I’m amazed, sometimes, by how quiet this room can get. Lights dimmed, soft piano music playing, I slowly shift papers from one stack to another as I pour over the thoughts and words of this, my first class of students at my new school.
Pausing for a moment, aware of the unusual peacefulness, I glance around the room. Everyone who visits complements the view through the big picture window overlooking the courtyard studded with live oaks. I, for once, appreciate that view before continuing my scan of our sacred space. Everywhere my eyes land, I see evidence that students populated this space. Someone taped snowflakes made of empty gum wrappers to my bookshelves. Another person wrote “HEYYY” on a sticky-note stuck to the built-in shelves. Some creative soul splashed hearts and stars across the small whiteboard. Paper, wrappers, and empty water bottles litter the floor and remind me that I need to pick up a little before I turn off the lights.
Hundreds of colorful pennants decorate the space above the book shelves; a reminder that as we struggled through our literacy lives this year, we covered vast expanses of literary territory. Upon closer inspection, I notice names, titles, and authors scribbled on each scrap of paper – evidence of books loved, hours of silent satisfaction, and reading identities. These little flags wave reminders at me of the hard work, joy, and successes we’ve shared.
Books laze haphazardly on shelves overloaded, wondering where their friends have disappeared to. Shifting my eyes towards the door, I see the book nook stacked high with books waiting for a magic book fairy to shuffle them back into their places in the classroom library before school lets out.
My thoughts move to the front wall, draped in sagging and fading anchor charts, and I remember when two intern teachers – confident and comfortable – created their own “vortex” (more on that another day) and hashed out a lesson cycle like they’d been doing it for years.
My professional library brings up thoughts of lunches spent silently scouring the words great thinkers, and roads traveled; places left to visit or re-visit. Kittle, Gallagher, Newkirk, Romano, Anderson and many more, remind me of monumental tasks I faced each day and remind me too, that I signed up for this. Above, those books rest, (on the shoulders of giants, one might say) mementos, pictures, action figures and even a giant check left over from days of football past.
Too often, thoughts grades, lesson plans, assessment, and skills consume my mental calories. Not near often enough do I take the time to reflect, piano music drifting softly through the air, on our work here in this room.
This year was far different from all those that proceeded it. The end-of-day rush out the door wasn’t a mad dash to football practice or to the parking lot just before driving a bus full of teenagers across town to a soccer game. Instead, I rushed out the door to get home in time to meet my daughter at the bus stop before picking up my son at school. There were no serious talks with students facing graduation, warning them how much it hurts to have life after high school hit them square in the face.
Instead, these freshman taught me as much about teaching as I taught them about reading and writing. They forced me to face struggle as much as I forced it upon them. They made me look at my craft with fresh(man) eyes and change the way I moved through workshop routines. I’m better for it.
Graduate school, too, reinforced the importance of life-long-learning and ripped the cover off the academic writing skills I’d boxed up almost twenty years ago.
In one year, I won a #BookLove grant and presented at the district, state, and national levels. Recently, I was asked to contribute to the ILA magazine, Literacy Today, based solely off of a piece I posted right here back in July. Not bad for a an old ‘ball coach.
Being asked to chair the High School Section for TCTELA has been both an honor and an eyeopener. I’ve never experienced the feeling of fear that came over me when I realized how much the members of this section needed outlets to amplify their powerful voices, and I didn’t know the first place to start. To even begin to think about conquering these tasks, I leaned on the lessons that have come before this, in times of vulnerability, and I looked at those around me who handle their struggle with grace and composure. Oh, and those inspirational educators are the people with whom I’ll travel to Louisiana, for ILA 2019, to continue to spread our love of literacy.
Charles Moore looks forward to new challenges and growth opportunities even in his old age. He’s trying to rebuild his reading habits and write as much as possible. If you are high school teacher in Texas, and would like to help out with the High School Section of TCTELA, please email Charles at firstname.lastname@example.org. He wishes everyone a peaceful and relaxing summer and promises to post as many twitter selfies as possible.