Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Goodbye Classes (Fall 2010)

Goodbye to 1st period Creative Writing where students grew into each other as much as they grew into their own writing.  There's something about this class that transforms students who take it. Writing improves, but more importantly students learn their thoughts and creations are worth the time it takes for readers to discuss their peers' writing. It's hard to explain, but the confidence gained when students trust their own creativity and share it with their peers is amazingly inspirational to all who are in the room. Shyness slips away as students write what they want with few guidelines from me except that work be original and appropriate to school, that Tuesdays are turn in days, and that they are open to their own ideas.  One of my favorite parts of this class was watching the students enjoy their peers' writings and asking students to continue storylines or poetry.

Goodbye to 2nd, 7th and 8th period Composition I.  First semester meant many students worried about the grading scale, but by the end of the course most realized that the purpose behind it is not to cause impossible roadblocks that lead to failure but to encourage student growth--the writing that comes with redoing proves that editing is more time consuming than creating for most students.  I guess in my mind, it doesn't matter much how students get to the end result, it's just that they get there:   authors must communicate so readers comprehend.  What I love most about teaching writing is that students get a chance to explore their own truths through a variety of assignments.  I never tire of reading good writing that teaches me something.  My students never fail to teach me, inspire me, and keep me searching for ways to reach them.

Goodbye to 4th period Elements of Writing. This class held a special place in my heart because the students grew so much in eighteen short weeks.  The main strength I saw in these students was their willingness to overcome their own roadblocks--seeing themselves as struggling writers.  At first they hesitated to ask questions, but soon their silent voices turned up the volume and they wanted to know if certain topics would work for assignments, if they had used their punctuation marks correctly, if they had all of their assignments completed,  if they would do well on the Asset test that provided the score proving their readiness to take Composition I for college credit. Life's distractions sometimes hindered the students in this class, but they came back after their hurdles and kept aiming for their goals. 

No need to say goodbye to 5th hour Accelerated English.  We'll all be back together when January 5th rolls around, and I can't wait to see what they can conquer next semester. If first semester laid the groundwork for second semester, these students will continue amazing me with their drive, their curiosity, their insight, and their hunger since lunch comes right after 5th hour. 

As I reflect on the fall of 2010, I am a bit sad to see great classes laid to rest, but the curiosity to experience the spring of 2011 propels me happily on to a new set of syllabi, lesson plans, seating charts, and expectations.  Goodbye 2010; hello 2011.

Friday, December 17, 2010

What I'm reading today (12-17-10)

I've always been interested in the Great Migration, so when the book The Warmth of Other Suns:  the Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson showed up in the high school's library, I snatched it up.  Something about the shameful way humans have treated each other and the great strides (and setbacks) America has made, reinforces my love of history, humanity, and ultimately the students I am so lucky to encounter day in and day out. 

As  I've been reading this book during Sustained Silent Reading (SSR) time, horrified  by the dehumanizing choices that have shaped America's history yet encouraged by individual after individual who has sacrificed to make the world a better place by standing up for what is right,  I am reminded of other works that have taught me that humans should have the basic right to tell their own truths, whether through fiction or nonfiction:  Roots and Queen by Alex Haley, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee,  A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry and the movies Mississippi Burning and American History X

The Great Migration is more than a history lesson for me; it is the archetypal story of humans moving forward to overcome the stagnancy that keeps them from living their truths.  This same story is one that makes teaching writing a joy.  How else, except through the written word, can we fully communicate our own realities so others can understand?