Friday, December 2, 2011

Be the Change...

I love quotes. Enter my classroom and you will see upwards of 50 quotes around the room. Quotes from “real” people like Eleanor Roosevelt and from characters like Albus Dumbledore. There are also quotes from students, from authors, anyone I am inspired by. One of my favorites is from Mahatma Gandhi, “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” I try to live by this quote, as a teacher I try and create the environment in my classroom that I wish was in every classroom. I can’t change everyone but if I influence one person, if I help one student, that is something, right?

Then I read the newspaper, I look online. Education, educators, are under attack. It is a hard time for our profession. But I still keep teaching, hoping my passion for literacy will do more. And then, there are days like today. The ones you need to keep you motivated. The days that you truly have your eyes open.

My students come in the room at 8:10. They drop backpacks on their tables, unpack, turn homework in, do lunch count on our Promethean, and visit. It’s a normal day, but my eyes were open. I began looking, really looking. And when you do that, you begin to see traces of your influence.

As I watched them unpack I saw the towers begin to form. Each child stacked their folders, assignment books, notebooks, then their books from home. Every child was pulling out at least one book, many two or three. These books are all different, no assigned reading texts, just independent reading books. Post-its are placed haphazardly in their books, as bookmarks and as note holders. Then I began to open my ears. Heard students tossing comments around like, “You won’t believe what happened in Eragon last night.” Or, “My mom finally made me turn off my light at 9:30 but I snuck it back on so I could read some more.” Or, “Man, Mrs. S didn’t tell me the dad is so evil in this book, I wanted to slap him.” And as I was listening I had a student come up to tell me that a “tragedy had befell” her this morning. Penny Dreadful was left at home so she wouldn’t be able to read it today, what would she do? Students from my other two reading classes popped in before heading to their rooms just to tell me about what they read last night or to ask if I thought they should revise their goal for the year, they had already read 45 books and their goal was 50 by May. Was 100 a better goal?

And my day didn’t end there. In my second class of the day a boy who would be classified as a “dormant” reader (thanks Donalyn) had picked up Sharon Creech’s Love that Dog yesterday. I had read the first three pages to demonstrate reading fluency. He came up after the lesson to ask if I thought he’d like it. I was skeptical, he is a hard sell, but told him it is about a connection between an amazing teacher and a student who doesn’t like poetry. He took it, made the comment that it was about he and I, and moved on. Today he gave it back to me saying, “That Sharon Creech sure knows how to write for boys. Did she write a sequel?”

My third class is my homeroom. A voracious reader is reading Kate Messner’s upcoming Eye of the Storm. She has also organized a group to read Kate’s Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z. Apparently they’ve been studying up on Kate. My student came in and mentioned that Jaden in Eye of the Storm was given a new bike in Kate’s favorite color, light blue. Hmm. I asked how she knew that was Kate’s favorite color. Her reply, “Well, she mentions it on her website.”

And more and more. Examples of literacy spilling over into their lives. Examples of my students growing as readers. My wonderful friend Donalyn has said that our goal is to teach ourselves out of a job. I don’t want my students so reliant on me for book recommendations that once they move on; they are paralyzed when thinking about what to read. Today showed me that yes, they have listened. They have grown. And they are on their way.