Monday, March 20, 2017

#SOL17 On Tears and Reading Logs 20/31

2017 is the tenth year of the Slice of Life Story Challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers, The goal is to write and post a "slice of life" story every day during the month of March. My seventh graders are also participating in a slimmed down version of the challenge, writing 10 slices during the month.

Slice of Life: Reading Logs

You never forget the first time you made a student cry.

As a first year teacher, I knew that I would make mistakes. I knew that there would be things I would want to change. But I never expected to make a student cry.

I was teaching third grade, and we were close to wrapping up the third quarter and approaching parent-teacher conferences. I wanted a bit of accountability when it came to my students' at-home reading, so I had decided to assign a Reading Calendar. On one side was a calendar for the month, so that students could record how many minutes they read each day and have a parent initial it. On the other side was a Reading Log to keep track of titles as they finished books.

Students were supposed to keep their calendars in their daily folders so that they would have them with them both at home and at school (mainly so that if they finished a book at school they could add it to their list).

It was midway through the month, and I had a feeling that many of my students had forgotten about the calendars and could use a reminder to get back "on track" for the rest of the month. In my desk I had a packet of stickers that had caught my eye at the teacher supply store. Adorable monkey stickers. FUZZY, adorable monkey stickers.

In a flash I put two-and-two together. I could do a spot-check and see who had been keeping up with their calendar. Hurriedly, I cut the sheets of stickers apart into individual monkeys that I could bestow on my diligent record-keepers.

As my students filed in and settled down for read to self time, I asked them to first get out their folders so I could take a peek at their Reading Calendars. What I found was decidedly mixed. At the first table, two students had their in-process calendars, complete with minutes and initials. I dropped off stickers.

Another student explained that her mom made her keep it at home, on the fridge, so it was easier to see and remember. No sticker for you. Another had minutes scribbled in here and there but no initials. "They said they'd just sign all of 'em quick at the end," he explained. No sticker for you. My resolve about this being a good idea had begun to waver, but now I was stuck following through.

I was somewhere between tables two and three when it happened. Above the quiet sound of kids engrossed in books and turning pages, I caught the sound of sniffling. As I turned, that sniffling escalated into full-out sobbing. Desire for stickers and affirmation had overwhelmed her.

"You, you didn't tell us," she gasped out as I hurried over. "It wasn't due yet."

My heart, which had already been sinking with each explanation, hit bottom. This is not what a desire for reading looks like. This is not what actual readers do. This is not how I wanted my students to feel.

Another student offered to take her out to get a drink of water, and I just nodded numbly. As the classroom door closed behind them, I looked down at the rest of the monkey stickers and paused. Then I quietly handed the rest of them out, one to each and every child, and stuffed the leftovers in the back of my desk drawer.

They were still there seven years later when I cleaned out that desk to change classrooms to seventh grade.

(Click here to read my previous Slice of Life Challenge posts.)


  1. file it under "seemed like a good at the time" -- sometimes how to turn it around will just come to you or a students will come up with ideas and/or it evolves over time -- or not at all and just stays in that folder or the box with the stickers.

  2. Ah, what a wonderful teaching experience. I, too, have been caught up in "let's see this through to the end," even when it's not turning out as planned. I love your reflective nature about this incident.

  3. I can totally sympathize with this teaching experience. Our jobs are never easy and it seems like there is always an exception to every rule. Thank you for sharing such an honest slice of life.

    -Amanda at

  4. We can't change the past, but thank goodness we can learn from it. Same story, different sticker!

  5. Ahhhh....the reading log debacle. Yes, I've been there too.

  6. Reading logs! ARGH!

    If I could, I'd love to return to my first year of teaching. I think those kids deserve a do-over from me.

  7. So honest! Oh sigh, the things teachers think they are supposed to be doing. It's too bad teacher candidates are not told about this kind of thing. It would be great to hand them a confession packet of slices like this to read through. Wonderful slice.


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