So I know I keep starting these last few spots talking about my really awesome CO301D students, but they are awesome. Really. So I thought I’d take some time to prove it by sharing some excerpts from blogs and linking you to them. After all, they’re the future of profession, so we should pay attention.
The timing is especially right because they’re embarking on their “Unfamiliar Genre Projects,” the culminating project that will earn them their “Teacher as Writer” badge. I’ve adapted the project from an assignment originally created by Cathy Fleischer, Eastern Michigan professor and Eastern Michigan Writing Project Director, and Sarah Andrew-Vaughan, high school English teacher and EMWP teacher-consultant. Speaking of really awesome, their book Writing Outside Your Comfort Zone also falls decidedly into this category. Exactly as its title suggests, the assignment requires you to choose a genre you feel UNcomfortable writing in and just do it, create some resources for others who want to try it, then reflect on your own experiences as a writer in the process.
The twist in our class is that I’m asking students to explore some key themes that we’ve been considering together all semester long:
What are your touchstone beliefs in the purpose of public education over time and at this moment in our history? What can you do as a teacher to support your students in constructing an educated democracy–that is, a world that you, and your students, and all of us can thrive in?
So back to my students’ awesomeness. I’ve been reviewing their blogs today, and they’ve been exploring those questions already, even before they knew about the project. So without further adieu and in no particular order of awesomeness, here’s what they have to say. (Psst…you should read their blogs to hear the rest.)
BETH CAMPBELL: My voice is important. Your voice is important. I am writing to you, dear reader, to share my ideas and what I value most. The comments on this page will allow you to share your words with me. That is education. The mutual exchange of ideas in the spirit of learning and personal growth. This is the kind of education that can change the world. Not war. Not violence. Not swords. The pen. The blog. The post. The comment. The conversation. My passion is helping others realize the potential and the power behind education and all that it could be.
COLTON MYHRE: Whether it’s creative or academic, one of my main goals as a teacher is to help kids find their voice, and know that their opinions and ideas matter and are something to be said.
EMMA BURNS: As a future teacher I want to empower students to improve, challenge, and grow. From the struggling students to the over achievers–I want to create a classroom environment which never allows students to think they are incapable, dumb, or a failure.
HAILEY SPRATTE: I do feel that it is important to have students recognize that failure is something that happens to all writers. Writers block happens to everyone. It is how you overcome that failure that will define you; not the failure.
KAITLYN PHILLIPS: [from a letter to herself on her first day of teaching] You want to make a difference. The biggest way to make the best impact is to teach; teach them empathy and what it’s like to take care of one and other; teach them the implications of their politics, of their beliefs and their words; teach them to think first with their hearts, and speak and act, always, from a place of kindness. Teach them what a wonderful thing it can be to help another person, and how even more wonderful it is to love and help themselves; teach them that they have the power to totally change their lives, and the lives of others. Remember that you started doing this because you wanted your students to know how capable they are, and how powerful kindness can be.
KRISSA NIXSON: Your first priority is the education of the students, even above your desire for innovative methods to succeed.
HOLLY MAXWELL: Everything we learn in high school has a certain value. Although we may not use it once we graduate, it helps develop our mind and often leads us to deciding what we value and what we want to study while pursuing a higher education if we choose to do so.
SAVANNAH YSLAS: I think the problem with school systems is not the fact that students are being told that they are failures, but rather that they are being told that their only worth, in the eyes of a school, is a test score.
ANGELA GERARDI: I think being honest, and sincere, in our writing is in a way taking a risk. As a writer and as a potential future teacher, I think this skill would also be important when reflecting on what is working with a class, and what isn’t. Sometimes it falls on our own reflections to make necessary changes, modifications rather than following through with a master plan or course of action.
LAUREN MCCRILLIS: My students need to know that I am on their side. They need to know the classroom is a safe place; a place where everyone (including me) shares one common goal: to improve & truly learn.
SARAH BRAGG: As a writer, student, and teacher I think that self-expression through writing is one of the greatest tools for self-learning, self-growth, and opening the mind to new opinions and ideas. Learning how to express yourself through writing teaches you how to understand and express yourself in your relationships and the everyday.
MIKAELA ORR: I want to teach English to help people discover how to become world changers through their words while showing them the importance of letting other people’s words change them.
ANNA ARCURI: I think a lot of us in this class room right now may have experienced the short end of the stick with education that is primarily about testing and getting good scores. We should become the educators that make education something that it no longer is. We should no longer settle for teaching studies that our students will someday “used to know”.
ANASTASIA THIBODEAU: [from an open letter to her teachers] Thanks for all the days that you put up with my shenanigans, my questions, my endless questions, my failures, my successes, my tears, and my laughter. I have learned that it all comes with the job and no matter how tired you are at the end of the day you loved every second of watching me grow and learn just as you intended.