I have to admit, that when I was working through my undergrad program, striving to become a high school English teacher, I was really just focused on the literature. Becoming a teacher for me, at that time, was all about trying to get kids to love literature like I do – and that was it. I wasn’t concerned about “making a difference” or “touching lives.” I have a continuous love affair with the written word, and I wanted my students to feel that, too.
My K-12 Catholic school upbringing did little to prepare me for the classroom I would encounter in public education – and my undergrad program probably did even less. I entered the high school English classroom ready to connect my students to the literature I loved, but I wasn’t ready for the fact that many of them brought with them the troubles from the night before (or even the morning of!). No one prepared me to teach students who came to my class without opportunities to eat meals, or who didn’t sleep the night before due to domestic turmoil, or who came to class late because they were smoking pot before coming to school. Now, these aren’t the only students who came to my classroom – but these were the students I didn’t understand.
Kevin Honeycutt (@kevinhoneycutt) has a message that all educators should hear. While he addresses the critical need for creativity, he graciously shares his childhood experiences and how those impacted his education. I was struck by his stories of diving into the Goodwill clothing bin (because his family was too poor to shop at Goodwill) late at night, and how that affected his learning experiences on the following day. Kevin shared very personal (and gut-wrenching) stories about his father and the ways in which he was mistreated on a daily basis by the man who should have been taking care of him.
“Emotion cements learning.” It is imperative that we keep this in mind every time we interact with students. We have to remember that disengagement is not synonymous with laziness. That the quiet students in the back need us to help create positive classroom experiences so the learning that is “cemented” is positive. We also need to remember that we have to hold the bar just as high for those students who sit in the back, and that we need to find alternative, creative methods to help them reach the bar.
This is one of those presentations that I’m so glad that METC has archived – I need to sit through it a few more times as I’m sure there are several invaluable nuggets that I missed.