Today is the third Friday with my senior English students. Yep, I did it. I’m back in the classroom, learning alongside some amazing young people.
I have a billion goals for myself — enough to weigh me down, certainly — but one that keeps floating to the top is this: Thrive in hope. (Yeah, I don’t really know if that’s a goal, but stay with me here.)
When I left the classroom two years ago, I’d lost a lot of it. Personal struggles. Professional struggles. The state of the world struggles. All of it. But lots of self-reflection, rest, writing, paint, dirt, good friends, family, and growing things –probably most of all growing things — changed me. My hope is back. It’s thriving, just like the plants that add energy and life to my home and my new classroom.
And while I teach literacy skills to seniors in high school, what I really want to teach is hope. Hope in humanity and our ability to thrive — together and as individuals.
So, like you, I’ve started with relationships. Every text we’ve read together, every task I’ve asked students to complete, every book I’ve matched to a reader’s interest has given me insight into who these young people are as individuals with backgrounds, cultures, fears, failures, dreams and desires. Just like me, they cling and pounce and clamor after hope.
A few years ago, after a sniper killed five police officers in downtown Dallas, I read this commentary by Chequan Lewis. The last line still resonates: “My sights are simply set on what is possible when we are courageously human.”
Courageously human. That’s what I want for myself and for my students — to practice courage as a means of becoming better than we were when we walked in the door. So moving forward into senior English plans, I’ll invite students to step into the vulnerable spaces that require courage: reading texts that challenge the status quo, writing honestly about ourselves, our learning, controversies, and convictions; and communicating in ways that validate, clarify, empathize, and challenge.
I’ll step there, too, because the more I think about it: Hope thrives in courage.
Here’s a few of the texts we’ve used thus far to write beside and spark our thinking on this journey. Perhaps you’ll find them useful as you begin your own.
My Honest Poem by Rudy Francisco
Famous by Naomi Shihab Nye; the poem here
“This Bud’s for 3” — Dwyane Wade
If you have ideas for more resources that fit our theme, please share in the comments.
Amy Rasmussen teaches seniors at a large high school in North Texas. She’s a #houseplantcollector, writer, reader, gardener, watercolor-artist wannabe, bicyclist, and grandmother to eight courageous little people, the newest little man born today! Follow her @amyrass and @3TeachersTalk
Tagged: courageous teaching, Mentor Texts, texts for response, texts to write beside
[…] I can’t help wondering how I can help students develop more of these skills while in my English class. I know it’s possible. Possibilities mentor hope. […]
I really love these three texts paired together. Thank you for sharing!
Hi Amy! Love your post. Here are links to two NPR pieces with Kwame Alexander that I think would fit well with your theme of writing honestly about ourselves. I used this poetry model prompt with my Creative Writing students on our first day of class. I was worried it might be throwing them in the deep end too soon, but they responded with amazing work. We are going to do our own “crowd sourced” poem for a hallway bulletin board.
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Thank you for sharing this! I’m teaching a section of Creative Writing in the spring. This will be perfect then — and I’m going to definitely work it in now, too. I am a big Kwame Alexander fan, so this is perfect!
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Thank you, Amy. Welcome back! Your thoughts and ideas always inspire me. I’m curious what your prompts were or how you invited students to respond to the Dwyane Wade commercial. I loved it so much when it first came out. I watched it over and over again, and his mom just rips my heart out. I’d love to know specifics on how you used it with your students.
Thanks, Beth! Good question. Sometimes I just ask students to respond with what they think about a text. What does it make you wonder? What does it make you feel? Many of them are stuck in wanting to analyze everything, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I’m trying to help them use others’ ideas to spark their own ideas for writing. We’ve also been working on college application essays, so I asked them to pay attention to the progression of ideas in this ad as well. That’s pretty much what we used it for this time around. We are still getting used to sharing our quick writing with our small groups and building community — but we’re also moving into making connections between texts. I think this ad pairs nicely with the “Famous” poem for that. I hope this helps. Thanks for the question!
Loved these suggestions. I have used the theme from TIME read by Sir Laurence Olivier, and “To this Day ” by Shane Koyczan in a similar way. Extracts from “All I really need to know I learned in Kindergarten” by Robert Fulghum can also lead to some interesting introspection
Oh, I love those texts, but I’ve never thought to link them together. Thanks for sharing!!
Thank your for this, Amy! So clear to see how much teaching nourishes both you and your students. And thanks so much for your time with the Cristo Rey community this summer. Your work “shook me up” in terms of my own thinking on reading and writing, but the process has already gotten me to engage in a more meaningful way with student writing (and reading). Blessings on your work–hoping it’s a great year “back” for you.
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Thanks so much, Zach! And I’m so excited for the work you are doing with students at Cristo Rey! Please share! I just told Anna in an email this week that the invitation is always open for all of you: please write a guest post, or two, or more! All the best to you and your students!