A few weeks ago, when I sat down to confer with Asia, she told me that she bought me a Christmas gift. She was really excited about it. “I’ve never bought a teacher a gift before!”
She’s a senior in high school.
I asked her why she’d never bought a teacher a gift before. She thought for a moment. “No teacher ever gave me respect automatically, like I deserved it.”
It breaks my heart that in twelve years of public education, this girl never felt that a teacher respected and cared about her.
“How did you know I respected you?” I asked her. A few other kids sitting with us answered this question too.
“You talk to us every day, like we’re adults, about our learning, and you really care what we say.”
“You do all our assignments with us so we know they’re not busywork.” This from Shailyn.
I write beside them.
“You always expect us to know more than we do, and you don’t take BS excuses about why our work isn’t done,” Jocelyn said.
I have high expectations.
“You know exactly what your students are capable of,” Jocelyn further explained.
I know them, well, through frequent talk about their choice reading and writing.
“You just seem to really like me, and see me,” Asia finished.
A few days later, she eagerly presented her gift to me, and waited eagerly for me to open it. It’s a lovely seasonal scarf much like the ones I always wear–a very thoughtful gift that, when I thought about her reason behind giving it and combined that with my pregnancy hormones, made me completely bawl. I love it, because Asia gave me much more than just this scarf–she gave me proof that my teaching is important, if only just to her.
Readers and writers workshop is about more than just nurturing literacy skills–it’s about nurturing people, their thinking and creativity and confidence. Conferring isn’t always about teaching into a standard–it’s often about just talking with another person about what’s in your mind, helping to flesh it out through talk before writing. Writing beside your students isn’t just valuable because it’s modeling–it’s essential to creating a true community of learners committed to growing as readers and writers and thinkers.
This holiday season, give your students the best gift possible–respect, love, value, and the equal footing that comes with shared learning and the collaborative creation of knowledge.