Friday, November 14, 2014

Letting My Students In

Yesterday, it happened. That point in the year where you realize that you’ve clicked as a teacher and a class. Not that great things haven’t been happening all along this year, just that yesterday we reached the point where I knew something special would happen this year. That our relationship as a classroom family is now strong enough that we can achieve great things.

My former principal used to tell me that I could ask my students to reach for the moon and they would try their hardest to do just that. I always told him that the reason for that was simple; I worked hard to build relationships with my students. The more that I share of myself, the more they trust me. It is a dance we perform all year long. But always, every year, I hit the turning point. The point where I know we are there and then it’s all uphill from there.

Yesterday was nothing special. I felt horrible. A head cold and stomach bug were enough to make me want to stay home, but to school I went. (Today, however, I am typing this at home on a sick day.) Our language arts lesson was a read aloud of one of our Mock Caldecott nominees, Peter Brown’s My Teacher is A Monster. As I read it to the first class, one student immediately asked if I knew Peter and if he was nice. I stopped immediately to tell them what I knew: that Peter Brown is one of my absolute favorite authors and one of the kindest folks I’ve met. I moved to the back of the room to our picture book display and grabbed every book I owned by Peter. Then, they asked if I had a photo of him. I quickly went to my blog and shared this video from NCTE last year:

By sharing the video, we began to talk about NCTE. Why I go, what is important about it, why I would bother to fly and present when both are things that trigger my anxiety. We had amazing conversations about what is important to me, why I respect the teachers and authors I see there, and more.

Impromptu Author Study
This is not a part of a lesson that could be tied to any Common Core State Standards, but I would argue it is likely more important than most of the lessons I will teach this year. It showed me how much my students already knew about me and how connected we are. In watching the video, each class shouted out when they saw their favorite authors and began to create piles of their books on the table in our room doing their own impromptu author studies. Each class asked if I could find a list of the authors that would be there and take photos with their favorites because, and I quote, “It will be like we are there too.” I promised to tweet them from the conference, they promised to teach my mom (who is my substitute while I’m gone) Twitter.

Yesterday was an amazing chance to reflect, it was a moment where I got to see what we have accomplished already in twelve weeks. And today? I get to sit at home, watch them add their thoughts to Padlet, approve their comments and blogs, read their Tweets, and reflect in what an amazing job I get to have. Hopefully I will also rest and recuperate so that I am 100% healthy for that amazing conference next week. I am truly blessed.

The snow falling outside made our day even more magical.