The more reflective you are, the more effective you are. — Pete Hall and Alisa Simeral
Wow. What a powerful and inspiring book.
If you’re passionate about literacy, about promoting the place and pleasure of effective reading and writing in your classroom, I strongly recommend this title.
I said “in your classroom,” but one of the things that comes across so powerfully in Sparks in the Dark is the fact that literacy must be a lifestyle.
To be genuine, to be vibrant, to be contagious — reading and writing must spill out of our personal lives.
And this goes for all teachers — not just those who teach English Language Arts. As educators, as thinkers, as lead learners, we must model a life of constant reading and writing.
Literacy is Breathing
If we say that communication, creativity, curiosity, and critical thinking are the core competencies at the foundation of today’s education, we must practice what we preach.
In an age of digital amusement and easy-everywhere distraction, we must show our learners what it looks like to mentally breathe. To stop, be still, and practice the acts of mental inhalation (reading) and exhalation (writing).
One of the most important reasons that we write is to know ourselves. As Don Murray says, “You write to discover what you want to say.”
It sometimes feels like the act and art of self-reflection is a vanishing habit. But we must show our learners that these practices are essential aspects of living a healthy and productive life.
When Our Reading Lives Are Shallow, So is Our Teaching
Speaking especially to educators, Crowder and Nesloney write “We prioritize what we value, and when we do not value reading or learning, it shows. Our instruction is a mixture of what we have read, and when our reading lives are shallow, so is our teaching. It isn’t an insult; it’s the truth.”
We cannot be effective educators if we are not regularly reading and reflectively writing.
Becoming a Writer
To those who feel defeated by identity before they even start (“I’m not a writer”), James Clear describes his own evolution as a writer in his recent book, Atomic Habits.
“For most of my early life, I didn’t consider myself a writer. If you were to ask any of my high school teachers or college professors, they would tell you I was an average writer at best: certainly not a standout. When I began my writing career, I published a new article every Monday and Thursday for the first few years. As the evidence grew, so did my identity as a writer. I didn’t start out as a writer. I became one through my habits.”
You may not be a reader or writer today. But you can and will become one — one paragraph, one page, one article at a time.
So pick up a book. Grab a pen or sit down at the keyboard. Score some small wins, and begin the gradual process of redefining yourself.
Because the more reflective you are, the more effective you are.