Archive for July, 2017

A promise for my students!

Posted: July 25, 2017 in Uncategorized

reading

“I promise to develop their hearts, their skills and their voices so that they themselves may be empowered to live their dreams.”

As a teacher, I aspire to always give my best to my students.  I hope that their experience in my classroom and in their four years in our high school always remains positive. For anyone who knows me, relationships have always been of vital importance.

As an English teacher, I have reflected immensely at what my true mission is as an educator. What are the skills we want our students to learn? Do we put those skills above content? Do my students enjoy reading, writing and learning at the end of our semester?

With these questions in mind, I have made a promise both to myself and to my students. I promise that I would transform what my English class would look and feel like. This does not negate that learning was occurring in my classroom or that students lived meaningful and enriching learning experiences with me. However, as I continue to reflect and ask myself: “Is this best for students?” and “Are my students becoming creative and avid readers and writers?” I know that I must adopt certain changes.

For my students to truly enjoy reading they need to learn to become readers and I need to create the conditions to make this happen. First, they need to have autonomy in their choice of reading. Every student is at a different level of reading; they all enjoy different genres and styles. As a teacher, I need to ensure that they have access to a variety of literature. To do so, I myself, must share my own reading journeys with them. Students can learn from the literature I read to help make informed choices of their own. In my first year of teaching English, I organized reading circles where students were able to share their current reading material. It gave them a voice, a place to share their thoughts with their peers, it helped them learn how to formulate opinions and share them with efficacy. It also allowed my other students to see what reading possibilities existed beyond their scope of knowledge. I also promise to promote and celebrate diversity in reading material. Readers often want to feel connected to characters and their stories. It is essential that there is literature available to them that tell the stories of various people from different cultures, religions, countries, sexual orientations. In short, books that share the stories of many different people, so that students may learn about the world through the eyes of another.

Second, students also need to develop mastery in their reading. Students love challenges; I have never seen a child enjoy an easy video game. They often spend days and weeks trying to collect the items, reach the end game or replay games to uncover all of the secrets that exist. We need to look at reading through the same lens. As our students begin to read more for enjoyment, as they access a more diverse series of literature, we now need to challenge them as readers to experiment with different styles and genres. Literature can be superficial, meaningful and complex. As we build our relationships with our students and as we get know where they are as readers, through various discussions and conversations, we must suggest and challenge them with books about social justice, empowerment, history, emotions, stories of empathy and kindness. We want them to ponder, reflect, live the stories and share their own reading journey. In my class, I had an avid reader. His suggestions, thoughts and choices influenced me and many of his peers. When challenged to read, he embarked on the journey thereupon enriching his classmates’ views, choices and reading diversity. Is that not what we hope for?

Finally, students also need to have purpose when they read. We cannot solely create reading experiences for students based on literary analysis, literary cannon, or curriculum expectations. Although we may want to develop and deepen certain reading and literary skills, the most important mission we have is to create a genuine love for reading and writing. As a school, one of our missions was to create and live a reading period every day as a school community. Every teacher, every student, every staff member, participated in this special time dedicated to reading. No book was assigned to them, this was not a study period for class; this was a reserved time for everyone to read for pure enjoyment. Our administration and I even took the time to walk the halls as we were reading to show all students that everyone took part in this community time. Even the custodians knew that no work was to be done; administration knew that no appointments should be scheduled: for those twenty minutes, as a school, we all wanted to read.

So today, I make my promise. For my students, I promise to promote voice and choice for their reading. I also promise to help give them autonomy, mastery and purpose (thank you Dan Pink) in their reading. I hope to never have a student submit work only because I asked it of them. I believe, and I hope, that my students will truly enjoy their learning, that they will grow as learners and that they will help build each other up. A curriculum may be the guideline and map of expectations that we must follow as educators. However, for my students who embark on this journey with me, I promise to develop their hearts, their skills and their voices so that they themselves may be empowered to live their dreams.

 

readingsky