Becoming a teacher isn’t as simple as going to college and taking the right courses. It isn’t as easy as standing up in front of a group of learners and saying the right things. It isn’t enough to know your subject and be passionate about it.
Becoming a teacher–one who make a difference in children’s lives–is a lifelong endeavor to be the best you can be, to understand yourself, to understand the people you are working with, to think and reflect and wonder and ask questions constantly, and to almost always work harder than any other friend you have in any other profession. Becoming a teacher is a lifelong endeavor to connect… to communicate… to encourage… to support… to challenge set ways of thinking… to scaffold learners to become smarter, more efficient and effective at learning in every way they can–while you, yourself, are doing the same.
About a dozen years into what is now my 36+ year teaching career, I had the opportunity to participate in the National Writing Project at the University of Virginia. I have vivid memories of conversations about how to manage writing in the classroom. I have vivid memories of talking about choice and how students need to own their writing. I have incredibly vivid memeries of sharing my own writing with teaching colleagues and learning about responding to writing in ways that opened up new possibilities rather than shut students down. I remember pairing up with a colleague at a nearby school and doing inservices for both of our staffs. (Our schools were only a couple of miles apart.) I remember watching my kindergarten students write and marveling at their ability to share their thoughts and create on paper.
We wrote, we read, we talked books and stories and word choices and authors’ craft. We studied authors’ styles and read series of books to delve into the characters, looking not only for consistency across the books, but the innate character flaws–or strengths–that made us remember that character. We talked HUGE themes–courage, fear, abandonment, acceptance, coming of age, how young children experience life and we learned about other cultures as we read and talked together. The kids who have come though my classes remember my passion about reading and writing, and often share their own today in many ways.
Recently I found a former student on Facebook–one who is now in her mid 20s, working in a nearby high school. In one of our first interactions, I asked her if she remembered a specific character we had studied when she was in kindergarten. Her response blew me away–
Paula White January 8 at 10:12am
Do you remember doing Author Studies in Kindergarten or First grade?? Like, do you now remember anything about Tomie de Paola, for example (the Strega Nona, Big Anthony series)
As I thought about Aynsley, and what she’s doing with her students, I realized I work with several of those students who grew up in rooms where we–we as teachers–had worked to study how to teach writing. In the past few years I have had the pleasure to work with colleagues who grew up as students in one of those two schools–who came through them as learners when we were talking and thinking about how to encourage student writing because of the National Writing Project. I watch these young people listen carefully, provide opportunities for their own students to write and think and share their thoughts. I watch these enthusiastic beginning teachers share their own thinking and their own words with their young charges and I realize that the experience I had in the mid 80s has impacted more than the students that were in my classroom. The legacy moves through our classrooms as those students grow up, continue to write and listen carefully and think about the message others are sharing. I believe that the National Writing Project has had an unbelievable impact on education in America–and that we absolutely NEED to save this initiative to continue to make a difference in the lives of our learners. Won’t you please blog4NWP and share your experiences? Won’t you join us in the effort to reinstate the funding our politicians have chosen to eliminate?
Your voice matters–just ask my Kindergarteners.