I always remember Don Graves using the word “nudging.” He talked about nudging students to give them that gentle push to try something new in their writing. I loved the concept. It seemed to offer the student a challenge, yet something not too overwhelming. With the gentle nudge, it meant that they were supported in what they were taking a risk to try. Not only do our students need these nudges, but sometimes we, as professionals, do also.
I started thinking the other day about the people who have nudged me in my career. I remember when teacher friends of mine, Mary and Carleen, who were trained in Reading Recovery several years before I was, suggested that I might like getting trained. Thanks, friends — Reading Recovery changed my understandings forever about how children learn to read, what we can do to support struggling readers, and how to teach responsively to the child’s needs.
Then there was Kathleen, my niece and fellow teacher. There was a time when I was feeling like I was stagnating as a Reading Teacher in the school where I worked. Things had become too routine and uninspiring. Kathleen nudged me to change schools and come to her school. That nudge resulted in my spending the last 6 years of my employment working with teachers who were true learners, who never gave up on students, who were creative, inquisitive, and willing to face problems head-on.
There were several people who nudged me to write, among them a teacher friend, Susan. I had been giving many successful workshops talking to teachers about a variety of topics related to teaching reading. I told Susan one day that “I just wanted to talk about literacy.” She answered by saying, “but you can reach a lot more teachers by writing it down.” So, eventually, out came One Child at a Time followed by Catching Readers Before They Fall, co-authored with Katie Keier.
I have to give credit to Katie for being one of my biggest nudgers of late as Katie is always ten steps ahead of me in technology. Though I had taken the leap to join Facebook to keep up with my 25 nieces and nephews, their spouses, and their 58 children, Katie nudged me to try Twitter to form my “professional learning community.” Though I’m still not an avid tweeter, I do find so many interesting articles and websites about literacy that I would not otherwise find. Of course, I also have Katie to thank for nudging me to become a blog reader and blog writer. Her latest nudge has been for me to try VoiceThread that I highly recommend. It’s easy to use and very adaptable to many classroom endeavors. I recently sent her kinder class a voicethread about a hike I took out west in Red Rock Canyon. It was so fun to make, featuring pictures of the canyons, rock climbing, and all the desert animals that live in the region.
Take a minute to think about all the people who have nudged you in your life. I know that I wouldn’t be the same without all my favorite nudgers. Thanks to them all! Or comment on a student that you’ve given a gentle nudge to recently.