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186 Unique Lessons

I've been working on this post for a while now. I wanted to write an end-of-the-year reflection on my third year of teaching, and I had initially planned to write a lesson that each of my 186 students had taught me this year. Along the way, I felt like it worked more to include some general reflective lessons I've learned, too. So here's a list, although it certainly isn't 186 items long!
  1. Don't assume a student's work was done by someone else. They just might be able to write in cursive. 
  2. Students can be incredibly mature and think globally. Give them this prompt, and you might just be surprised: "The world needs to have a conversation about..." For this student, it was "unity." 
  3. Quiet doesn't mean they can't contribute. They just might need an extra push. 
  4. Helping a friend memorize her recitation might just mean the first friend memorizes it too. 
  5. Students have writing interests outside our class. In fact, they might write so much that the English teacher gets overwhelmed with the frequent Google Doc invitations. 
  6. Second languages come in really handy when reading a children's book with Spanish words. If you're lucky, she might just teach you how to pronounce a few. 
  7. Students are able, willing, and patient helpers. Give them a real, authentic person to help, and they'll rise to the occasion.  
  8. Give a student a little room to create a club, and she just might make it bigger than you ever anticipated, develop writing prompts, plan summer get-togethers, and so much more.
  9. Just because a student is absent, it doesn't mean she wants to be. Ask her story and see how you can help.
  10. Give a student the chance to act, and he can really come alive in ways that you've wanted him to all year. 
  11. Find a student that you can trust to raise the bar high, and call on him or her first. Not only do they get used to it, they might just help challenge their peers to be even better. 
  12. Leonard Whiting's derrière can really get students' attention. 
  13. Students are always watching, especially when you drive through their neighborhoods. Don't text and drive. 
  14. If a student doesn't bring your book back even though he moves, it might be because he wants to keep reading, not because he doesn't care. 
  15. Being a first-generation American is a completely different experience for students, and this can be leveraged and shared. And I'll just go ahead and say this can count as RL.9-10.6, too. What's more powerful than a real person's experiences from outside the United States? 
  16. Find a way to bridge what a student is reading with what they care about. You'll get better work, even if everything is about technology. 
  17. Some students have an incredible amount of familial responsibility at home. They can then turn this into one heck of an argumentative paper. 
  18. Even though the earbuds are in, they can really hear you sometimes. 
  19. Graphic novels can work wonders to hook readers, and other students need to be pushed to rethink their assumptions about text complexity. 
  20. Reminding students that he or she "will fail" if they don't turn in an assignment doesn't motivate. As teachers, we have to build students up! 
  21. Spend a little bit more time introducing students to the sections of the classroom library at the beginning of the year. If you don't, your books will end up on different shelves. Make your strategic shelving clear and obvious. 
  22. Teaching during your prep is exhausting. That time is much more sacred to me now, having lived a year without it. 
  23. When students ask why, be prepared to answer. 
  24. The Rose That Grew from Concrete will need to be replaced for a sixth time in three years. Tupac really did something right here. 
  25. Authentic writing is really, really hard work. There were so many times that I and my students wanted to give up during our personally relevant argument unit, but we persevered. Many of the same students wrote that this was the most meaningful piece of writing they've done all year. 
  26. It hurts when a student leaves without saying goodbye. This is something that schools of education can't teach in college. 
... to be continued. 

Comments

  1. I have so much I could comment on here, but I am going to choose to comment on something seemingly insignificant, but it matters, I promise.

    I did not love Tupac's collection of poetry. In fact, I was disappointed because I was hoping for something deeper. Instead I found it a tad pedestrian. So I didn't buy it for my classroom library after I checked it out at the library.

    But then I had a student who found a Tupac poem online and chose it as his poem to memorize for our end-of-poetry month celebration. This was one of my students who hated to read and who would rather be seen as macho than smart. But he got up in front of the class and gave such a sensitive and powerful performance that it choked me up.

    So I think I need to stop being a gatekeeper and just buy a copy of that book already.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I felt the same way at first, too. Then students started making a list of who would check it out next. They began sharing them with each other in class. I think it helped me make the point that "texts" and "writers" are larger categories than we think.

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