From the Office of the Future of Reading

Please join me in welcoming today’s guest blogger, Ann Marie Corgill. Ann Marie has been a classroom teacher for the past twenty years and is currently teaching fourth grade at Cherokee Bend Elementary School in Birmingham, Alabama. She is a National Board Certified Teacher, a teacher contributor for Choice Literacy and Developmental Studies Center’s Collaborative Classroom Blog, and the author of Of Primary Importance: What’s Essential in Teaching Young Writers. She is an active member of the National Council of Teachers of English and currently serves on the Elementary Section Steering Committee. Ann Marie presents at international, national and local conferences, focusing best practices in writing as well as social, emotional, and academic development in the primary and middle grades.

You can follow her on Twitter or follow her classroom and student work here.

Ann Marie Corgill

It Takes a Lot of Slow to Grow

And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. –Roald Dahl

It was one of those glorious, southern, end-of-summer mornings. Before the busy-ness of the day. Before the second cup of coffee. Before August humidity took my breath, forced me off the patio, and sent me seeking an air-conditioned space. 

It was then that I noticed a metaphor for education and life crawling across a rock in my tiny garden.

A snail had found his way to the happiness rock.


Mr. Snail on the happiness rock got me thinking about my teaching and learning with children.

Children’s school days need to make sense, to be filled with opportunities for play, passion, and purpose in an environment that doesn’t feel rushed. Their work and learning must be connected to the work and learning they will do for the rest of their lives. Unfortunately, with overloaded curriculum binders and standards documents, pages of meaningless data collection, unreasonable state and federal mandates, and standardized testing pressure, we, their teachers, sometimes lose sight of what’s most important.

We forget to slow down and soak in the beautiful data that’s right in front of our eyes, and we forget to teach our students to do the same.

When we’re “racing to the top” in our classrooms, no one is winning, no one is truly learning, and I doubt anyone is happy.

If we don’t slow down, we’ll miss the ah-ha moments. If we don’t make time to ask our students what matters to them, we’ll miss their stories and their passions. We’ll miss their strengths and their struggles. We’ll miss the unique ways they solve problems, create new ideas, and collaborate with their peers. We’ll miss what we can learn from children so that in turn, we can teach them wisely and well.

Below you’ll find examples of the students’ daily plans, accomplishments, and reflections on their work and learning through this past week in fourth grade. I’m spending time reading and re-reading these pieces of student writing. Their words speak volumes about their social, emotional, and academic growth. From their words, I learn what’s in their heads…and what’s in their hearts, and this is the best data I could ever ask for as I prepare for a new week of teaching and learning with this group of children.

We have to slow down, prioritize, and make time for reflection for our students and ourselves. With an environment filled with possibility and support, daily tending and nurturing, and time to reflect and grow slowly, we can guarantee that our students will become forever learners who live happily ever after.

 Ann Marie — hats off to you and your students for finding ways to slow down so you don’t miss the good stuff. Thanks for this timely reminder!