If you live in New York – January means crisp blue skies and frosty windows. It’s Times Square, bright lights, and bursts of carefree abandon. No sooner has the confetti been swept away when most us face this new celestial trek around the sun contemplating our lives, as we make resolutions for the next revolution. We set goals and action plans for one thing or another for example, the long lines at my weekly Weight Watcher’s meeting can attest to the simple optimistic spirit of fresh starts and hopeful endeavors.
If all that seems too big, we can start the New Year off in a small but powerful way. Our friend, Julieanne Harmatz, master fifth grade teacher and blogger’s recent post: One Little Word 2017 inspired us to take on this challenge. If you’re not familiar with One Little Word, it began in 2006 when Ali Edwards started a phenomena of selecting a word to focus and reflect on throughout the year. We do believe in the power of words, because let’s face it, we are writing the narratives of our lives. Deeming this challenge to be a worthy one, we decided to give it a go.
Imagine if you could hold a word in your hand as a way to keep a promise to yourself to keep a steady thread throughout the broader tapestry of your life. A tiny reminder that transcends where you are now to where you aspire to be:
Sunlight’s gift to earth is vitality, each ray of energy promotes growth for everything within its reach. We are drawn to energy, and energy is drawn to us. Learning and joy are infused through vitality. When you walk into a school the first thing you ought to feel is vitality – coupling optimism, and growth. It should be contagious, a presence that makes students and teachers yearn to be there. You know you have hit the sweet spot for vitality when you hear conversations bubbling outside the classroom door – learning is alive and well. Vitality is the spark that motivates children to get lost in their books, writing stories, or even solving difficult problems. Children are naturally drawn to energy – and that is why vitality is also a word for teachers to embrace as well. We provide environments that flow with energy – that’s what we do!
Life thrives on earth because of its proximity to the sun. If we were a little closer or a little further away, if we were not tilted on our axis our world would be a barren and desolate place. There is untapped potential for power in the word proximity when it comes to learning. Consider the gradual release of responsibility. We can move from a scaffold to independence if we look at proximity through a power lens. We are adjusting access and support. Learners are drawn to what they need to be successful. When we use proximity to space, time, or relationships we cultivate greater independence for learning. In order to be independent writers students may need close access to tools – this is proximity in space. A teacher may set a personal reading goal for the year to model independent reading over time – this grants proximity in terms of time. Students may be working in a book club, teachers form these groups not only by interest and ability but by the potential for interpersonal growth – proximity for relationships. Although all of these examples are different they share the same root. Proximity is a link to transfer because it is a natural trigger for differentiation. It’s a simple yet sophisticated tool, one that is a readily available power source to boost or sustain greater independence. There is beauty in simplicity.