Dusting off this blog after what has been the first month of school. I spent much of the summer trying to learn how to best help my students see the world and through learning more about themselves I have hopes we are getting there. We have spent the month beginning our own identity work. It has produced some really wonderful writing and moments. Yesterday we looked at this beautiful essay by Tiana Silvas, and discuss what it made us think about and notice. My students have looked at the things they value, the values they hold and the places they are from this month but this was our first look at those who have helped us develop our own sense of self and belonging. Students discussed what they noticed and connected with in Tiana’s essay. They started building their own ideas of what lessons they have learned from the people in their lives. This start to our year focused on identity has been interesting. I have work with most of these kids for 3-4 years now. I know their writing habits and styles, I can sense their voice in their words in just a few sentences and yet something new is coming through. It is almost like the finally know themselves. They are exploring who they are and what they are learning is coming up in their writing.
At the end of August teachers around here were so focused on how we were going to manage teaching in a Pandemic that I think we thought we had to change everything about ourselves. I know my year started bumpy, I love to conference, I love to sit and talk books but the early days of this made me hesitate. I felt the mask was silly and distracted from our chats, I felt students wouldn’t participate with each other if they were forced to mask in those close conversations. I was wrong. But I didn’t realize that until a conversation with my awesome student teacher. As we were reflecting on a lesson she taught I asked her about a shift I noticed in her demeanour. Normally she was warm, friendly and patient. This lesson she was sharp, quick to correct and the kids felt it too. As we talked I asked what the difference was. She exhaled and discussed the advice she had been given to “take control” by another advisor. They had misled her to believe that control was the objective in my classroom. We talked about how she felt and she was not happy and felt as though this direction did not reflect who she knew she was as a teacher. I that moment I remembered Gravity Goldberg’s words in Teach Like Yourself around authenticity, how our students can sense it and the learning comes easy in that environment. This made me realize what was missing in my room as well, me. I had forgotten the parts I love about teaching have never been dependent on not wearing a mask, it has been about connections and conversations.
So with that I course corrected. We are talking more, I used TQE today to help facilitate a conversation around a powerful poem by a Residential School Survivor. We wrote and shared. The students in room 157 are discovering their reading and writing identities in the midst of a pandemic that takes so much from us. But it can’t take the power of literacy away, we still have those tool available, the reading and writing. We just have to remember who we are… and then show the world.