Thursday, July 7, 2011

My Top Ten Teaching Joys in the Language Arts Classroom

1.  The freedom to create lessons. Lesson planning is similar to meal planning--how can I nourish the students with academic courses, yet make sure they like what they are digesting--or at least gaining some nutritional value, so to speak, in each class period?  That challenge creates an endless menu of options, keeping teaching fresh.  When I stagnate, I go to my giant recipe box, aka years of experience, notes, and ideas, and start anew.

2.  Seeing student growth.  Who doesn't like watching students improve, gain confidence in themselves, and move to the next level?  There is no feeling like the joy of watching students complete what they thought was too high of a hurdle.  Student weaknesses are bolstered by using their strengths. This creativity in problem solving is a skill they use their entire lives.

3.  Learning from student insights.  One of my favorite experiences is seeing a topic in a new light thanks to students sharing their perspective. 

4.  Laughing with the students (when the time is right).  I remember when it was boiling hot, and I had two fans in my room.  One shorted out, and when I brought in the back-up, it too went kaput.  Then I loved the witty comments about Hades and my classroom. Those types of moments stand up to memory's erosion. 

5.  Practicing my problem solving skills.  How can I make each lesson pertinent to students' needs?  How can I use what I have in the classroom, in current events, on the internet, in the books on my shelves, in the students' experiences, to drive home a point?  Those kinds of questions stay with me day and night, and the answers come in the world around me.  There's always an answer, but the questions have to be asked first.

6.  I love that students constantly practice the skills of language arts:  reading, writing, speaking, and listening (and thinking naturally meshes with this list). Students get to see other perspectives, broaden their worldviews, practice communicating, build relationships with themselves and others, gain confidence in their own thinking, solidify their goals--the whole process is amazing and exactly what they need to be practicing in order to become productive citizens who will make the world a better place.

7.  Feeling great joy when reading a student's cleverly written sentence or a fitting, skillful use of motif or a metaphor that expresses exactly what the student is trying to describe, or a vivid, specific paragraph  that allows readers to vicariously live the author's description. I am the luckiest person in the world to be able to experience the best of what students have to offer over and over again.  

8.  Being a sounding board when students need to problem solve.  I encourage students who are stuck to come to me (and I also look for the telltale signs of stuckness and go to the students) mostly because it saves them so much time.  I am the one trained at pulling ideas, confusion, thoughts, etc. . . out of people's minds and onto the paper. In a few seconds I can ask, "What do you want to say?"  or "Give me a one sentence summary or preview of what you want to say in your paper" and voila, a thesis statement is born, a vision is created, a doubt is extinguished and an assignment can be started and finished.  

9.  Always looking to find a better, simpler, more efficient, more productive, more useful ways to meet objectives in the courses I teach.  Right now I am heavily researching ways to use the internet to push students  hard, yet to efficiently use their time and resources.  Time will tell if this focus will benefit the students, but in this information era, students need to be assigned tasks that encourage them to organize, evaluate, expand, create, and problem solve with the vast amounts of information that bombards the world in this day and age.  It's an exciting time in education for those very reasons.  What will our students of today create for our world tomorrow?

10.  The unique chemistry that emerges in each class period.  I love never knowing how personalities will mix to create the learning environment that supports students through a semester of any class.  It can't be bottled, but it must be enjoyed and appreciated.  Each class, each class period is a gift to all who are in that particular time and place, especially for me who gets to experience a dream come true by being in the classroom.

1 comment:

  1. Great post! One of the things that isn't there, but is one of the things I love about being involved in the lives of kids is that they do sometimes come back and let you know that what you did with and for them mattered in shaping who they are as an adult. When they do, I can't help but to note that our work truly matters!

    #9 is difficult - just sifting through all of the different tools that are out there, knowing what's there and being confident enough to actually use it yourself can be difficult.