still-to-be-determined phrase that has something to do with a problem-based approach to the teaching of reading. It will build on the vision of reading for meaning that Dorothy Barnhouse and I explored in What Readers Really Doas well as the thinking I’ve shared here on the blog and at NCTE in November—in particular how to set students up to do more of the deep thinking work of reading with less teacher scaffolding. And it kicks off with a wonderful quote from M. Scott Peck, the author of The Road Less Traveled, who urged his readers to do exactly what I’ll be asking you to do:

“Abandon the urge to simplify everything, to look for formulas and easy answers, and to begin to think multi-dimensionally, to glory in the mystery and paradoxes of life, not to be dismayed by the multitude of causes and consequences that are inherent in each experience—to appreciated the fact that life is complex.

With any bit of luck and a fair amount of work, the book will be out sometime in the fall—though that means that things will be quiet on the blog front for the next two months. But I will be sharing ideas and work from the new book at two upcoming events.

Reading for the Love of ItThe first is the Reading for the Love of It Conference, which takes place in Toronto on February 9 and 10. I’ll be presenting two sessions—”Helping Students (and Ourselves) Become Critical Thinkers and Insightful Readers” and “What’s the Main Idea of the Main Idea: From Scavenger Hunting to Synthesizing in Increasingly Complex Nonfiction Texts.” I’ll be doing both sessions on the 9th and then again on the 10th, which means that there will be lots of time to catch some of the other fabulous speakers from the Conference’s stellar line-up, including Ruth Culham, Pat Johnson, Tanny McGregor, Linda Rief and Jeff Wilhelm.

Then the following month, I’ll be at The Teaching Studio’s Educators’ Institute, which will be held on March 14 at the Rhode Island Convention Center. Along with Sharon Taberski and Cornelius Minor, I’ll be presenting a keynote as well as one of the more than twenty other interactive workshops facilitated by teachers associated with The Learning Community, a Rhode Island charter school that’s been doing ground-breaking work on reading in collaboration with the Central Falls public school district. (And, yes, you read that right: three keynotes and a choice of over twenty workshops in one day!)

Educator's Institute Line-Up

And all that needs to be worked on, too, which is making me feeling the need to breathe again! So I’ll leave you with this old Swedish proverb, which I’m also trying to hold on to in these crazy times:

“Fear less, hope more; eat less, chew more; whine less, breathe more; talk less, say more; love more, and all good things will be yours.


9 thoughts on “All Quiet on the Prairie

  1. Vicki,
    LOVE the Swedish proverb and also that you rejected perspective and simplicity for “breathe”. Thanks for sharing more about your book. I’m continually amazed by those that believe that understanding written material (including poety, art, and everything we encounter in life) is so “easy” and can be determined through an interrogation . . . just ask more text-dependent questions!

    So great to hear from you . . .

  2. So good to hear your “voice” again, Vicki! You sure do have a lot on your plate! Wish I could be in Toronto and Rhode Island. Hope you make it out to the southwest sometime.
    Love your OLW: Breathe. I use that word a lot: with my students, with my colleagues, mostly with myself.
    I also love your point about looking for “easy”. So much of teaching and learning is complex, and there isn’t one easy way or one resource that will do it all.
    Can’t tell you how impatiently I await your new book. But I know it will be well worth the wait. Best of luck, and don’t forget to breathe. 🙂

  3. Your new book sounds perfect… and I appreciate how we are moving away from easy answers and formulas, which may have started out with good intentions…” just what do readers do?” but has morphed into the quest for dumming things down. I love the word on your chart– elegance– to describe the art of embracing complexity… the elegance of teaching, or maybe not teaching but assisting, coaching, facilitating… come back to California soon!

  4. Vicki, I am rooting for you in your quest to breathe! I am also grateful that you continue to spread the message of what readers do. I was thrilled to meet you for the first time at NCTE and can’t wait to read your upcoming book as well!

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