As I said in my last post, this will probably be my last year as an English teacher. I’m determined to get things right, to do things the way I know they need to be done for my students, and to keep my focus only on them. One of my favorite things about teaching is the chance to start fresh each year, a continual do-over that allows us to be better teachers.
Here are 3 things I want to remember this year:
- If I want kids to be honest in their reflection and their writing (which I do – otherwise why bother?) then I have to create a safe community even though I feel like it takes up too much time. I’m not going to rush this process this year as I have in the past. I start to feel behind and then begin to throw out the teambuilding games and the classbuilding activities. But we need those connections. And we need those connections to be strong so that when it comes time to take a risk, we know we will have the support we need to write through that hard memory and come out safely on the other side. They will never be real writers if they are unwilling to take risks. They need a space that values their bravery in sharing their difficult truths.
- English is a risk taking environment. More than any other discipline it requires so much of who we are as people in order to do it well. You have to be able to let yourself go in order to get lost in a book. You have to be willing to lay who you are out in the pages of your story so that we can see the truth and match it to ourselves. I have to be willing to do all that and more with my students. When they watch my vulnerability in our shared stories, they have permission to write theirs as well. It doesn’t work to just tell them to be honest. I have to show them they can do it by doing it myself first. This is a challenge for me but I can do it because it’s an even bigger challenge for people who are 12 and 13 years old and trying to figure out the whole world.
- The most single important thing I can do for my students is to hear them – each and every one of them. When they talk with me, I want them to know I am listening. When they show me something, I want them to know I am watching. For many of my kids, this is an easy task. They are open and talkative and secure in their place in their family and the world. This year I want to connect with the fringe kids – the ones who try so hard to fly under the radar they nearly disappear. In the past, many of these kids have stepped into the spotlight during our Poetry Slam. They blow everyone away with their beautifully crafted words that shout who they are and what they believe. I don’t want to wait until April this year. I want to see them and hear them before the end of this first quarter. I don’t want anyone to disappear.
Being passionate about reading and writing (I really do believe they both will make your life better) also matters. My passion may carry some kids through until they find it on their own. I’m OK with that.