My Letter, or List.

Pre-note: Good luck to all my lovely Methods ladies on their finals and those going to student-teach. I will miss you all dearly.

Since I’m such a fan of lists I thought a list may be appropriate for my justification blog. Then I asked myself why I was such a big fan of lists and I realized it’s because I have control. I then realized that having control is the one thing I learned to give up this semester. Not only control in the classroom but also in my life. To stop monitoring every action of every day and of every person. My number one thing I have learned: It is OK to not be in complete control.

(but I’m going to make a list anyways…to stay organized)

1. Failure is not to be feared, it’s to be embraced and challenged. Failure is to be expected. We are all human and we all make mistakes. Show your students you are a “mistake maker” but show them how you can overcome mistakes and succeed.

2. Learning is infinite. To be successful as a teacher you have to always be a learner. The learning experience keeps you fresh and creative. It keeps your mind running rather than walking. Learn from colleagues, learn from reading, learn from mistakes, and learn from your students. Learn until you can’t learn anymore…and then learn some more!

3. Writing is fun, yes fun. I hate to admit this, but I was a terrible writer before Methods; I had lost my spunk. I lost any reason to write for fun, to write for me, to write just because I could. I feel like this realization of WRITING BECAUSE IT’S FUN is one that I have to revive in my students. We become to accustom to writing for a purpose that writing becomes a task rather than an enjoyment. I want to engage my students in authentic writing and personal writing. I want them to feel encouraged to write about their lives as well as their learning experiences because they can, not because they “have to.”

4. Social Justice rocks. Laura Christensen’s “Teaching for Joys and Justice” is one of the most influential professional development books I have been blessed to read. I’ve always known that there was more to being an “English” teacher than just the subject. Social Justice helps students connect their learning experiences to “real-life” experiences. It also helps to create a “classroom community” as well as a community of learners outside the classroom.

5. Grades don’t have to be a letter…and thank goodness. This was one of the most difficult topics for me this semester. How do you handle grades? How do you justify a student’s work to the “authorities” or even their parents? How will a student know how he/she is doing? How will I stay sane? I don’t want to be the “letter grade” teacher and I don’t want my students to rely on the grade as a symbol of their learning. I’m so thankful that Portfolios, Project Based Learning, and Inquiry Based Learning were introduced to my life. I can’t wait to actually USE these in a classroom and let my students experiment.

6. Be bold and be resilient. Classroom management requires respect and boundaries. I still can’t get over how much I enjoyed Dr. Ellington’s “hunt down” of her students. I fully plan to adapt this method for my first years of teaching. I’ve got to let the kids know I’m serious about their learning and they need to be serious about it too.

7. Have faith. I’ve learned that you can have all the materials, all the tools, and all the planning but sometimes that just isn’t enough. You never know how a lesson is going to work or how it will work with different students. I’ve learned that I have to have faith in myself and I have to believe in my students. I have to know when something isn’t working, breathe, and adapt.

8. Thuggin’ hard is not a lost cause. One of the most important things I’ve learned is that no matter how much a student may test my patience, misbehave, or refuse to do their work, I have to keep pushing them. I also have to be aware of situations that don’t occur in my classroom. I have to not only teach but also care and be a supporter for my students.

9. Change takes time. I’ve learned that I am going to be one of the “new radicals” heading into teaching. I am going to have all these big bright ideas contrasting with the old “system.” I have to be willing to accept that I may be an outcast but never allow my ideas to become dormant. NCTE restored my faith in the “virus” of change. So many people came together to share a love for teaching, a love for learning, and a desire for change. I may not be able to transform an entire curriculum but I can transform my classroom and my strategies. I have to be at peace with making small change and infecting others one person at a time.

10. I’m ready. The final thing that I’ve learned is that I am SO ready to be in a classroom. Before this course I was scared to death of the multiple metal desks filled with adolescent bodies. I feared that I wasn’t going to be able to perform my duties as a teacher; that I didn’t have the tools I needed. However, I’ve learned that I have always had everything I need BUT I need to continue developing and learning. I’ve learned that people, blogs, and books are here to patch up any lost or missing pieces. And I’ve learned that mini-lessons and workshops go together like peanut butter and jelly. Delicious learning.

I honestly just want to end this blog thanking all my wonderful, adorable, cat-loving, intelligent classmates. I have never had a class that I actually MISSED not having or desired to have it more. You all have challenged me to become not only a better teacher but also a better learner. I love that we all share the same passion for teaching and compassion for helping others. I have unbreakable faith in every single one of you; you are all going to be fantastic teachers.

Dr. Ellington, I feel like you deserve the biggest thank you. You have inspired me like no other professor to challenge the system and to “be you.” You have the perfect answers to every question as well as comfort to every fear. You have enabled me to accept failure and mistakes. But most of all, you have shown me just how much a student will learn and understand when they have control over their own learning. You didn’t ‘require’ much of us this semester yet I’ve learned more in this class than I have my whole 3.5 years of being at CSC. You gave us the control and now I am comfortable giving control to my students. Seriously, thank you so much; for the learning, for the experiences, for the opportunities, for the wonderful snacks, and for providing us with faith.

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