Wednesday, February 15, 2006


My 11th graders are writing literary-critical papers on Huckleberry Finn. It's a tedious process, but one that I actually enjoy (though some students might beg to differ!). One of the most interesting things I've discovered as a teacher is that I have to consciously and intentionally remember that there was a time when I didn't know all "this stuff." I didn't automatically know how to write a bibliographic entry or how to properly cite sources or how to write a tight, focused thesis sentence. I catch myself wanting to assume too much about my students, thinking that they'll keep up with me as I move along at a steady clip. It's tedious (and good) projects like literary-critical papers that force me to slow down, to write more slowly on the board, to go over that thesis sentence one more time, to force my lesson plans to submit to their needs rather than the other way around. This week they're revising their papers, and it's actually a joyful experience for me to wander around the room observing as they work on their papers with partners, scratching out words, writing in corrections and advice, discussing Huck, Jim, Tom, Romanticism, religion, racism, satire. I can actually see the transfer of knowledge taking place. Sometimes it's amazing to me that my words have actually stuck! :-) And, of course, it's only because someone else's words "stuck" with me.

In the front of my notebook, I keep some "inspiration." There's a picture of an raised hand in front of a chalkboard. The quote below the photo says:

The main reason I became a teacher is that I like being the first one to introduce kids to words and music and books and people and numbers and concepts and ideas that they have never heard about or thought about before. I like being the first one to tell them about Long John Silver and negative numbers and Beethoven and alliteration and "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning" and similes and right angles and Ebenezer Scrooge. . . . Just think about what you know today. You read. You write. You work with numbers. You solve problems. We take all these things for granted. But of course you haven't always read. You haven't always known how to write. You weren't born knowing how to subtract 199 from 600. Someone showed you. There was a moment when you moved from not knowing to knowing, from not understanding to understanding. That's why I became a teacher.
~ Philip Done


Blogger Beverly said...

Thanks for your blog. I think we who have been Christians for a long time feel the same way toward new believers. We wonder why they don't know all that "spiritual stuff."

I like the quote by Philip Done at the end of your entry.

9:58 PM  

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