Saturday, March 29, 2014

Literature in the Classroom: It's Not About Us

"Mrs. Farmer, I want to answer that question. Yeah, Ms. Dodd's wanted to kill Percy cause he was a bad kid. He got in trouble a lot," exclaims Katie enthusiastically.

"Great Katie! Tell me more," I quickly respond.

As she spoke, I stood there--stunned. This young lady struggled, not just academically, but in life. Most of the talks we've had together consisted of her frustrations with her family life. The fact that her mother and father have both served prison terms, along with list of other extended family members.

In class, she is--that student--the one with a dazed expression, almost looking through you. No matter how many times I've called on her this year, I just couldn't get through. So, I began to give up, not wanting to bother. It just seemed too hard. Isn't that sad to admit? But, the truth hurts.

Now, as she sat in front of me, with a smile on her face and a glimmer in her eyes, I stood as the happiest teacher on earth!

"What happened?" I thought to myself.

As a class, we'd just switched novels. I'd planned on reading a historical fiction novel called, Moccasin Trail along with Native American poetry. But, as we began the unit, all I heard were moans and groans. I'd like to blame myself. Was I not teaching with enough passion? Was I failing to "hook" them into the lessons? Well, maybe, but maybe they just weren't into it.

All I know is this--I want a classroom of engaged readers and writers. How can I make that happen?

Katie helped me to realize that it isn't always about our personal passions as teachers. More importantly, it's about our students. What are their passions as readers? What will they connect with?

Also, I've learned that flexibility is key. My students didn't connect with Moccasin Trail. So, instead of fighting an uphill battle--I threw it out.

Does that make me weak? I don't think so. By listening and finding what resonates to their learning I create a climate of success. Right now--I've got a classroom full of happy kids who can't wait to read!

Katie helped me to grow as a teacher this week with the awakening that it's not all about me.

It's all about my students.

Side note: What was the magical novel that connected so well to Katie, and brought a light to her eyes? That would be-- The Lightning Thief  by Rick Riordan. Funny enough Rick was a middle grades History and English teacher for fourteen years!

Websites about the author:


Beth said...

Flexibility is a great trait to have as a teacher, and I agree it is not a sign of weakness-in fact I think being rigid shows a lack of real strength.. I love reading about the students who respond positively to all your hard work and caring!

middlegradesteacher said...

Thanks, Mom! I love your comments. You're an inspiration!