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Learning – The Key to Positive Energy

by Rose Cappelli

       In his book, The Energy to Teach, Donald Graves says, “We can never underestimate the energy contained in learning” (79). Since I consider myself a life-long learner, I think it is learning that is at the heart of what keeps me motivated and helps me to sustain positive energy.

       In 1997 I attended my first Keystone State Reading Association Conference. I was there for only one day, but I remember trying to get to as many sessions as possible. I recall scribbling notes as fast as I could in my notebook, writing my own thoughts in the margins as to how I might apply this new learning. Sometimes it was a question, sometimes a child’s name, sometimes a star or an exclamation mark – something to show the learning I wanted to return to and apply. That first conference experience opened up a whole new world of professional development for me. I remember clearly the energy I felt as I shared my new understandings with my colleagues. I have returned to the KSRA conference every year, and many others – Reading Recovery, NCTE, IRA. Conferences always act as a source of energy to keep me moving forward as a teacher.

       Learning from and with colleagues through professional reading has also been a major factor in keeping me energized. Many of those I consider to be my colleagues I have only met through the pages of a book, but their thinking has energized me and influenced me in so many ways.

        One of the first books to have a major effect on me as a learner was Regie Routman’s Invitations. I immersed myself in it on a long train ride from Pennsylvania to North Carolina, marking it up with post-its, highlighting, and margin notes. That school year I would start my day by rereading a short section before getting the kids up and ready for school. I would think about that passage throughout the day, trying to apply the ideas as I went about my work with students. Of course, I went on to read just about everything Regie Routman has written, but I think doing that short daily reading influenced me as much as her words did. Even in retirement, I still like to start my day with some kind of professional reading. Often now it is a blog post, or perhaps an on-line abstract of a longer article. To me, it’s like a blessing on the day – let me think about this and how I can use it in my work. Although my professional life has recently shifted, centering more on work with teachers than directly with students, reading professionally is something I could not do without.

        But my collaborations with teachers isn’t all “virtual.” I learned and continue to learn so much from the collaborative work I have done with fellow PAWLPer Lynne Dorfman. We have written much together, but we have also engaged in many reflective discussions about the most effective ways to help students continue to move forward in literacy. I have found that when I share ideas with colleagues individually, in small groups, or in larger professional book discussions, my thinking is always nudged and my energy level is raised. As Graves reminds us, “The more we take risks and learn from each other, the greater the energy-giving satisfaction” (68).

        Learning begins with questions. Take some time to think about the questions you have, and consider the possibilities of where you might find the answers. Perhaps it is in your own reflection, or maybe a conversation with a colleague. Maybe you can discover something by reading a journal article, or a snippet from a professional book. Wherever you find the answers, that new learning will energize you and motivate you to keep moving forward.

Source: Graves, Donald H. 2001. The Energy to Teach. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.


Rose Cappelli is a 1996 PAWLP Fellow. She is the co-author with Lynne Dorfman of Mentor Texts, Nonfiction Mentor Texts, and Poetry Mentor Texts. She continues to pursue new learning about gardening and birds. You can read more of her blog entries at www.mentortextswithlynneandrose.com, or follow her on Twitter at @RoseCappelli.               

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