Saturday, September 7, 2013

I'm Nobody Who Are You?: Grappling with Invisibility

I am speechless. Honestly, I wanted to reflect on my week yesterday, but so much happened in the classroom this week that just blew me away, I've found it difficult to focus on what to write about.

When I started this year, the students were very well behaved. Whatever I planned, they just did it. I went home with more energy, and I thought, "Hey, this is alright!" But, after a few weeks, I got bored. This group is too quiet. Growing up, my mom always thought I was borderline ADD. It would bother me that she said that, but I know she was right. In school, I would get bored so easily, and as soon as I got bored, the doodling would begin-- flowers were my favorite. I could easily have an entire garden drawn by the end of one class. I think that is why I get so bothered if I catch a kid doodling. I know it's not them-- it is me. I'm not engaging them in the learning.

So, although it is tough, I work to figure ways to keep the students at the center of the learning. It's not about me being tired or not. I've got to keep them moving everyday. The momentum must be high. For this achievement unit, the students clicked quickly with the book, Million Dollar Throw. The characters relate easily to their own lives. Yesterday, we read about a character named Abby, the best friend of Nate, the main character. She loves and supports Nate. She pushes him to be the best at everything, and wants him to be in the spotlight. However, she does not. She likes to be in the background. Abby states, "You know me. I like to be invisible and let everybody else tell the story." This statement made me think of one of my favorite poems by Emily Dickinson, "I'm Nobody, Who Are You".

After reading the chapter from the Million Dollar Throw, the students read a biography of Emily Dickinson. We discussed her life and her decision to live secluded from others. Then, we read the poem. I discussed that in our world of glorifying celebrities, it is difficult to understand why someone would want to be invisible or live in the background of others, but Dickinson offers a voice for all those who don't find celebrity appealing. That maybe it's ok to be in the background. We also discussed the difficulties of feeling "invisible". It can also be difficult when we feel invisible when maybe we don't want to be.

Next, I had the students write their response to the word, "invisible". They were asked to write--just write--their feelings, their experiences. My only request was that they relate their writing back to either the character Abby or the poem by Dickinson, and add in textual evidence from the texts.

I timed them, and pushed them to write quickly, not hesitating on how it sounded. Whatever they thought is what I wanted on the paper.

Once, I felt that I got my best out of them. I offered my own "invisible" story-- a time as a 6th grader when I was rejected socially by someone I thought was a good friend. When that happened to me, I wanted to be invisible. I also offered a mini lesson on public speaking, because I wanted students to come to the front and share their experiences. This was huge, because this was a very sensitive topic. However, my goal was for my students to know that all of us, as humans on this earth, have experienced moments when we wished to be invisible.

I discussed the fear of public speaking, and what I thought of it as a timidly shy 6th grader myself. However, although shy, we must learn to persevere and put ourselves out there, so that we can be confident and strong! I discussed the importance of supporting each other by listening intently during the presentations, and clapping when each student finished.

Well-- I am still recovering from the amazing stories my students offered to share. They were so honest about their feelings, their experiences, their lives, it floored me. What was even better though was how well the other students supported each other. They clapped and said, "Way to go!" "That was awesome!" I offered praise to each student, but also offered suggestions on how it could have been better. I asked them to go ahead and add my suggestions right then. The students got right to work.

The momentum is there. Now, my mind spins on how I can keep it coming. How will I get them to be there with me everyday in everyway? No boredom. No doodles.

Quote to live by---
Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.


Beth said...

Great! This was a really good lesson on so many levels. I'm really impressed with how well the students responded!!

middlegradesteacher said...

Thanks, mom! It was one of those lessons that just clicked. Maybe because I related to it. We will be revising a choice of writings tomorrow.

Today's lesson went well, too. I'm looking forward to reading their essays. Thanks for posting!! As always, I'm so grateful to your insights! Love you.