#RozTaughtMe: Post 4 – Focusing on What Matters Most by Tobey Antao

#RozTaughtMe: Post 4 – Focusing on What Matters Most by Tobey Antao

Over the next several weeks, join us in a celebration of the legacy of Dr. Rozlyn Linder. Our colleague, friend, and important voice in literacy education. While we continue to mourn losing her this past December, her teaching, vision, and work lives on and inspires.

For each post, we will reference her books, workshops, and conversations in the specific ways we are using them today.

We know Roz’s work influenced so many of you, too, and so we invite you to write your own #RozTaughtMe. We suggest your post structure may go like this:

  • Capture Roz’s work (a strategy, method, chart, writing lesson, etc)
  • Share how you have used it or how it has inspired your teaching
  • Invite others to try it out as well

Please link your posts in the comments section of any #RozTaughtMe post and/or share on Twitter and Facebook. We will round up and reblog some of your posts as guests posts here on our Community blog.

#RozTaughtMe guest post by Tobey Antao, Heinemann Editor

Focusing on What Matters Most: The Authenticity of Roz

I had the great joy and privilege of working with Roz as her editor on The Big Book of Details. If you’ve ever met Roz or seen her present, you’ve seen her warm and welcoming personality in action. If you’re at all familiar with her work, you’ll see that it stresses smart, practical ways to reach for big goals like student empowerment, student voice, and joyful learning. Our conversations were marked by the same powerful warmth and the same emphasis on getting good, do-able ideas out into the world.

Roz Taught Me

I learned a lot from my conversations with Roz—she taught every grade, and in a wide range of schools—and from working on The Big Book of Details, which made me see elements of writing in a whole new light. As Smokey Daniels wrote in this book’s foreword, the book “help[s] us better understand our own writing-as-thinking-strategies so we can show them to kids.” Each chapter seemed to yield some new aha! for me as I realized how Roz had brilliantly found common denominators across generations of published authors and then distilled those trends into teachable skills.  Working with Roz made me a smarter writer and editor.

But, the biggest thing I learned from Roz, the thing that I think of every day, wasn’t about writing or even about education.  It was about staying focused on what matters most in life.

After The Big Book of Details was published, Roz was thinking about next ideas. She had a handful or more ideas that might have been easy for her to write—ideas focused on writing instruction, mostly, and topics that related directly to academic skills. However, she’d decided that she wanted to do something different, something she’d wanted to write about for years. She set aside some of the sure-fire ideas she’d considered, and began envisioning a project in less well-charted waters: a book that took on issues of social justice, race, and class. She told me that this project terrified her and excited her, but that she was determined to do it.

At the same time, Roz—whose work was in very high demand at the time—began intentionally taking on fewer consulting dates, and trying to find a more manageable writing schedule than the breakneck pace at which she usually wrote. Her work had already taken too much time from her family, she said, and she was working to fix that.

These two decisions might not sound business-savvy. Give up sure-thing topics for a more difficult topic? Turn down work? In fact, Roz was an excellent businesswoman, but she realized that business was not what was most important. She had made the decision to intentionally overhaul her schedule to focus on what mattered most. In her personal life, that was her family. In her career, that was equity.

Over the last year, our conversations were about the important work of her project, but they were also about her family, about what she was making for them for dinner, and about what they were all looking forward to together. She always had stories to share.

How I’ve Used Roz’s Work

Focusing on what’s most important isn’t a new idea. A three-second search on Pinterest will yield seemingly endless quotations (often lovingly typeset or handwritten) about how our choices show our priorities. But putting that advice to work is a different matter entirely. Seeing Roz act on that advice, even when it meant reshaping her career, has given me a push to look at my own priorities at home and at work. What can I do to better align my priorities with my actions? What steps—big and small—could I take to focus on the most important aspects of my work and of my family life? What am I willing to let go of to ensure that my focus is where it should be?

What can I do to better align my priorities with my actions?

These are questions we might ask ourselves every now and again, but losing Roz has made them all the more poignant for me. She had the wisdom to recenter her life when she had the chance. She didn’t wait until it was too late. Are the rest of us wise enough to do the same?

Finally, I’ll tell you a secret: I rewrote the first paragraph of this post (and a lot of the rest of it, too) over and over to try to avoid using the past tense to describe Roz’s life. I am just not ready to let her go. And, maybe that is one more lesson I’ve learned from her: live your life with such kindness, generosity, and authenticity that others aren’t willing to let you go.  


Please share your own ideas and reflections in the comments below. Or share your own #RozTaughtMe post and drop the link there, too.