Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Don't Let Acronyms Steal Your Joy

It's been almost a month since the last time I've had a chance to sit still and write.  As I know I've said in previous posts, this year of teaching has definitely been my most busy.  I'm not complaining; this level of busy-ness is of my own doing.  My seventh grade English class has essentially become a writing class.  This has created more work in the form of reading and editing and revising various pieces of writing almost constantly with students, but that's something about which I'm very excited and proud.  When I completed my first year of teaching, I felt like my biggest deficiency was in teaching my students how to write.  I love to write, and I always have, but I couldn't seem to articulate to students how to carry out the writing process in the most effective way.  After much professional reading and personal reflection, I came to the understanding that everyone's writing process is unique and personal. I can provide the general steps, but the best way for me to teach my students to write is to model my love for writing and my life as a writer.  I blog with them. I write analytical essays with them. And most importantly, I conference with them.  This has become much more convenient with the use of Google Drive and Kidblog, and it's been the biggest and most beneficial change in my writing workshop. Now, I can be right next to a student in his or her struggle to write.  It's awesome, and I've seen a huge difference in the depth of analysis and thought in my students' writing. 

It's also incredibly time consuming.  Hence, I am writing a lot of stuff on Kidblog and with my students, but I've not had the most time to write any Wisdom from the Middle. 

Now that I've provided that very lengthy introduction, I have a confession to make. A couple weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending the AMLE conference in Nashville, and while I was there I had the opportunity to reflect on my school year so far. In those moments of reflection away from the children, I realized that this year I have caved to the pressure of curriculum and testing in a big way.  As I sat listening to keynote speakers and presenters discuss the importance of relationships and rapport at the middle level, I couldn't help but think of all the times I've been too busy to talk with a student in between classes this year or the times that I really needed two days for a lesson, but the pacing guide only allowed me the one day. Sitting in an incredibly cold conference room at AMLE, I resolved to take a metaphorical chill pill when it comes to PARCC and CCSS and every other acronym that is attempting to steal my love for teaching and my positive attitude and my desire to genuinely make the world a better place for my students.

As sad as it is to admit, it's pretty easy to let the everyday requirements of teaching get you down.  You know what I realized? Test scores don't bring back my joy.  Smiling kids who are excited to come in my classroom and write in their blogs and share their stories with me are what bring me joy every. single. day. Kids who check Harry Potter out of my classroom library and exhibit the same excitement that I did as a kid bring me joy every day. And you know what? If kids feel safe and valued in the classroom, if they feel like it's a safe place to make mistakes and grow and become better readers and writers, they're going to do just fine on whatever test the state decides they have to take.  The most important thing I can do as a teacher is show kids that they matter, and in middle school, a time when you start to question who you are or doubt your worth, showing kids that their ideas and their work matter is probably the most important lesson I can impart.