Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Again and Again

I give a reflective semester exam. I love reading students' exams. Maybe it's an ego thing. You know, students tell me what they've learned or how they've changed. I write those things on my heart. I take a little credit for their lessons learned.

Students are so smart, wise really.  I save the gems. I mark them with a star in the margin and then star the front of the exam so that students know to give it back to me to photocopy. I drop starred papers in a file folder all year. That way I have them when I'm ready to write.

I tweet the gems too.  Then I can find them later online when I need reminding. Those gems remind me to listen. They remind me to stay the course and to do what's right in the classroom. it's easy to cave to the pressure-- teach to a test, teach how your colleagues teach, teach the same novel--you know what sort of pressures I'm talking about. When students reflect authentically they amaze me.

Take Wilmer for instance. In response to a question asking him about a lesson he learned from a text the class had studied together, he wrote: "Well, I learned from Touching Spirit Bear that everybody can change. I've also learned that if somebody is getting bullied then stand up for them."

Wow. When did you learn that everyone can change? Have you accepted that even "bad" people can change? Have you opened your heart to the idea that even the students in your room who have seemingly shut you out and shut down can change? There's a lot in Wilmer's two sentences. He sees that even bullies can change. He is part of a community. He will stand up for others.

As a parent, as a citizen of your community, what would you pay for that lesson? Students need to learn these lessons or see them in literature and in the world over and over again in order for the very ideas to become part and parcel of who they are as teachers.

Go, breathe that sort of life into your teaching today. Inspire your students with good stories. You can be the change you want to see in their lives.

Semester Reflection 2013
Year End Self Evaluation

PS: I just had to include Wilmer's comments on his reading life. He started ninth grade as a non-reader. Now? He knows what he likes. It made me grin (and think about what series books I can put in front of him next).


  1. I love that you Tweet the gems. I used to write down the gems from my student's mid-year and end of the year writing self-assessments. I may even have some of them on TWT (not sure if I put them there way back when I had a classroom). Isn't it fantastic to see the tracks of your teaching in the kids' responses?

    BTW: I was able to find your blog this week. I guess you fixed the Mozilla issue. Thanks!

  2. What a great idea to keep track of the gems, to archive them and to send them out as inspirations.

  3. Wonderful idea! As I haven't joined the tweeting world yet, maybe I can find another medium to share gems from my classroom.

  4. I always saved those gems, too, & have used them in my writing, but also with students as mentor texts, showing them what their peers think. Love this Lee Ann. And loved hearing the words of your students. Thanks.

  5. Your teaching matters. I'm glad you are documenting it.

  6. It makes me even sadder that I see so many teachers who don't know this joy and inspiration, and we don't even have the pressure of "the test." And thanks for mentioning your #gem trick. I miss so much with the time difference, but I'll be on the lookout for your gems.

  7. I love his thoughts on his reading! I agree with him about long books AND series (as I talked about in my own post this week!)

    Good for you, keeping track of the gems. There are so many days we really need to look back and remember why we do what we do!