This week I’ve been thinking a lot about several things relating to our Special Methods class and my future classroom. Often I feel like I’m a week or two behind in reflecting and responding because I have so much information to digest and think about before commenting.
One question I have is how do we reach the students who refuse our invitation to be readers and writers? We will always have students that will be motivated to do whatever they need to in order to get an ‘A’; kids that will be compliant because it’s their nature. No matter how hard we try and how enticing our invitation is, no matter how hard we try to make the work in our class important and authentic, no matter how enthusiastic we are at the head of each 8 a.m. class, there will always be that one kid. That kid who sits in the back row, arms crossed, dripping with snide and sarcasm. That kid that never drops his defenses and sneers instead of smiles. As a parent I know once you begin an argument with any kid, you lose. So as teachers what do we do? Obviously we don’t give up, but what else?
I’ve always been a reader. I don’t remember a time when I was wasn’t. I do remember hating kindergarten because we didn’t “learn” anything. I could already read beginning chapter books and my classmates didn’t know the alphabet. I don’t know how to talk to people who aren’t readers. I don’t know how to get reluctant readers excited about books. I don’t understand why someone wouldn’t want to have a book going at all times. I know how important reading is—I see the difference in my kids’ friends who aren’t readers and the kids that come for writer help who struggle with reading—they lack so much general information, so much knowledge to draw on for everything. They don’t notice detail, have trouble organizing their thoughts and expressing themselves. During one free write I talked about how reading is a superpower and I truly believe that. It’s the one superpower that anyone can have. How do we get our students to recognize that too?
One of the goals for our future language arts classrooms, that we brainstormed at the beginning of the semester, was for each of our students to have at least one profound experience with material they read or wrote. Two weeks ago Shannon hit a homerun with a free write about bravery and writing. Nobody wanted to share what they wrote after Shannon read her piece and after a several moments of silence Dr. E turned it into a mini-lesson on vulnerability and judgment in our own writing. It was true we all thought we sucked compared to Shannon at that moment, but what if we thought about that not as moment of cowardice but one of honor? What if that was Shannon’s profound moment? Maybe we felt that not allowing her moment to stand would lessen it in some way. I think the structure of that class will lead all of us to our own profound moment if we are brave enough to reach for them.