This summer, after two years of exercising an abundance of caution due to COVID, my husband and I decided it was time to take our kids on an adventure to see parts of our country’s past and present they’d never seen before. We carefully weighed our options, determining that our favorite choice was to do a partial tour of the Northeast: a flight into Washington D.C. with a loop up through Philadelphia, a few days in New York City, and a reverse journey back to D.C.
Unlike previous vacations we’ve taken to the beach, this trip took a lot of planning: flights, hotels, trains, tickets for monument tours and Broadway shows, memberships to museums, and scoping out restaurants and destinations we didn’t want to miss. It took weeks to build our perfect itinerary, putting all of the pieces together like a carefully constructed puzzle.
We also had to do a significant amount of preparation before we left. My kids needed suitcases they could manage themselves and guidance on what and how to pack. We needed clothes and toiletries to last ten days without overburdening ourselves as we hopped from city to city. We made arrangements for our college-age nephew to come dog sit, stocking our kitchen with enough ramen noodles, Easy Mac and Dr. Pepper to sustain him while we were gone. We set up simple e-readers for the kids to use while we traveled so we could avoid hauling a stack of heavy books in our suitcases. We tucked in umbrellas and medication as “just in case” precautions.
Getting ready for this trip was very reminiscent of the work I used to do throughout the summer to get ready for a new school year. I planned, both alone and with my team, mapping out the standards and the units and lessons I would teach across the year. I planned out every detail for the first few days, scouring through my resources for each teaching move I wanted to make to set the year up just right.
I also spent hours preparing myself and my classroom for the year ahead. I set up a picture-perfect writing station with stacks of fresh paper and booklets, a variety of writing instruments, sticky notes and tape, and even a stapler or two when I was feeling brave. I ran copies and decided how I wanted to set up my anchor charts. I previewed my mentor texts and organized my conferring notebook. My goal was to leave no stone unturned, no opportunities for those dreaded “oops, I forgot that” moments.
But as I sit here months after our vacation, I realize it wasn’t the planning or the preparation that made our trip magical. Though both of those were essential–as they are in our classrooms–it was the anticipation that really made our travel something special. In the weeks before we left, our family had a series of movie nights with every kid-friendly movie we could think of that was set in our destinations (Night at the Museum and National Treasure were definite favorites). We looked at maps of each city and talked about the places we could go. We checked out and read a stack of books from our local library about each city and some of the most special sites we would visit. We listened to the soundtrack of Hadestown on repeat before we saw it on Broadway and blasted the clean version of Alicia Keys and Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind” in the car. We. Couldn’t. Wait.
I wish I could say that I put this kind of effort into anticipation in my classroom, but it was just too easy to get lost in the planning and preparing each day. Anticipation always seemed like more of a luxury than something I had time to do in a neverending pile of “must do” tasks.
However, if my vacation experience is any indication, that time spent in anticipation might just make the difference between going through the motions of teaching writing and breathing life into your workshop.
With this in mind, this post is an invitation to you, teachers and coaches and leaders, to pause for just a few moments and anticipate your year ahead or even just your next unit of study:
Some of you may want to sit down and journal about your anticipation for a little while (these questions are ready to print and paste right onto your journal page!). Others may choose to talk to a colleague or a coach and share your anticipation together. Many of you may chew on these questions while commuting to or from school or exercising first thing in the morning.
No matter what, give yourself permission to anticipate. You deserve the time to sit with your excitement and eagerness around the work you and your students will do this year. You even have the green light to engage your students in this work, drawing them into a few moments of anticipation for the writing journey that lies ahead.
After all, there is magic in the anticipation.