This post is part of my effort to do NaNoWriMo in my own way this November. Instead of writing 50,000 words towards a novel, I'm trying to get writing back into my life on a regular basis. I'm challenging myself to write daily - notebook entries, articles for Choice Literacy, blog post, you name in. Let me know if you are participating in NaNoWriMo yourself. I'd love to cheer you on. Day two, done!
I was pretty worried about moving up to 7th grade from 5th. I wasn't sure if the kids would still connect with me the same. How do you connect with teenagers, or kids on the cusp of being a teen? I've never thought of myself as a fun teacher, one that jokes around and has a good time. I have nothing against it, that just isn't me. What I think I am is pretty quiet, sincere, and I wear my heart on my sleeve. I think my fifth graders (and fourth graders before that) know I love them and will do anything for them. But how would that translate in middle school? Is it ok to be that serious? Would they still enjoy my class? I know enough about kids to know when they are invested in the class, they work harder. I wasn't sure if that would be an issue. I'm grateful to say it hasn't been.
Strangely enough for me, teaching 7th isn't that different than teaching 5th. I let my love of reading and writing fly. I hug kids all the time, have cried during multiple lessons this year because I was moved by our topic, and have shared books more than I ever thought possible. I love my seventh graders. They are at such an awkward age, one I clearly remember. I love seeing what they can do, giving them a goal, and watching them demolish it. More than that, I love seeing them get the confidence to take the steps towards the person they are meant to become. One element that has surrounded us this school year, both literally and figuratively is books.
I've shared my reading life since day one of our school year. Every book I read, I share, and I read a lot. Book talks are a natural part of our day. Time for independent reading is non-negotiable. As I've been crafting a Mock Caldecott list with my friend Margie, my students have laughed at the amount of messages she and I have sent back and forth trying to come up with a list of 20. (Unsuccessfully, I might add. I think it's now going to be a list of 22. Too many good books!) Today when I was talking to one of my students about this list she laughed and said, "You both speak the language of books."
That phrase stopped me in my tracks. As I turned from her to give a reading recommendation to one kid, I saw my classroom a bit differently. I stood by the shelves getting ready to recommend Pictures of Hollis Woods while a group of kids confer about their favorite book on the couch, and a pair of girls discussed what on earth Westerfeld's Uglies was really about. An eighth grade returned a book she had borrowed saying it wasn't for her, but she was reading another one I recommended and loving it, while a sixth grader came in sure I had ordered the new book in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. (I hadn't! Need to remedy). Our classroom is filled up the brim with the language of books and I love it.