OK – I’m going to confess something teachers don’t usually admit or discuss. I have a favorite class. I teach 6 blocks of students. I love all my kids and we have a great time together but…Block 7 is my favorite. Part of it may be that they are a real mix of boys and girls. Several of my classes are heavy on boys, two of my other classes have only 3 girls in them! They are also sandwiched between my two most challenging classes so they feel like a reprieve for me in the midst of the siege. Beyond that though, they are, as a group, some of the most kind and caring children I have ever taught.
After the Sandy Hook shooting, the environment at my school was very strange. The shooting was not addressed in any kind of global way other than an e-mail to review our lockdown procedures with our students and that we could anticipate a drill in the spring. We did, eventually, have a moment of silence in honor of the victims, but that came later. I took the stance that if it came up in my English classes, we would discuss it but if it didn’t, I would not bring it up.
The whole week I waited (the shooting happened on a Friday) for my students to say something. I don’t know if they were taking their cues from the administration, if they talked about it on their own, or if they didn’t think they should talk about it. Thursday, as we were about to start our writing workshop, one of my girls asked, “Mrs. McG., do you think we could write to the families of Sandy Hook today and let them know we are thinking of them?”
That opened the floodgates and for the next 45 minutes, we talked about the shooting, gun control, familes, siblings, and the emotions and anxiety poured off my kids. They were thinking about it and many of them were feeling the effects in ways I could not have imagined. As adults, we can work our way through these terrible events and come out on the other side. But sometimes kids, without that ability to process, get stuck and need help sorting through all the horror. We cried together that day and then, it was just the tiniest bit easier for all of us.
Yesterday, I was trying to impress upon them that poetry has the ability to change your life. Most of my kids have been brought up with Shel Silverstein, Dr. Seuss, and Jack Prelutsky. Nothing wrong with any of those authors…but poetry can mean more than catchy rhymes and silly fun. I showed them an Edutopia video of a Bronx poetry slam:
Their mouths were hanging open at the end and then they talked about the passion, and imagery, and strength of these poems. They noticed that the kids in the video were talking about things that really meant something to them and because of that, it meant something to us as well. In other words, they totally got it. Very often, they get what I am trying to teach them. I have to admit I love that.
Block 7 students also love writing. When I ask them to get out their Writer’s Notebooks, they don’t groan, they cheer. I always save their summatives to grade last because I know they are going to be stellar – it’s my carrot to keep grading because I know I get to read their work when I’m done. They seem ready to tackle any writing challenge – write a novel in a month? Sure! Answer a prompt? No problem. Create a class anthology of poems? Let’s go! It’s so fun to teach kids that love writing almost as much as I do.
So, that’s my confession. I love Block 7 the best. I plan on telling them on the last day of schoo,l if they haven’t already guessed. They deserve to know I loved teaching them and that every day we spent together felt like a gift. Lucky, lucky me.