Making Paths Over Time

Open Your HeartJohn D. Rockefeller gave the money for the University of Chicago to be built.  Suddenly, there towered an extraordinarily beautiful university in a field. It looked, with its spires, towers, and cloisters, as though it had stood through time with Cambridge and Oxford and La Sorbonne.  Those institutions took centuries to build, but this one was done– just like that. Finished. Complete.  And yet… at the dedication someone noticed there were no paths.  Had this been an oversight? Could the work be complete without the paths?

The architect’s response: “How can I know where the paths will be, when I haven’t seen where the students will walk over time.”

I don’t know if the story is true; I heard it from a Chicago cab driver.  But something in this story is true enough. I remember it every September. And I remember my former classes who have helped create paths that have remained as part of the way we do things in Room 204.

Recently, I got a letter from a college freshman at Middlebury College.  He wrote the letter in alliteration and thanked me for teaching him poetry in Room 204.

Last weekend I was in Barnes and Noble and I ran into a fourth grade teacher.  We stood in the parking lot and talked about books and life and teaching.  It was a conversation we began when I taught her first and second grades in Room 204.

I went to the grocery store and the cashier smiled as she asked about school. She asked if I loved this new class, too.  We both knew the answer.  She had been a student in Room 204.

Last Wednesday,  the children and I were walking after recess.  A VCU student on a bicycle called out.  I was delighted to see her.  I introduced her to the children and explained that she had been in Room 204, too.  I snapped the picture… past and present together– a path through time.


In September, a year stretches before us with the luxury of time.  We take time and make time to build the rituals of reading and writing workshop; to explore the math materials; to play with the maps; to fine tune expectations; to learn the songs; to wander through the dictionary, the encyclopedia, the thesaurus, and the atlas.  Many of the routines in Room 204 are paths created by the way other classes have walked. The first day of school is a signpost: “Begin here.” The paths take longer.  We uncover old ways that work and discover new ways that work better.  We walk together.

About Annie Campbell

Annie Campbell is a National Board Certified teacher and loves her work. After a forty year career in the classroom, she continues to support teachers. Annie enjoys cooking for family and friends; she likes to lose herself in a good book; she loves discovering new ideas, restaurants, perfect picnic places, and movies with her husband, Ben.
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6 Responses to Making Paths Over Time

  1. Abbie says:

    Annie, I’ve heard a lot of your stories, read a lot of your entries…don’t know why, but this ‘little entry’ made me say tomyself, “wow, what a writer”. I know all writers of course start with real life, but LOVe how you strung all of this together and tied it up in a neat little bow! perfecto!

  2. Mr. Parker says:

    You have touched many lives in such a positive way. Think how their own paths have been changed by your influence. Once upon a time I too was a student in room 204, and it has shaped the paths that are worn in my own classroom each day. Thank You!

  3. Stacey says:

    Did you ever think of writing a collection of short stories about the paths the students from Room 204 have taken?

  4. VCU Professor Beth Belcher says:

    I’m so thrilled, Mrs. Campbell, that our paths crossed not long ago. Some of my VCU students are anxiously waiting for their chance to see the ritual of writing workshop you’ve established in Room 204. You inspire us all.

  5. Gloria Maldonado says:

    This is a very touching entry. You are an inspiring teacher. WOW!!! Your former students still remember your class years later, I am sure it is because you are a great teacher. You should be very proud of yourself.

  6. Lisa Benson says:

    I think this ties along with the blog about how we need to build a community in our classroom. We make connections with the students by giving them our knowledge. However, teaching them to interact with one another in a positive manner should be right alongside or above academics. The reason I think it connects to making paths is, the stronger the bond with the student, the more structured the path is. Some students just float on by only creating a dirt road. Others, if given the opportunity, will create interstate 205, without all the backups.

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