Can you feel it coming? Do you smell new books and old desks? Are you imagining the sounds of students shouldering their way through the halls and into your classroom like bees through long un-mown grass? (I’m a huge Oscar Wilde fanboy!)
Are you ready to hear a deep breath or quiet giggle interrupt a totally silent self-selected reading segment? Are you ready to mop up tears in buckets and heal emotional wounds with book bandages?
If not, you better get ready. You may be starting school today, or maybe next week. It doesn’t matter; time to get your mind right.
I’m ready to launch from the best summer of my life into the best teaching year of my life. Happiness breeds happiness.
So here are three thoughts I have that will help me be the best teacher I’ve ever been.
Book Talk like my teaching life depends on it…because it does.
If the number one tool in my belt is my classroom library, my number two is my ability to “sell” books. We all know that we need to be able to sell books both informally and formally.
Informally, we confer with readers and talk about books with individual kids (and adults!) who are in the market for their next reading relationship. This is the easy back and forth that comes with being a reader and contributing to a literacy rich classroom culture.
The formal moments, in my mind, are those points in time you carve out to stand in front of your class, or some group, and give them the hard sell on a book you’ve decided was worthy of their attention.
To me, these two different bookish scenarios require different thought processes and the latter is example is the one to which I plead my case.
Obviously we have to consider “how” we present the key information that we think will engender interest in deserving books.
But also, we have a massive burden to present books that offer a cultural variety of information that will allow our readers the “windows, mirrors, and doors” that Rudine Sims Bishop wrote about all the way back in 1990.
I took a step forward on the Sunday of the ILA conference and chose to attend a session featuring LGBTQ writers and their books.
Over and over, the panelists describe the point in their lives when they first encountered a character in whom they saw themselves. Ashley Herring Blake, a primary grade teacher and middle grade writer from Tennessee talked about how she was 32 when it happened to her. We have to be more pro-active when it comes to offering students windows, mirrors and doors. Book talks are an opportunity in which we can’t afford to play it safe.
2. Love the kids like their learning lives depend on it…because it does.
I said it before: I will be 100% this year in telling my classes I love them before sending them out the door each period. I’ve already been practicing with the Student Council kids that I hung out with at Fish Camp. It was our first time to work together and as the day ended, I told them too. You never get a second chance to make a first impression.
But I’m not just going to say it to their backs as they sprint out of the room. I’m going to say it to their faces as they enter and I’m going to write it on their papers. Reading and writing culture revolves around love: of texts, but more importantly the readers and writers.
3. Empower the students to read and write in a massive volume like our world depends on it…because it does.
We know how important volume is in a student’s growth. We have to let them read and write more than we can ever think about grading.
Also, we have to give them room to read and write in ways that let them explore their place in the world. Anything less than this, and I’ve failed. I will not fail.
Charles Moore will, for the first time in many years, teach Freshman English this year. His bleeding heart required him to volunteer to sponsor Student Council at this new school. You can follow his antics on twitter at @ctcoach.