This school year has been so great so far (can’t believe I’m on year #5!). I have left behind blogging for now to save time to do non-work related things, but I would like to share this moment from my classroom with you all. I am teaching a “Reading Podcasts” class, which is a hit with my students. We have listened to Radiolab and This American Life, and the kids get time to explore podcasts they want to listen to. We are learning a lot and having a great time together. This week they’ll be writing letters to their former selves about what in their lives they’ve learned so far. Here is mine:
Hello former self!
I’m writing this letter because you just listened to “It’ll Make Sense When You’re Older” by This American Life. I’m writing this letter to inform you that it’s okay to ask questions about life, and it’s okay to not know the answers all the time (or get angry when other people don’t give you answers). I know that you like to know things, so I’m going to let you in on some things that you don’t know at the age of 16—ten years from now.
Happy Wednesday! Sunday, “A Day in the Life of an Alternative High School Teacher” went up on Cult of Pedagogy, which is one of my favorite teaching blogs/sites. Eight months ago I contacted Jennifer Gonzalez, asking to post and share about the school where I teach. She was so kind to let me write for the site. It is my first guest post, and I can truly say that it was a great experience! I have already heard questions and comments from various educators/education fans–even a former student. The internet is such an interesting place sometimes.
I’d love for you to check out the post and Cult of Pedagogy!
I would have to say my ‘writing roots’ didn’t really get started until college. I got the writing bug in college, alongside some inspiring teachers-turned-professors who were passionate about helping their students inspire their students. In that environment, writing was democratic—anyone could do it, anyone could teach it, and everyone is a writer. Not all educators have that mentality. I’ve spoken to quite a few who would not call themselves writers, even though they have things to say and stories to tell.
As I bounce along the road of teaching, one concept that stays with me is to repetitively tell my students, “You are writers. You’re writing. That makes you a writer.” It is important for them to see themselves in that way, because the mindset that what they have to say isn’t worth the simple act of writing it down is ridiculous. Recently, I’ve decided that instead of me giving them the feedback, that I would let them give me the feedback. I should have developed a pretty thick skin by now, right? I thought that I was going to hear, “It’s good. I wouldn’t change it.” That is not what I heard (well, from most of them).
I’m in the middle of teaching a multi-genre unit with my students. Here’s my first draft of a flash fiction piece I wrote to add to the multi-genre research paper I’m writing alongside them. The topic is teaching–how I got there and how it has impacted me (and vice-versa). This particular piece connects to a poem that precedes it (maybe I’ll share it next time :P)
My teeth hurt. Cold but warm sweat under my clothes, I don’t notice it until later. Like a fledgling bird, I gasp for air. I don’t know the answer, I don’t know the answer is the monologue like ticker tape across my brain. Parallel moments in time hit me hard: Me in Biology class in high-school, scanning through my head to remember what an action potential is/standing in front of students of my own locked into place after they asked me a question, a flurry of but it doesn’t matter overwriting the old code and students still watching me, silent but hungry. Like wolves, they can rip into you, teeth hidden but yellow-sharp. Letting this teachable moment pass feels like throwing away an unscratched lottery ticket.
“What do answers serve us?” I ask them. I am asking them for an answer not needing answers, and I realize that, but I slowly start to feel the sweat cool as their wolfish mouths begin to chatter, alive and wondering.