A trip down memory lane: Part eight
Thanks to Facebook memories, I was reintroduced to my first literacy blog I created for a grad school assignment. I am going to be reposting my old posts here. They are a reminder of why I became a teacher. They are a reminder of how I developed my teaching style. They are a reminder of my pedagogical philosophy. Many of the posts I have reread, still ring true to me and are embedded in my daily practice as a teacher.
Originally Posted on "I'm Making Readers & Writers For Life," December 11, 2011.
I have gained a ton of knowledge this semester. I was a blank canvas who knew nothing, nada, zilch, the goose egg about teaching, let alone teaching literacy. If I gained anything that teaching literacy builds the foundation for the potential to learn great things. The combination of phonological awareness, fluency, phonics, vocabulary and comprehension create a powerful reaction for tomorrow’s great learners and leaders. From what I read, experience, and speak with others about is that for some reason, someone thinks those great leaders and learners are only located in either suburban or private schools.
When I decided to go into teaching I wanted to have purpose for getting out of bed each day. Working with sweaters and male models was not cutting (yes I gave up staring at a beautiful specimen of a man for 8 plus hours, but the luster wears off fast). I wanted to make a difference in a child’s life. I did not care where this was or what type of environment it was. Then we got our second practicum placement and after a little resistance it all clicked. The school we were placed in is considered inner-city or high poverty. Most students are on subsidized lunches. I did not even realize this until a bit into the placement. I was overwhelmed with the fact I was placed in 6th grade and on my first day the students were bouncing off the walls. I was expected to teach lessons to these students? Ask anyone the following week and I was a mess. I was lucky enough to have people in my life to help talk me down from that ledge and comfort me that everything was going to be okay.
It was okay. It was more than okay! Being assigned practicum at this site opened my eyes to so many things with the education system and has given me the fire to be the best teacher I can be. I witnessed the good, the bad, and the ugly. I was fortunate to get a glimpse into the teacher’s lounge chat and was less than impressed with how these teachers spoke of their students. These teachers expect so much from their students but hold them to such low standards. Of course they will constantly disappoint you if you expect the worst. I know I am not in the trenches and standing in front of a classroom for 8 hours, so I may not understand their perspective. They could just be blowing off steam, but truly love teaching.
From the powerful talk I attended with Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings, I know these students have the odds stacked against them. I cannot even imagine their home life, but when they step into school, their district is probably investing half the amount of money that the neighboring suburban town is investing in their students. While money equals supplies it also creates an aura as well. Whenever I would step into my practicum placement, the school in general I would not feel a spirit. However, when I did step through the door of my classroom that spirit would be alive (some days). To me it seemed that everyone knew that no one was expecting greatness from the students. Their job was to move them along to high school and hope they passed their state tests. The students know this as well. When I was teaching a lesson where students were able to get up out of their seats and move about the classroom and learn at the same time they were excited. Even when they were asked what they enjoyed about the activity they were able to verbalize they loved to do something different and learn at the same time.
Working one on one with my students has also enlightened me to this downtrodden spirit. When teaching vocab to various students they would not want to try to figure out the meaning of a word. I would tell them that hard work pays off. I am not sure if anyone ever told them this. I think it was only expected of them. With just a little push my students were able to use their tools to understand a words meaning. Never have I seen a person’s face light up with such joy when I told him how smart he was and that he did a spectacular job with his work. I don’t remember what he said exactly, but it was definitely self-deprecating.
When I have my own classroom, every day I must remind myself that I have confidence in my students’ greatness. This type of spirit will have students looking forward to Monday mornings. It will have them motivated to read interesting, different books. It will make the pen move at rapid speed on the paper. These students need as much support in the school environment because they may not be getting the nurturing they deserve at home. I don’t know what their home life is like, but from the students who confided in me, I know it’s not exactly perfect.
I will take the responsibility to go the extra mile for my students to help the achievement gap close a bit tighter. I will use resources like Donors Choose to get a variety of texts in my classroom for students to be exposed to. I will speak to my students how they should be spoken to, as adults. These mini adults, as I like to call them, will rise to the occasion. They will develop amazing literary skills. They will use the books they read as model texts for the writing they soon will produce. Their lives are interesting and colorful which will create some amazing literature. This literature will start to be written in my classroom and one day may be on a bookshelf (well more like Nook).
Good teaching is good teaching. When I am down in the trenches and I feel there is no light at the end of the tunnel, I have to remind myself that this is for the students. They have been dealt a less than fair deck. The fire that I feel right now will fuel me on to give these students the academic tools for greatness. I want them to see they have not been forgotten about and that they can do anything they put their mind to.
It is hard for me to really put into words what my practicum experience has shown me. I just know that it has confirmed my decision to become a teacher. It has confirmed my decision that I can make a lasting difference in a student’s life. It has confirmed in me that I can become the change I want to see in my students.