Depart from the Text

Growing up, I loved the Sunday Funnies.  And I really loved Bloom County.  Bill the Cat never failed to crack me up (Ack Ack Thbbft).  And I was obsessed with Opus.  For those that don’t know – it was Opus the penguin, Bill the Cat (was probably on something illegal), and a cast of other point of view characters.  They discussed and reflected on current events and pop culture in their own off beat way and I think the real allure was that It made me feel smart because I was old enough to get the jokes.

And somewhere, post college, I got “Good Night Opus.”  A picture book that has Granny reading Opus Goodnight Moon (a routine I became all too familiar with myself).  And the gist (the gist is something I’ve been finding a lot of here lately in my classroom) was that Opus didn’t want to follow the tired old routine.  He wanted to be creative and say good night to Lincoln and Tooth Fairy and get carried away by his imagination, which he gleefully did,  much to the chagrin of his nanny. Despite her warnings, he departed the text.

As an 8th grade English teacher, I used to read this to my students at the start of the year. I told them that this was going to be the year to take risks, to see how far they can take their writing and thinking.   It was our class mission statement (and this was before mission statements were cool.)   And I still read it to my 3rd graders at some point.

But at some point I forgot to take my own advice.  To depart from my own text.

Every day I ask kids to put themselves out there, to take risks by sharing and putting their ideas out there, even if it’s just for me to read.  Yet I’m not doing that myself.   So, I’m going to start blogging.  I was inspired by a recent unconferance that I attended – EdCamp Maryland, and specifically by a bloggers John Harper ( and Brian Cook (  Thank you gentleman for inspiring me to step outside my comfort zone.  And thank you Susan Verdi ( as well!

When I thought about what to title my blog I immediately thought of Opus departing the text and wanted to be as bold and giddy as him.

I also found it ironic that with CCSS, so much of my time is spent on telling kids to “refer to the text”  “what does the text say” “is the answer from your head or from the text.”  Seems kind of backwards.

So how to reconcile the two?  How to stay in the text, and depart it at the same time.  Kids need to do both.  Opus could not have departed from the text had there not been one to depart from to begin with.  He needed to understand the nature and content of Goodnight Moon to take his own path with it.  He had to have known the story so intimately that he could then make it his own.  He wasn’t just departing the text and leaving it behind, he was building on the foundation of it.   He was expanding it.  He was pushing the boundaries of what was.  (Pretty deep for a penguin).  And this applies to reading, writing, math – all content areas.

I hope to use this blog as a place where I can share my reflections, ideas, and tools I use to achieve my goal of keeping students grounded in the standards but with the creativity of mind and confidence to visit the milky way, Abraham Lincoln, and the tooth fairy.



2 thoughts on “Depart from the Text

  1. Kelly,

    What a great way to depart from the text! I love your connection to Opus – I remember laughing at him, too, though I’ve never read “Good Night Opus.” I will definitely have to check it out.

    Jon and Brian were definitely inspirational at EdCampMaryland. And of course, I love Susan’s blog, as well. Congratulations on taking the leap into the blogosphere – I’m trying to gather my courage and join you all there!


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