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Day 30: “Now It All Makes Sense. That Is Why It Is Hard.”

I can’t remember exactly how the conversation began, but I know where we were. The kids were lining up for recess, and a child asked, “Where did you work before you became our teacher?”

I respond. “I used to work with all of the teachers at this school. We would meet and plan what to teach. When your teacher was absent for part a day, sometimes she was with me, and we were learning together.”

Child – “Now it all makes sense. That is why it is hard.”

Me: “What do you mean it is hard?”

Child: “Everything I learn is hard.”

Me: In my head, I am freaking out, but I say, “Thanks for telling me that the work feels hard. I want to know more about this, but I also don’t want you to miss recess. Will you tell me more later?

This is a conversation that happened on the half-day before winter break and the day ended before I got the chance to listen. What surprised me the most about this comment was who said it. Reading and writing come easy to this student, and I’ve spent time figuring out what he knows and some possible next learning steps.

As a reader, he can retell what happened in the text but hasn’t learned how to move beyond the literal meaning. So my goal has been to help him expand his thinking about the texts he reads. To support him and his reading partner, I created this SeeSaw Choice Board. They work together on Google Meet and read folktales, fairytales, and picture books they choose. Then they discuss and sometimes write or draw their ideas. He first retells all of the events and then thinks about them and asks, “So what is the biggest problem these characters face?”

A BIG thanks for Maureen Markelz for sharing this template with me. (

Each day, I confer with these readers to help them “grow their thinking.” Has it been too hard? Too much? Not joyful enough? Or is “hard” just the way learning feels sometimes?

All this time, I’ve worried about making sure this child has a year’s worth of growth like everyone else, and his perception is that the work is hard. I have to admit; this comment took me by surprise.

I can’t wait to revisit this conversation when we return from break. I have so many questions:

  • What parts of learning feel hard? Is it specific activities or lessons?
  • When does learning feel hard? Is it hard when you work on your own, with your partner, or when we work together?
  • What are your thoughts about “hard”? Is this something you enjoy, is it stressful, or is it something else entirely?
  • Is this a new feeling for you or something you have felt before?

Now, I won’t pepper him with all of these questions at once. Over time, and as we get to know one another even more, I will learn. But, I can’t wait to hear what he has to say.

18 thoughts on “Day 30: “Now It All Makes Sense. That Is Why It Is Hard.””

  1. First of all, I miss teaching the teachers and students. Students quite often voiced this to me
    Child: “Everything I learn is hard.” When does it become joyous? I really believe that it does when students can move effortlessly through text of their own choosing. Sometimes the system, I feel is breaking our readers and writers because of the assessments that loom. For our kids with just a slight bit of anxiety. It is asking too much when they are under pressure of time. I retired in 2014 and our state was amping up assessment all through the year, layers of intervention …that doesn’t help a struggling ESL learner, or children who are distracted by a Blue Morpho butterfly or the joy of the first snowfall. I truely believe that teaching early writing and reading are the best way to teach…sorry, my soapbox is going off…and my BP is rising! XO Happy New Year

    1. I agree that kids need wonderful texts to read and lots of joyful learning experiences. I’m eager to see what he has to say about “hard.” I’ll let you know.

  2. I love the sense of opening the conversation without the need to control the resolution (by peppering with questions). We can only hope that our questions to students act as this kind of springboard for refection– the inner conversation that you document so beautifully here.

  3. I so love the way you talked to this student and plan your future conversations. I think this kind of conversation was one of the things I loved most about teaching. Those connections are so important.

  4. Tammy, those organic conversations lead to great things – students feeling comfortable enough to ask questions (born of natural curiosity) and expressing their own thoughts. The list of questions you’ve come up with are fantastic and I admire your restraint in “not peppering” when you get to ask them. So much of great teaching is learning from students. 🙂

    1. I have to admit, today was the first day back and it was hard to hold back. Today was a day of adjustment. It wasn’t the day to jump into that conversation.

  5. This is what I miss most about teaching…the conversations with students about their learning. If we engage and listen to them, they have a lot to tell us.

  6. It sounds like he’s a student that has not been challenged before he worked with you! You are doing great things. I loved your Seesaw activity and it’s inspired me to create more like this for my readers. Even though I’m F2F, it’s still difficult to meet with small groups like I have in the past and activities like that are helpful. I’d love to see more of your ss activities. Your writing lessons saved me last spring!

    1. I am so glad the writing lessons helped – that makes me happy. I can’t wait to talk more with this student and learn more about his thoughts about work that is “hard.”

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