Literacy Lenses

Focusing on The Literacy Work that Matters

The First Five: A Love Letter to Teachers by Patrick Harris II

Title slide from G2Great chat featuring The First Five

By: Brent Gilson

For a record of the chat please check out the wakelet archive here

I sit in the car for my 30-minute drive on the highway to my first teaching position. Part-time in a Grade 3 classroom. I was welcomed by the most incredible group of veteran teachers. Wonderfully kind ladies with 30+ years of experience each planning to teach until they couldn’t anymore. Walking in fresh out of University I had big ideas and plans. They wanted me to follow their binders. Teach with fidelity to the things they had always done. I opted to follow my heart. I remember the incredible things that little group of 8 year olds did. I remember as I sat and told them about my dear friend and mentor who had just lost her friend to a terrible tragedy. I remember these little faces tell me that we needed to do something. So we started the Familiar Stranger Initiative and the whole class ran around doing kind acts for others, including kids on the playground. We even wrote a picture book together. That first year and the years that followed shaped who I am now. No longer an elementary teacher but still reading picture books with my students, still in awe of the brilliance they display.

This week the #g2great chat was honored to welcome Patrick Harris II to lead us in a reflective discussion inspired by thoughts from his beautiful new book The First Five: A Love Letter to Teachers. As the chat opened we were inspired by Patrick’s own words.

Reflection is such an important piece of the work that we do. Teachers who joined the chat shared some of their reflections about the advice they might give new teachers based on their own experiences.

One theme that comes out of Patrick’s work is the importance of looking at students and teachers as people first. As the world of education seems to be pulled away from unique, autonomous work and towards conformity and standardization Patrick reminds us of the importance to resist this pull and the WHY that is so important.

As we continued to chat the idea of inspiration came up. Why did you become a teacher? Who acted as your inspiration? As teachers read The First Five I believe they will find inspiration for themselves. As Mary Howard states,

So many teachers shared their inspiration. Family members, neighbors, and teachers who impacted them.

Magic. I think as we all look at what we hope to do as teachers Patrick’s words above really encapsulate it. We hope to make Magic in a single room. For each of our students. The question though is how? How can we create that space? What do we need to do to ensure that the space we help create with our students is one of Magic?

One word. Trust. The key to unlocking change. Trust that folks are working for the best of students. Trust that we can ask for help and support and it will come. Trust in parents that they are doing the best they can. Trust in colleagues that they are doing the same. Trust that an offer to help is extended with sincerity.

The world of education is a bumpy one right now but all we need to push back the dark is a little light. Patrick’s words serve as more than just a little light. His humanity is all over this inspiring book. As many of us are starting our school year soon or already have it can seem pretty hopeless. Leaning into the support of our friends and colleagues. Trust each other and look for those willing to support. They are out there and some of them are writing beautiful books.

In closing with much thanks to Patrick, here are some of his words.