For a little over a year now, Kari Yates and I have been working on a book! As we head into the final stages of the writing process, we are excited to share some of our ideas with others at the upcoming International Literacy Association Conference in Orlando next week! If you’ll be there, we’d love to have you join us!
Think back to your days in school. What is it that you remember most as a student? Field trips, assemblies, friendships, great teachers, reading, writing?
You might be wondering why I tacked on reading and writing to the end of this list. Recently, in casual conversation at school, a couple people were mentioning that kids don’t remember the academics of school, but rather the “fun” stuff like field trips or field days or festivals. While I don’t disagree with this idea (who doesn’t love field trips?), I have to say that it is only part of the truth.
If academics are presented to kids in ways that both engage and empower them, that is
exactly what they’ll remember. The most powerful teachers are those who effectively inspire students to learn, wonder, create, and take chances. Kids remember being engaged in learning.
Nothing warms my heart more than when a former student writes a letter or comes back to visit and tells me that he loved reading in my classroom or that she never knew the power of writing could be so strong. Better yet, nothing is better than when they tell me that they still love reading or writing.
What do students remember? They remember what we value as teachers. They remember the passion, excitement, and community around what we choose to deem important. I know what I deem important. What is it for you? What will your students remember?
It’s often said that we as teachers really do not understand the full impact we’ve had on our students. Many students find us years years later to thank us or to tell a story about what they remember from their days in our classrooms. Some even contact us to say that we’ve been an inspiration to them.
Well, I’m turning those tables today. This afternoon, I surprised a few of my old students at their high school graduation. This particular group of students truly helped carve my path and purpose as a teacher, and I don’t know that they or their families will ever truly understand what a huge impact they’ve had on my life, and in turn the lives of the many kids I continue to serve.
My fierce advocacy for kids didn’t start when I became a teacher. Rather, it started after I met this rambunctious and lively group of 2nd graders and their families back in 2006. Through ups, downs, successes, misses, and watching true resiliency take place, I learned how to be an advocate. I learned to see kids for who they are, celebrate their uniqueness, believe in them, and stand up for them when the system just wasn’t working with their best interests in mind.
Seeing these former little guys cross that stage as confident young adults to graduate from high school today was the absolute highlight of my teaching career thus far. So, today I want to thank them. I want to tell them that they have inspired me to keep on fighting the good fight, to see kids for who they truly are, to be the best teacher that I know how to be, and to try to always push myself to become better. The system may not always work for all of our students, but I always will. I will never stop fighting or believing in kids- believing in who they are and what they will one day become.
To the class of 2017, I thank you. You truly have inspired me. I am the teacher I am today because of you.