Kristina Peterson offers us this beautiful piece on teaching.  Enjoy.  ~EMP

…then a different question presented itself: “Am I a good teacher?” And he had to answer, “No, I’m not – not always. For teaching is an art: Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t” (Strafford, The Muses Among Us 2003, 70).

Once upon a time there was a young teacher who set out to change the world. She quickly realized that she needed to start in her own classroom first. This is her story.

She began thinking about her love affair with books. This brought her back to her childhood and her imaginary friend Gizmo. She would read for hours with Gizmo. And she would make up story after story where he was the star. Gizmo stayed with her through pre-school and her two years of kindergarten (she was deemed too “immature” for first grade the first time around). A teacher told her in first grade that imaginary friends did not exist. Her therapist (from the parental divorce) said her over active imagination was a problem because she needed to fit in. She needed to make friends. Nobody wanted to be friends with the weird girl with the imaginary friend. Her creativity was squashed.

She became a teacher and during her very first back to school night a parent asked her how much creative writing would be done in her class. She was a little unsure how to answer this question—grad school taught her that academic writing was more highly valued. She told the mother that they would do some creative writing – this seemed like a safe answer. The mother smiled and explained that her daughter’s 8th grade teacher squashed the girl’s creative writing by dictating novels and forbidding creative expression. Sadly, creative writing fell by the wayside that year, and the following year as well.

Thinking back upon myself as a young child and new teacher makes me realize that I do not want to be the teacher that squashes creativity or tells a student what they think or feel is not right or of no value.

This is my plan:

  • I will expect SSR every day, for ten minutes, in an independent novel and all levels I teach.
  • I will do this without asking permission.
  • I will calculate reading rates, collect articles and gather data to back me up.
  • I will invite students to read novels with me by changing they way I instruct – journal responses, peer – to – peer discussions, letters to me and/or each other.
  • I will teach my students, not my content because if we really want to create readers, we need to meet them where they are.
  • I will not use study guides as “these devalue students’ readings” (Broz 2011).
  • I will take on a new motto: “Part of the craft of my teaching will be doing what I want to do and pretending it’s what they want me to do.”

I’d like to say “and they all lived happily ever after”.  But, that part has not been written yet.