Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Core Belief 1: I Believe in Students

At the end of Kelly Gallagher's terrific writing book, Write Like This, there's a chapter with his ten core beliefs about the teaching of writing. I have, since finishing his book two years ago, been working on my own core beliefs about teaching. Here is one of them.

I Believe in Students

At some point in my teacher certification program, we were asked if we were going to be a "sage on the stage" or a "guide on the side." For me, with my shiny college degree and plenty of expertise in English and history, the answer was obvious.

I was going to be a sage on the stage.

I still am sometimes. There are days, or moments, or lessons, when I stand in front of my students and tell them, tell them, tell them something, and hope it sticks.

But, in more recent years, I have worked deliberately to not stand in front of the room and teach at my students. I repurposed the podium and rearranged my classroom so it wasn't facing the SmartBoard. I left the walls blank when school started so that we could fill them, together. I let my students influence our next read-aloud; I change course in our history study based on their interests. I skip a lesson, or I teach it twice.

I Believe in Students.

Sometimes they make this difficult. They will work hard to convince me that they cannot do something. "I cannot learn all those countries," they say, and turn in the quizzes and tests to prove it. "I cannot read A Tale of Two Cities," they say, and then they don't. "I cannot use a comma," they say, and they don't, or they throw one in wherever.

I Believe in Students. Even when they don't want me to.

Our students can do difficult things. They can learn where to put 160+ countries on a map. They can follow the situation in Ukraine. They can read fifty books in a school year, and write a novel, and cry for Sydney Carton. They can, each year, learn a few more rules for commas.

I Believe in Students.

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