Teachers for Teachers | Slice of Life: What’s Your Equation? #SOL18 #TWTBlog #WRAD18
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Slice of Life: What’s Your Equation? #SOL18 #TWTBlog #WRAD18

Jacqueline Woodson, one of our favorite authors, was named National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature in January.   Her platform is: “READING = HOPE x CHANGE (What’s Your Equation?), which encourages young people to think about – and beyond – the moment we’re living in, the power they possess, and the impact reading can have on showing them ways in which they can create the hope and the change they want to see in the world.”

On World Read Aloud Day, Woodson brought her platform to all of us when she read aloud her book Each Kindness and posted it on YouTube.  I had the chance to watch her reading with some kids in a school.  While it was magical to see the author read aloud her book as a gift to celebrate the power of reading, I think she offered an even greater gift.

In her reading, Woodson makes a few mistakes in the beginning.  We all know how easy it would have been for her to press pause and restart.  She could have rerecorded until she read it perfectly.  Some would have defined that as grit or a growth mindset.  We think what she chose to do was a far more powerful example of growth, resiliency, and change.

Research demonstrates that celebrating mistakes, near-wins, and achievements propels us, motivates us, and inspires creativity.  Sarah Lewis shares this research in her TED Talk Embrace the Near Win.  Her work explains the importance of celebrating not just accomplishing a goal, but every step in the process.  The importance of successfully failing rather than being perfect.  Jacqueline Woodson modeled this beautifully as she carried on in the face of a mistake.

The students with whom I watched with last week quickly noted that she made a mistake and “laughed it off.”  Another commented that “the author believed in herself and didn’t get worried when she made a mistake.”  We took time to talk about Woodson’s words, “This is like rewriting.  I am rereading until I get it right.”

 Each Kindness is the perfect book for Woodson’s platform and, in her words, “a story that we need right now.”  Woodson’s response to making a few mistakes in her reading is also perfect, or perfectly imperfect, for her platform.  She modeled change.  Change is not linear, and it is always messy.  Change is learning and learning always includes attempts.  In classrooms, we worry that we are pacing so quickly and trying to cover so much, that we may miss the opportunities to slow down to celebrate the attempts, near-wins, and achievements.  If we want our students to embrace learning and the process of change, then we need to show them how it is not about deficits.  Learning is about opportunities.  We need to embrace the attempts we make, give ourselves the time we all need to progress toward goals and remember to laugh.

We need to honor the importance of celebrating not just accomplishing a goal, but every step in the process.  The importance of successfully failing rather than being perfect.  What’s our equation? …  How about Change = Attempts x Revision – Changing oneself is the first step in creating the change you want to see in the world.  Thank you, Jaqueline Woodson, for leading us, inspiring us and reminding us to be the change we want to see in the world.

If you haven’t had the chance to watch this video yet, you should, now.



  • Avatar
    Erika Victor
    Posted at 11:14h, 06 February Reply

    You pointed out some great lessons from the reading. I loved it so much last week that I shared it with my students via Classroom and they were excited to see it was a story we already knew:) She and her platform will be great for children’s lit!

  • Avatar
    Sally Donnelly
    Posted at 11:42h, 06 February Reply

    Feb. 1st was a magical day in my room because I shared this video, paused it at times so students could jot down what they thought of Chloe and Maya. Then they had a club conversation afterwards. So powerful. And the part you describe so well in your post was also loved by my class. They laughed with her and liked her even more because she made mistakes, just they they do! I’m looking forward to Jacqueline virtually teaching more lessons in my class as Ambassador!

  • Avatar
    Stacey Shubitz
    Posted at 05:26h, 07 February Reply

    I’m glad you shed light on the mistakes. I have been trying to model that mistakes aren’t something to get frustrated about (with my older kiddo), but she seems unconvinced. Perhaps if she were to see an author making a mistake…

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