I’m back in Dallas after what was the most ideal break I can possibly imagine. After a week of sleeping and eating and spending time with some of my family, I began to really be able to reflect on my life right now and my role as a teacher. In addition to my personal reflecting, I am re-reading Teaching As Leadership that is a foundation for how Teach for America trains teachers and tonight I started to read Teaching Like a Champion by Doug Lemov, at the recommendation of a mentor of mine. All of these things have my mind racing (hence my blogging at nearly 2am) with ideas, strategies and techniques for how to take my classroom and make it a transformative place that changes the life trajectories of my 172 students.
At parent conferences a couple of weeks ago, I spoke to a student and the conversation we had really has been influential on my thoughts. When my students come to my room during parent conferences, I always ask to see their report cards so I can see all of their grades. I then comment on their grades in individual classes before telling them whether or not they have a “college bound” report card. (We have talked about what types of grades are needed to get into college.) Why my conversation with this particular student stands out is because he was failing all of his classes except mine, and in mine he had only a 78%. (Which is particularly unfortunate considering my class is Spanish 1 for non-native speakers and in addition to my Spanish class, he is taking Spanish 2 for native speakers.) This student came with his father, who, aware of his son’s grades told me he didn’t know what else to do to show his son how important education is. (The father, who doesn’t speak English commented on the class slogan I have up on the wall “A ver es saber. Mi elección es mi destino.”-To see is to know. My choice is my destiny.) But in reference to my conversation with my student, I asked him what he wanted to be when he grows up. He told me that he didn’t know. I responded to say that it is fine to not know what you want to be when you grow up (I mean, I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up.) but that in order to be able to choose what you want to be when you grow up, you have to work hard in school in order to allow/maintain a variety of opportunities.
When we start the new semester, my kids are going to hear me constantly talking about how we want to be “college bound.” That is not to say that I am pressuring my students to go to college (or at least that’s what I’ll tell them) but that I want them to have the ability to CHOOSE whether or not they go to college. My students that don’t know what they want to do when they grow up, or appear apathetic about college and careers, are difficult to invest in the day-to-day of school. However, none of them like the idea of not having choices, so by shifting the perspective, I feel like it is much harder for a student to tell me that they want to be forced into whatever they will be when they grow up.
I’m excited about the signs I’m going to put up around my classroom saying “Education is Opportunity,” “Life is learning – Learning is life,” and my favorite “Education is everything.” I want my students to see our classroom as a building block that, with many other building blocks (other classes and activities) will lead to a range of opportunities and a promising future.
As someone who was not always terribly invested in education until after high school, I want to help my students value their education and developing habits and beliefs that will lead them to success starting NOW.
I take my position a teacher and a role model very seriously and I hope that I am able to help my students to become productive, self-motivated young individuals. I’m honored and humbled by what my students overcome in their lives outside of school and I want them to overcome challenges in school. I’m so lucky to be able to work with a group of young people with so much potential. I am the luckiest. (Thanks Ben Folds for the inspiration.)