Yesterday was the first day of school, and my principal and I launched a remote kindergarten class we will be co-teaching this year (in addition to our regular jobs as principal and instructional coach). I’ll spare you the long story of how this came to be. . . and get right to the moment that matters.
I was reading aloud The Big Umbrella, a picture book by Amy June Bates about an umbrella that is always the right size to welcome anyone who needs shelter. (If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a wonderful metaphor for an inclusive community.)
The whole time I was reading, I was focused on the screen—on my reflection—making sure the book was in the frame, ensuring that kids would be able to see the stunning illustrations as I engaged in that awkward I-think-I-need-to-go-left-but-really-I-need-to-go-right-because-the-image-is-mirrored-dance.
Now I couldn’t do this online and see kids’ faces at the same time. And because kids were muted, I couldn’t hear them either.
It was very strange, sitting in an empty room, reading aloud to what felt like myself.
After the read aloud, I went back to gallery view so that we could talk about the book. Kids had plenty to say—they seemed engaged—but something didn’t feel quite right.
As I was closing the lesson, one of the adults managing a pod of five students got my attention. She let me know that due to tech issues, they hadn’t been able to see me at all during the read aloud; the kids had missed the story. (Ack)
I walked her through a quick how-to on pinning a video, and then I reread the book.
As soon as I started reading, I realized that she had not muted the microphone, and although I still couldn’t see the kids, I could hear them. They reacted almost immediately in the way that kindergartners do to a read aloud: they oohed and aahed at the pictures; they made little exclamations of surprise; they whispered to each other. It was so clear that they were caught up in the story.
All of a sudden I felt the magic. I felt that thing I had been missing but hadn’t been able to put my finger on until that moment. I felt the interplay between reader and audience that brings a book to life.
That one moment filled me up for the entire day.
Experiencing books together is a part of building community. When we silence the group in an attempt to streamline the tech, we change that read aloud experience for everyone—teacher and students.
Those authentic reactions to story—the ones we are practically biologically programed to have as humans—the ones that pop out no matter how hard we try to keep them inside—we need to hear them. We need to share them.