Welcome to Read – Write – Connect, Inc.

the Internet home of Leah Mermelstein.

Best Writing consultant 002 copyLeah is an internationally recognized literacy consultant who specializes in K-5 Reading and Writing Workshop. She is the President and CEO of Read-Write-Connect, INC. She is also the author of Reading/​​Writing Connections in the K-2 Classroom, (Allyn & Bacon), Don’t Forget to Share (Heinemann) and the co-author of Launching the Writing Workshop (with Lucy Calkins) (Heinemann).


Selected Works

DVD

Quality Writing Instruction
This brand new DVD will assist teachers with high quality writing instruction.

Non-fiction

Don’t Forget to Share: The Crucial Last Step in the Writing Workshop
This brand new book will show you how to make your share sessions more instructional.

Nonfiction

Reading/Writing Connections in the K-2 Classroom: Find the Clarity and Then Blur the Lines
This book demonstrates how through careful, explicit assessing, planning, and teaching every student can understand and use the reading/writing connection to become stronger readers and writers at the same time.

Units of Study for Primary Writing: A Yearlong Curriculum: Launching the Writing Workshop
This book shows teachers how to launch a joyful and rigorous Writing Workshop in their classrooms.

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Leah Mermelstein
536 Grand Street, Ste. 501,
Hoboken, NJ 07030
(917) 503-1947

leahmermelstein@earthlink.net

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Blog Posts are Below:

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Some thoughts about the first few days of school

Most of you are probably back to school now so I wanted to take this opportunity to wish you the happiest of new years!

 

The start of the year for teachers is always an exciting, but stressful time.

 

There are cubbies to label, bulletin boards to put up, first days to plan, read alouds to choose, yearlong calendars to revise….

 

The list goes on and on.

 

Teachers are busy and stressed and excited all at once during these early days because there are so many things that seem important about starting the year and usually it’s in a teacher’s personality to want everything to be just right.

 

It is helpful to remember on those particularly long first days that we’re thinking and planning and determining what’s important through our own eyes……the eyes of an educator.

 

For a moment let’s take off that lens and instead of looking at the start of year through our own eyes let’s look at it through the eyes of two students, my four-year-old niece and five- year -old nephew. Both are at the starts of their school years and they reminded me that what kids and teachers think about during those early days are so different.

 

Here is part of the email that my sister-in-law sent me yesterday to let me know how school orientation had gone for them.

 

 

 

 

 

Vince and Celia had their orientations this week and they both did great. No surprise, Vince is very excited about Kindergarten and riding the bus to the Pittaway School for his extended day in the afternoon.   He had a tour of his building and seems very comfortable and ready.

Celia had her orientation today and it went really well.  I had to leave her in the classroom with some other kids and the teachers for the parent orientation and that was rough.  Full red face, wet eyes and clinging but she didn’t cry.  She knows the teachers from visiting with Vince and they were great.  They were able to distract her long enough for me to run out.  When I got back almost an hour later, she was all smiles.  She had a great time.  She was a little bashful saying goodbye to the teachers and when we went out into the hall she froze and wouldn’t leave.  She looked up at me and said,  “But mommy that’s my friend!”   She then turned and went back to say good-bye to Madison.  (Celia doesn’t say good bye to people she knows usually so I was stunned to see her do this)

Then it was my turn for wet eyes.  Vince’s old teacher was in the hall and saw her do this. She welled up too and gave me a big thumbs up when Celia wasn’t looking.

We walked around the building and went to the playground for a bit and then she skipped to the car saying, “I love it here!  I can’t wait to go to school!”

What did I learn from switching my lens and looking at the first day of school through the eyes of two of my favorite students?

 

 

 

 

 

What mattered to Vince? That’s obvious. He gets to take the bus to the Pittaway School for extended day.  What could be more exciting to a five –year- old than that?  It’s the first time he is traveled without an adult he knows and by doing so he is creating his own independent life.  I learned firsthand how important this independent life was to him when I asked him a few weeks ago if I could come do Writing Workshop in his Kindergarten classroom during the upcoming year.  He clearly wanted to protect his independence and tried to spare my feelings by telling me that it would be a long ride from Hoboken (where I live) to his school in Ashland. I pushed a little further and reminded him that I could sleep over his house the night before to ease my traveling burden.  His answer was a polite but clear no!

 

Sniff sniff…

And what’s important to Celia? For her it was making a new friend named Madison.  Celia has been talking about having friends for a few months now. She said that she had a friend at camp and when I asked her what her name was she said that she didn’t know because she hadn’t spoken to her.  It was clear this summer that she had heard about having a friend but didn’t quite get what that meant.  On her first day of school, Celia not only made a new friend, but she also, for the first time, truly understood what it meant to have a friend and how a good friend can enrich your life and even make you want to go back and give a good bye hug.

 

 

I hope that by looking through those first days through the eyes of students it eases your stress just a bit.
Maybe the color of that bulletin board isn’t as important as it seems.

The kids will live if your first Read Aloud isn’t perfect.

That first Writing Workshop probably isn’t as important to them as it seems to you.

They’re probably too busy thinking about buses, extended days and new friends to even notice…….

 

 

 

 

 

How is the start of the year going? I would love to hear stories through both your eyes and your students.

Copyright, 2011

20 Responses to Some thoughts about the first few days of school
  1. Marjorie
    September 5, 2011 | 2:16 pm

    Thanks for the reminder to look at school through children’s eyes.

    • Leah Mermelstein
      September 5, 2011 | 2:21 pm

      My pleasure! Have a great start to your year, Marjorie.

  2. Sharon E. Davison
    September 5, 2011 | 2:31 pm

    I loved reading this post. As a parent it reminds me of when our children began their school journey…. it is so important, happens quickly and the need for comfort is vital for both children and their families. As well as the message, Yes! I am independent now and can do this by myself!
    My 1st day was Friday with children. It went so well and so fast! I believe and can’t help but wonder that all of the information and opportunities made available to the children prior to our 1st day, made it so successful.
    As a parent, I remember worrying so much about how our child/children were going to navigate with the bus, etc., but they did! As a parent it is important to give the message, “I believe you can do this”, ride the bus, spend the day with your new educational family, it was hard!
    Presently, educators have many technologies available to help bridge the gap/missing links with a child’s school day as well as opportunities to help children and their families “get ready”. I love and try to embrace endless opportunities through blogs, wiki’s and podcasts with children so that they can share their experiences and discoveries.
    When I was reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar to/with my children on Friday I asked them to turn and talk about the story, what they liked, wanted to talk about. Some of what I heard; “I get a tummy ache like the caterpillar too sometimes”,”I like to try new things”, “I like the way it changed into a raccoon”, priceless and yet gives us so much information about what they understand and can connect too!

    • Leah Mermelstein
      September 5, 2011 | 3:15 pm

      Thanks for your thoughts, Sharon. It’s so true that a wonderful way to use technology is for kids and parents to learn about school through technology, maybe even before they get there.

  3. Nicole
    September 5, 2011 | 3:02 pm

    Leah,
    The first days of school are always a whirlwind. Teaching routines, getting used to new faces. I try to remind myself that my third graders cannot sit and listen to me prattle on about where the folders go and what they should do when they first arrive, otherwise I begin to sound like the teacher in the Peanuts cartoons. I told them this. I told them they would learn about why I asked them to bring a composition book and where to go during a fire alarm. I promised them that they would find out the answers to all their questions about school…just not all on the first day…maybe not in the first week even. This seemed to calm the wide-eyed nervous look in their eyes…and it helped to bring down my blood pressure as well. 🙂

    • Leah Mermelstein
      September 5, 2011 | 3:12 pm

      I love the way that you approached them and told them they will find out everything, just not the first day or the first week. What a way to calm everyone down. See you very soon 🙂
      Leah

  4. Carolann Lally
    September 5, 2011 | 3:27 pm

    The first day of school thoughts reminded me of my own children’s beginning days of preschool, elementary school, high school and college as well. Now I am lucky enough to teach in a primary school, K-2, and
    relive these moments every year, the bus, the new classroom, the lunchroom. I am their art teacher and have the opportunity to not only create with these young talents, but calm their fears with an introductory book and special project or drawing to take home.
    I can’t wait to meet my new crop of Kindergarten students as well as the familiar faces of my former K and 1st grade students. No one ever sleeps the first night before school!! Go to love it!!

    • Leah Mermelstein
      September 5, 2011 | 3:46 pm

      Thanks for your thoughts and have a great first day of school…hopefully you get some sleep :))

  5. Joanna Palumbo
    September 5, 2011 | 5:52 pm

    I saw a student of ours when I went out for lunch on Church Avenue on Thursday. Since I was working at school and the students are not due in until next Thursday, she was surprised and giggly to see me in shorts! (My pasty white legs are pretty funny.) She was in PK last year, going into K this year. Like many families in our school neighborhood, her parents allow her to play on the street unsupervised. So she was scooting up and down this busy, busy, busy commercial street on her little silver razor scooter all alone. When I told her I was getting the school ready for all the kids, she said “Can I come too? I want to go to school so much.” I explained that the building had no security guard today and that there were boxes everywhere and classrooms were not arranged yet and there were men mopping up the water damage from the hurricane. “How many days until I can go to school,” she asked. I told her: seven more days. “Show me in fingers” she said. I helped her put up 7 fingers. “That’s more than one hand,” she complained. I promised her that it would go quickly and that I would be outside on the steps the first morning when we opened the door for Kindergarten. She scooted away. My office is above the front ramp near the steps. Later I noticed out my window that she was scooting around the front yard. I worried that she had come around the corner from Church Avenue to school and her mother would get upset to look out the window and not see her any more. So I went outside and asked her if her Mommy knew if she was not right outside any more. She said “Mommy told me to go ask Ms. Palumbo for some books and we promise we will bring them back the first day of school.” How could I resist! I made a nice pile of family read alouds and wordless books and a few level A books, and put them in a cloth bag with my name on it. I walked her home around the corner and watched her scooter for her while she brought the books upstairs to Mommy. Then she came out and we scooted down the block to Carvel and then I walked her home. When we parted, she said “See you at school! I can’t wait!” And Mommy opened the window and yelled “Gracias! Gracias! We’ll bring the books back, I promise.” The next morning (Friday) the school doorbell rang and there was Mom, scooter-girl, baby sister and toddler brother with the books and a tupperware of rice with vegetables in it. As they handed me everything, mom said “Could we have more books? It’s the weekend.” So we traded books, and scooter-girl showed me 6 fingers. I started to bend one finger down, saying “You are 5 years old, sweetie, not six.” But she persisted and said “No. No. 6 more days until I can go to school!” Through the eyes of this 5-year-old school is the place that will rescue her from her solitary scootering on a hot busy street. She is so excited to see her friends again, to have books and toys and games and stories and music and learning all around her. Through her eyes school is Shangri-la. As the supervisor of this building, my mission for the 2011-2012 school year is that we never let her down.

    • Leah Mermelstein
      September 5, 2011 | 5:57 pm

      I have no words!! That is just a great story. Thanks for sharing and see you soon.

  6. Sarah
    September 5, 2011 | 6:42 pm

    Leah,

    Thanks for reminding me to worry less about the classroom set up and focus more on looking forward to meeting the new bunch of kids that I will be spending time learning with this year!

    Sarah

  7. Leah Mermelstein
    September 5, 2011 | 6:46 pm

    Hi Sarah,
    I hope it’s a great year for you and your students.
    Leah

  8. Anmarie Galgano
    September 6, 2011 | 1:19 am

    Hi Leah,
    Great post! Tomorrow is our first day with the kids and two doors down it will be my daughter Madeline’s first day in K as well. I think I will be thinking about my class as if they are a bunch of little Madelines…asking myself, “What do I want their school experience to be like?” or “How would I want Madeline’s teacher to react in this situation?” You’re right…my grand plans for accountable talk, or partner shares matter less to these kids than making sure that they know where the bathroom is and that they have someone to play with at recess. Thanks for the reminder!

    • Leah Mermelstein
      September 6, 2011 | 11:00 am

      Hi Anmarie,
      Here is to a great day for you, your students, and Madeline!

  9. jennifer winters
    September 7, 2011 | 2:46 am

    Talk about different perspectives! Tomorrow I will have the privilage of bringing my 2 youngest to school for the first time as a full time stay-at-home mom. I have always deeply appreciated how you present different points of view regarding our students but must tell you how wonderful to see in my own children’s eyes the anticipation of having mom walk them to school tomorrow (pray for a break in the rain!) I know they are thinking about their teachers and seeing old friends as well as meeting new ones. But the guiding hands and heavy hearts with which parents leave their babies with at the doors of their new classrooms as they say “good bye” is yet another perspective. I wonder what my face might look like afterwards. No mascara, got it. Good luck everyone for another successful school year.

    • Leah Mermelstein
      September 7, 2011 | 11:45 am

      Wow, what a wonderful opportunity for you and how cool it is for you to be able to fully experience this perspective. Enjoy and keep in touch. 🙂

      • Jennifer winters
        September 8, 2011 | 2:44 am

        Well, we parked near the school and walked in the drizzle the rest of the way. En route, I asked my kids what was on their minds on this first day of school. As predicted, my daughter was wondering about the kids she didn’t know who were on her class list and about her teacher who is new to the school. However, my son was wondering where I was going to pick him up after class!!! That was an extremely important thought from this 6 yr old and I was uncomfortable telling him that I didn’t know and we will have to ask the teacher when we get there. Then I remembered we don’t have all the answers all the time, but how it is so important to listen and learn from their perspectives. Thanks for prompting insightful conversations! Best, jennifer

        • Leah Mermelstein
          September 8, 2011 | 10:45 am

          What a perfect way for you to get great kid perspectives. It’s so true some adults (myself included) and kids (like your son) want to know all of the answers all of time but I think it’s a good lesson in itself to know that this is not always the case. I’m glad the first day was great all around. 🙂

  10. Joan Riordan
    September 7, 2011 | 11:14 pm

    Hey Leah!

    Thanks for reminding me/us to take a step back sometimes and remember what is really important to our kids. It’s too easy to get caught up in the planning and forget who we’re planning for! I’m back in second grade!

    Joan

    • Leah Mermelstein
      September 7, 2011 | 11:29 pm

      I’m so glad that you’re back in second grade. You’re a natural! I just know from being a teacher how stressful those first few days are, but the reality is if it’s not perfect our kids won’t even notice. Their minds are often on other things. Please tell everyone I said hello. Will I see you at Literacy For All?

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