by Pattie Sloan and Joan Flora: two teachers challenging classroom status quo
It is just a little after the New Year, the time for resolutions, and by the time this is posted and read by you, I am fairly confident I will have broken a few of my steadfast resolves made on New Year’s Eve. It’s not that I am extremely shallow; rather, I extremely human.
- Finish Anna Karenina: Well, let’s face it, she jumps in front of a train-and dies. And it’s Russian so it takes her forever to do it. And with that knowledge, I am off the hook.
- Lose five pounds: well, since they are the same pounds from 2012 and 2013, I might as well just make friends with them because, obviously, they are going nowhere!
- Not to roll my eyes when a student asks how long the sentence, paragraph, paper should be. Yeah, I rolled my eyes right after I made that one!
- Be more disciplined, disciplined, and disciplined!
Just the thought of that one made me want hot chocolate and a nap! I’ll be back in 30 minutes!
But I do have some resolves for the classroom that emerged from the blog postings, and they are achievable! (and I can drink hot cocoa while doing them! YAY, me!)
January 20th is Martin Luther King Day, so I integrated his wisdom with some ideas from our former posts.
Drum roll, please:
- Think universally! Focus on the global idea of each book. As soon as we teach a book only cover to cover, we teach our students that the ideas of the book end the moment we close the book, but if the books tell the truth about who we are as people, they never end. Truth must be examined and discussed-and then acted on!
- Place value on the themes, the big ideas, that drove the writers to set down their complex story. Discuss the invaluable societal issues introduced in their reading. The knowledge of the issues, including the circumstances that create them and possible solutions to end them, will make our students better citizens. There has never been a more urgent time for people knowledgeable of their world. Teaching students to be involved and passionate creates people of integrity.
Value and practice close reading! And in repeating this practice, we ensure our students will make this part of their academic DNA. Empower them to be masters of their own educational experience. Don’t assume they understand–students are great actors. Empower all of them (yes, even the three boys in the back playing with their new Star Wars figures) to be a meaningful part of the classroom because of your facilitation of their learning and thinking. Every athlete works on fundamentals, so why would our classroom be any different? Coach them to success. Practice, practice, practice!
- Challenge yourself to be literate and not just a teacher of literacy. There is a profound difference. Read random books that have nothing to do with your reality because they really do! Everything is connected! Haunt your local used bookstore and find books with intriguing titles and begin the adventure. And if this sounds too daunting, remember, you don’t have to finish it! But you do need to know and to teach the ideas that are important! Often times we are not aware of the Big Ideas that are circulating about our local/global community. But we can learn them!
- Be a copycat! Joan finds many teachers doing the most excellent practices, and my goal is to copy them! I have never understood why we did not spend more time discovering what other teachers were doing that rocked the classroom and copied it! Push your ego aside and learn something new! Ask a fellow teacher if you may observe them and then watch their confusion. And then watch them smile! Remember, when we learn from our peers; we learn a new pattern to put in our bag of best practices. We don’t lose autonomy; we gain power!
- Be enthused: Sometimes you will appear to be the only one enthusiastic in the classroom (“Class, adverbs today. BOYAH!”), but enthusiasm is contagious. Be a virus in your classroom, and help your students all come down with a case of passion! Get excited about your curriculum! Smile and laugh, wide and loud. It really confuses your co-workers and makes you a hero to your students. And it will make you a smarter person because laughing causes more oxygen to be sent to your brain,which will help you avoid becoming brain dead, which I am told by my wise father, is a very good thing.
And remember the words of a wise friend, “You can only do your best.”