Water from the Well

Learning with Linda Rief, one joy of UNH

What brings you JOY? Learning does it for me. The UNH Summer Institute brochure would practically vibrate in my hand when I drew it from the mailbox every spring. What to choose? I wanted to take each and every offering. As much as the work with unparalleled leaders in the literacy field it was the interactions with my peers, colleagues who, like me traveled some distance to come together to learn, to share, to laugh, to grow that galvanized me.

Several fellow bloggers have taken writing inspiration from Linda Rief’s The Quickwrite Handbook, and when I go there to look this morning, I get swept away at the wealth of ideas…so much to write about, too much to write about. Nothing from the brainstormed list in my notebook appeals to me. Does that ever happen to you—that once you write an idea down, it loses its intrigue?

I was enriched two different summers when I took classes with Linda, someone who wraps you in kindness and expertise, no pretension, nothing but generosity. One of them was the year I focused on adding drawing to the repertoire of skills in my teachers’ toolbox. Oh, it was a challenge, but I emerged thinking that I could actually render some recognizable figures, I could work at this aspect of expression and become…better.

I returned to my classes that year committed to give my struggle to my students as evidence of what we now call “growth mindset,” and we drew together; it drew us together.

Another summer session focused more on developing the writer’s notebook, more within my comfort zone. We were crafting a piece throughout our time together. I thought of that yesterday when I came into the ELL (English Language Learners) classroom where I was subbing to hear one of the teachers working with a student. They were reading Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem, “Bed in Summer.”

At those familiar lines, “In winter I get up at night/and dress by yellow candlelight/ In summer quite the other way/I have to go to bed by day…” I stopped and listened and traveled back in time, first to the place where that poem had played a significant role in my young life, and then to the place—and the person—who had led me to write about it: Linda Rief.

She has been one of my inspirations as a teacher, and as a person. It’s good to remember that.

4 thoughts on “Water from the Well”

  1. She is 100% real in all her interactions. I know how much she has influenced my practice. I’m going to write about Tom Romano next…those two! Thanks for reading.

  2. What a wonderful tribute to Linda Rief, a teacher and mentor who have influenced so many of us. It sounds like your summer institutes have shaped your path in profound ways. One of the things I love most about #SOL, is it forces us to slow down and reflect on experiences we might not appreciate as much if we didn’t take the time to write. Communities like this and your UNH Summer Institutes “draw us together”.

  3. I can totally relate to what it s like when a brochure like that arrives in the mail. You want to take everything. There is always so much to learn. Getting together with friends and colleagues to discuss what was learned. Taking new ideas back and trying them in our classrooms. Institutes offer so much.

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