I must find a way to hold myself accountable for publishing my blogs more regularly.
I’ve written that line quite a lot.
I am going to be okay with this blog being about a few things, and I’m going to get this out.
Here is the not “gist” of this blog. Just a quick musing: I’ve been conferencing with students about what they’re reading/writing/passionate about. I’ve had a few students tell me that I probably wouldn’t like the book they are loving or their book/narrative they are writing because, “Ms. Cribby, you cry easily, and I know you probably wouldn’t like this.”
Here is why they say that and why I’m more than okay with their perspective.
I do cry easily.
I’m not talking about blubbery tears, I’m talking about showing emotion. I show my students who I am. I show them myself as a human.
I show them my humanity. I show them that I am engaged in life, learning, being human. I’m not afraid of showing emotion, at the right times. The right times means they are safe, and we are exploring literature, ideas, and I am responding as a learner in the class.
They know I have a tender heart. They also know I have a fierce soul and a strong sense of purpose. They know they can trust me as the adult in the room, but they also know that who they are can always move me and make me better. Make me think differently. They know I’m confident enough to be the adult in the room that takes joy in learning from them.
At least I hope they know that. I know many do. I hope they all do.
I share myself with my students. I treat them as people and co-learners. Sure, I’m an expert. I’m pretty expert in language arts content, and I’m definitely the most expert with the writing process, because of my age alone. But I’m not the expert about who they are. I’m not expert on them as people and learners. They are. So, I need to hold myself as the listener to their learning and thinking. Often times, frankly, when I sit and listen and learn from them, I get, yes, moved. Yes, sometimes, teary.
It’s because the older and wiser (about some things) I get, the more I recognize how much I have to learn from everyone, and especially, most especially, from my students.
I don’t feel weak because of my growth and vulnerability. I feel strong and empowered. It is my greatest hope for all of my students.
I’m hoping my students are reading this and laughing at how I can also bark. Loudly, if needed.
The older I get, the more I realize I must be honest and authentic to the most important people in my life, and I confess, the people who get the most of me are my students. I have been so lucky to have had the most amazing mentors and role models during these 25+ years of teaching.
Here is the bulk of this blog. As an 8th grade teacher in the most wonderful system of progressing with our students, I am just moved beyond all I’ve ever felt (that really is not hyperbole), about what our students are reflecting in their own learning.
This blog started because I am so moved beyond words by what my students do, what they share and create. What they do when I give them some direction, and I step aside.
Here is the first student self-evaluation that motivated me to publish this blog:
After looking at the rubric and looking back over my book study essay, I think that I deserve a 4. I think that I deserve a 4 on this for a variety of reasons. The first reason why I think that I deserve a 4 is because my essay is thorough, complete, and someone could learn about how theme impacts various aspects of the story. I go in depth about how love impacts the characters, important events, and how it is built over time. I use quotes from the text to support this as well which adds another layer of reliability and validity. It makes it more accurate and shows that my point/ideas are textually proven. I use proper language and make sure that the format is easy to follow. The information is on task and little to none of my essay drifts off from the main idea/topic. I made sure that the transitions were smooth and that the paragraph doesn’t just cut off in the middle of an idea. I also did my best to not repeat information or ideas. This adds to the flow and makes it easier to learn from as well as makes it easier for someone to read it. This way, someone can get the most possible knowledge and understand from this essay.
Not only did I demonstrate all of the requirements, I exceeded in research. I knew that I had some questions about certain things I needed to know in order for this book study to reach it’s full potential. So, I guided myself in thorough research. This shows that I not only know how to craft an essay, it shows that I have a good understanding of how to do proper research and then apply that to a product. That is something that we are always learning about and focussing on in class. By demonstrating this, this connects this project to other aspects of class, not just one single assignment. I made sure that this project wasn’t isolated from a world of ideas. I made sure that it got to touch the ideas from previous dates. These are all metaphors, which is another thing I applied to my writing. I added proper terms to make it more appealing and friendly. Let’s face it, I have a close to four page essay as my project. By adding slight details such as figurative language, it makes it much more inviting and easier for someone to read. Overall, I think that I deserve a 4 on my literary project, which I have decided to be a book study. I think that I deserve a 4 because it is thorough, complete, and could be a valuable resource for students to learn from. It meets all the requirements as well as going above and beyond. I think that I deserve a 4 on my literary project.
I have spent my entire career hoping, dreaming, of what this student expresses as their experience. They just need me to mostly step aside while they fly.
And then, here is another:
Unfortunately I have to turn in my character study today. I was enjoying it, but I am proud of my work so I am glad to turn it in as well. While I didn't get as much revising done as I hoped, I still think my character study of Ebenezer Scrooge is good. First of all, my project meets the requirements of a 4. I used plenty of academic language and elaborated on that. I tried to make the character study sound as professional as I could, and I also connected everything with details and smooth transitions. This character study is probably my best example of connection. My writing all connects to the main theme of Scrooge’s dynamic change. On top of that, all of these elaborated details are connected with smooth transitions. I found things in common with the different details, and connected them using that. For example, here is a transition from my writing:
“After we see how he became the miser he is, we realize how Scrooge probably does have some good deep inside of him. When the second ghost comes, the Ghost of Christmas Present, we start to see a little bit of this inside goodness come out of him.”
The common detail in the Ghost of Christmas Past and the Ghost of Christmas Present is how the Ghost of Christmas Past makes us realize how Scrooge has some good, and the Ghost of Christmas Present starts to bring out this goodness. My transitions were something I worked really hard on in my character study, and they are very helpful to make my writing connected.
The second (and last) requirement for a 4 is for the study to be creative, engage the reader, and help the reader learn something new. For the creativity, I was creative in a few different ways. My transitions were creative, first of all. Also, my way of giving the information was creative. While a standard 5 paragraph essay in the form of an introduction, 3 body paragraphs, and a conclusion isn't necessarily creative, the way I connected everything to the main goal was creative. Usually if I were to do a character study such as this one, I would have an introduction on how Scrooge is a complex character. Then I would have 3 separate body paragraphs on different parts of Scrooge. However, with this character study, I decided to focus on one thing and show that in chronological order. I have never done that before, and I think (at least for me), it is a little unconventional. The second part of the last requirement is to engage the reader. The biggest way I engage the reader is in the introduction. In the introduction, I basically try to lay out what the entire study is going to be about, and give some background information. I like doing this because if I am a reader, I want to read the first few sentences and see if I am interested. Another way I engage the reader is by being vague in the beginning. I give some details but not enough for the reader to know what the entire study is going to say. I do this to engage the reader and make them read the study. Lastly, the last part of the requirement is to help the reader learn something new. In my study, I give a lot of deeper information. Maybe the reader wasn’t able to make deeper connections on how and why Scrooge changed. Maybe the reader didn't understand why Scrooge became such a miser. I doubt the reader knew that Scrooge represents the rich in Victorian Britain and the story is trying to motivate the rich to give more (in Victorian Britain). There is a lot of information I give that the reader probably doesn't know, and unless you have already done a study on Scrooge, you will probably learn something new.
That should be it. I gave examples on how I met the requirements of a 4 and explained them. However, before I turn this in, I want to talk a little bit more. I learned a ton while doing this study, which is one of the main reasons we did this (other than to learn how to write a study). I enjoyed this project, and I hope we are able to do more studies because I learn a lot and I like the format. Anyway, that should be it. I met the requirements of a 4 with ease and learned a lot, what more could you ask? Have fun grading the rest of these character studies.
The students did these character, book, author, or genre studies, and most of them were wonderful, and I learned so much. I learned about poets I need to read, books students were passionate about because they read them when they were children, genres I didn’t know existed, authors who wrote in multi-age platforms.
Most especially, I learned more about the passions of my students, and that was a gift. For over two and a half years, I’ve had these students, and I’ve learned from them and helped them explore their passions, but now, as they are grown in confidence, they have also grown in a self-wisdom that moves me beyond words. This happens, every 8th grade year, I know. And every year, it doesn’t surprise me, but it seems to sneak up on me, these young adults, these funny, silly, wise, mature, crazy, calm, deep, intense, young people.
Makes me want to latch on and keep them for another three years.
It also makes me get a little teary.
I always wonder what moves us all as people, as teachers. I am fortunate that I work closely with my beloved and respected colleagues, and I learn from their perspectives, what they notice, what connections they make.
Goal: publish my blog once a week (Gah! I wrote that!)
Gratitude: a career that keeps me growing. Students who astound me and make me a better person.