It’s my last full week of summer vacation, so of course my mind is on the coming school year. I’ll admit, I’m a bit nervous. I still don’t know what school will look like. However, instead of focusing on what could be, I’m going to focus on what I can control.
I can listen. From Day One, I will get to know my students as best I can. My first goal: learn at least 5-10 things about each one of them within the first few weeks. When they share something personal, I’ll be there.
I can be flexible. When students sound overwhelmed, I’ll extend deadlines. When I see reteaching is necessary, I’ll make time for it. I won’t put pressure on myself to complete a unit by a certain date. Instead, I’ll let whatever is needed, happen.
I can put my mistakes out there. I won’t assert the “teacher power” I have, but instead prove I am just like them: a reader/writer/human being that makes mistakes. I’ll allow myself to be vulnerable by sharing my own blunders with classes and how I attempt to fix them. I’ll share personal learning experiences, and how we can unpack tough topics that often make some of us uncomfortable.
I can speak my truth, which is one of the four agreements I learned from Glenn E. Singleton’s book, Courageous Conversations About Race. I’ll speak honestly about the various pieces we read, including many that are about races and cultures different from my own. By modeling this first, my students will hopefully to do the same. We’ll explore our own identities throughout the year by reading various poems and excerpts one day, and sketching our thoughts the next. I’ll introduce “radical empathy” (from Isabel Wilkerson’s book Caste), and we’ll discuss how to find humanity within ourselves and others so we can face problems together, be better informed about the world, and listen to each other with love (#IREL21).
I can write with my students. Writing is so much more than just following a task or completing a worksheet. We’ll write everyday to build stamina, trying out new moves, studying mentor texts, and revising consistently to make our writing better and our voices heard.
I can focus on joy. There are so many different forms of joy. By getting to know my students, I’ll learn what brings them joy. I’ll share pieces of writing that bring me joy, and ask students to share some of their own. We can focus on our accomplishments to push ourselves to do more.
By focusing on what I can control, we can become communities that thrive.
Texts that inspired this post (besides those that were already mentioned above):
- The Antiracist Writing Workshop: How to Decolonize the Creative Classroom by Felicia Rose Chavez
- Being the Change by Sara K. Ahmed
- Black Boy Joy edited by Kwame Mbalia
- Risk. Fail. Rise. by M. Colleen Cruz
Sarah Krajewski teaches high school English and Journalism near Buffalo, New York. She is about to begin her 20th year of teaching, and is always looking for new, creative ways to encourage her students to read and write. At school, she is known for helping students become lifelong readers, and for being a devoted reader herself who “knows her books.” You can follow Sarah on Twitter @shkrajewski