I had two good moments today for every bad moment yesterday. My favorite moment came at the end of the day when two students came into my room to waste time between school and practice. Both of these girls finished All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven two days ago, and have been anxiously waiting for me to finish as well. "Have you finished yet?" "Not yet. I will though. I promise!" "Well... where are you in it? What can we talk about?" I thought for a moment. I'm a few chapters in, but I keep flipping back to the epigraph by Ernest Hemingway. "The world breaks everyone, and afterward, many are strong at the broken places." When I looked up, they were giving each other a baffled version of side eye.
"I didn't see that part." "Me either. That's actually really cool. Who is Ernest Hemingway?" Be still, my beating heart. I listened and prompted as they unpacked his quote and asked Siri a slew of questions about Hemingway. I drove home smiling, and was reminded of the beauty in this daily writing challenge. Yesterday was hard. Today was easier. Thank you for lifting me up on the bad days so that I can look forward to the better ones.
For the past two weeks, my sophomores have been creating speeches about what it means to be a learner versus someone who plays the game of school.
I poured hours into this assignment, and was so excited to see what they would do with it.
While a few students hooked into it, so many students were creating carbon copy speeches of my example.
I was disappointed. We'd read through numerous articles that approached this topic from different angles. I'd created a Flipgrid response where several adults reflected on how the way they interacted with their high school education has impacted their adult life. I gave my own personal testimony, and we reflected in our journals every single day.
So, after giving a great deal of feedback, I tried again with a more straightforward approach.
I took an example paper from last trimester that looked a whole lot like so many of the papers I was seeing.
This group likes to critique, and they're pretty awesome at it.
"This falls flat at the end, like the writer just kind of gave up and repeated himself."
"The arguments feel generic. Actually, it looks kind of like my paper."
Small group conversations focused largely on these two ideas. I explained that while this paper technically meets the requirements of the assignment, the student isn't really taking advantage of this opportunity to reflect and to understand something about themselves. Therefore, it's not all that interesting to read.
Something seemed to shift, and when workshop time started, hands were up calling for my attention. I was worried that students would be asking me to create their papers for them after realizing that what they'd created needed quite a bit of work.
I really shouldn't assume. They keep surprising me. Their questions were direct and specific. They didn't need me to reiterate everything I'd explained minutes before. They were applying, and just needed guidance with specific aspects of their piece.
I am pooped, but pretty excited to see how these pieces of writing develop
Even though I spent a chunk of each day working on school related tasks, I still feel like I haven't done enough. That I haven't planned lessons that will be exciting enough. That I missed a whole array of things I could have been doing instead of relaxing.
However, I feel relaxed. I feel rested. I feel full from the laughter and conversations I was able to have with family and friends over the past week.
I will work for a while tonight, and try to come to a good place with my work and with myself.
I am learning a lot right now as a new teacher. Like, a lot. Every single day. My brain is saturated with information.
Some things stay there. Some things are involuntarily swept away as new information comes barreling in.
The things that stay though are shaping the edges of my teacher brain, and I've been thinking about one piece of advice in particular over the past few days.
"We have to respect teachers where they are at. We have to respect what they do well, even if we more prominently see their shortcomings. If we do not acknowledge and respect who they are right now, we will have very little impact on their potential growth."
This is paraphrased, but is the essence of what I heard many months ago.
I feel like other teachers have given, and continue to, give me this grace.
I hope that I give other teachers this same grace.