The Tree

Today, November 26th, 2019, I’m participating in Two Writing Teachers’s Tuesday Slice of Life Story Challenge.

Gazing out the window, I spotted the small, scrubby tree on the hillside.  But then the train crossed a metallic bridge, and the tree disappeared from sight.  Returning from the incredible NCTE conference on Sunday, I found myself identifying with that tree.  Trees grow.  And I had grown.

One of my favorite authors, Donna Santman, once taught me that if at the end of a conversation we are thinking more, thinking differently, or have more words to say about what we thought already, then that conversation was good.  NCTE 2019 had felt like a conversation.  A conversation about equity, about inquiry, about representation.  And about growth.

Staring out the window, I felt like I had outgrown myself. Which felt good.  And fleetingly, I wondered if trees ever felt good when they grow.  Maybe not.

Unless they’re a Wishtree.

I thought about the insignificance of the tree.  After all, it was only one tree on one hillside.  And not that big or remarkable.  Among 8,000 teachers this weekend, I felt that way.  A little.  There were so many larger, more remarkable and knowledgeable trees there.  But then I thought, ‘I’ll bet that little tree might host a nest in its branches someday.  Or maybe it will help someone to think something important.  And those two things alone could make a difference in the world in some way, for some reason.’

Chuckling to myself in my gray Amtrak seat, I realized… well, that had just happened to me.  Hadn’t it?  Not the nest.  But the thought.  I also realized that even small trees like me can make a difference, too.  And that should be what life’s about.

Shouldn’t it?

Author: Lanny Ball

For more than 23 years, Lanny has taught, coached, presented, staff developed, and consulted within the exciting and enigmatic world of literacy. With unyielding passion and belief in the possibility of workshop teaching, Lanny has worked to support students, teachers, and school administrators around the country in outgrowing themselves as both writers and readers. Working first as a classroom teacher, then as a coach and TCRWP Staff Developer, Lanny is now a literacy and reading consultant in Northwestern Connecticut. Outside of literacy, he enjoys raising his three ambitious young daughters with his wife, and playing the piano. Find him on this blog, as well as on Twitter @LannyBall. Lanny is also a co-author of a blog dedicated to supporting teachers and coaches that maintain classroom writing workshops, twowritingteachers.org.

9 thoughts on “The Tree”

  1. Lanny, there is so much to love about this slice. The craft, the message, the pace, and the reflection. I love the idea about conversations – so true. I think we all feel little on our own, it is when our roots and branches reach out that we are fed and grow. Thank you for all you do to make a difference. I wish we had the chance to meet in person at NCTE. Maybe next year … Happy Thanksgiving.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I bet that you made a huge difference in conversations at NCTE and that you can bring this knowledge back to the people you work with. I really appreciate what you shared about Donna’s wisdom about conversations. I am writing that one down! Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Lanny, this is such a beautiful slice. I love the metaphor you created, and what a nice reminder that all of us can make a difference in some way, especially when we branch out and let ourselves grow. So nice meeting you at dinner, too! I hope our paths cross again.
    Happy Thanksgiving!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love the idea you posed about a small and seemingly insignificant tree having the capability of great things – maybe similar to our little students who have yet to bloom completely.
    Your post inspires me and makes me want to converse with you!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Trees are so deeply symbolic and I often think about how they communicate with one another (for they do); it reminds me of “The Overstory,” the recent Pulitzer Prize winner and a book I absolutely love. These lines in your post struck me in particular: if we are “thinking more, thinking differently, or have more words to say about what we thought already, then that conversation was good.” Growth, indeed. Vital!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Yes, that is what NCTE conventions feel like to me, too: a supportive and challenging conversation that pushes the limits of what I know and understand. Everyone is an important part of that conversation and we learn so much from unexpected places.

    Liked by 1 person

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