I wish I were kidding. I am still laughing, but this is not funny.
Last week was my first week back to school. We had five days of shifting classes; schedule changes like shuffling cards with every student vying for their winning hand, or at least two out of four classes stacked with friends.
This is my first year to teach senior English (I still have one section of AP Lang), and I felt a mixture of excitement and dread all summer. Twelve years of reading, or not. Twelve years of playing the game of school, or not.
How do I get students to want to read, want to write, want to explore and question and challenge when it’s possible they just want to be done with school? I am pretty sure that’s how I felt senior year. Granted, that was a loooong time ago, but I do not remember any teachers’ names, any books I read for school, anything I learned the year before I graduated.
I wonder if that’s normal. Somehow I don’t think it should be.
But I do not want my seniors to remember me. I want them to remember learning something that adds value to their lives. I want them to remember learning something that adds value to my life as they vote beside me for elected officials, move into my neighborhood, become my doctor, or perhaps teach beside in the classroom next door.
I know the routines of a workshop pedagogy will help me do that, of this I am certain.
We’ll read and think and write and talk. We’ll share our thinking and our writing in small groups and as a class. We’ll talk about books and the themes that resonate and why that might be so. And we’ll write about the things that matter in our lives.
We started all of this in five short days.
I also got a little panicky.
If you are familiar with Kelly Gallagher’s work, you’ve probably heard him talk about why he started Article of the Week. He said he’d given his students, seniors, an article to read, and while circling the room and checking in with small groups, he asked a couple of kids how their reading was going. “Okay,” they said, “except we don’t know who this Al Quaeda guy is.”
Uh huh, seniors. Seniors who had no idea what was happening in their world.
I’m not too sure mine do either.
2017 Face Palm Experience #1:
We’d just looked at images of the destruction from Hurricane Harvey. We’d done some thinking in our notebooks about how these images made us feel and what we could do to help in the efforts to aide our fellow Texans. I walked the room, listening in as students read from their notebooks. Then, I heard this:
“Can a hurricane happen on a lake?” Student A said, “I mean like would a hurricane ever happen on Lake Lewisville?”
I stopped. Wouldn’t you?
Student B answered, “Uh, hurricanes happen on an ocean.”
“So what ocean is by Houston?” said Student A.
“That’s the Gulf of Mexico,” said Student B.
And Student A asks “So what ocean is that, the Pacific?” as she reaches for her cell phone.
I wish I were confident she planned on looking up information about hurricanes and oceans and weather patterns. Somehow I doubt it. I’ve asked her to put her phone away 47 times in five days. (So far phones have not been an issue except with this student.)
Now, I am left wondering: Will whatever we do in room E111 be enough to prepare my students for the world beyond the halls of our high school? The responsibility is a lead weight on my shoulder.
I sure hope I can carry it.
Amy Rasmussen is the mother of six amazing young adults, grandmother of five smart and sassy little people, and wife to a brilliant marketer, sales exec, life coach, and dog lover. She teaches readers and writers in AP Language and English IV in North TX and facilitates professional development on the workshop model of instruction at every opportunity. She loves God, her family, the U.S.A., and all humans everywhere. Follow Amy on Twitter @amyrass