Yesterday, with one exception, was a great day. One of the city’s theatre groups came in to lead some literacy-based activities for my students, which they (and I) loved. On a selfish note, it meant I didn’t have to plan and that I could let someone else take the reigns for a day. On a more important note, it meant my students were doing something so interesting, so removed from the looming standardized tests and the crunched preparation that precedes them.
My students were given a thought-provoking novel, acted out different scenes and characters, and even wrote their own poems. I was so impressed by how inspiring and honest their poems about their dreams were. My favorite part of the day is that during my second section, I wrote each of my students a positive note about his/her poem on my star-shaped post-it notes. I expected these post-its (which I, in true teacher mode, am able to call “Superstar Shout-outs” with a straight face) to go in binders, as usual. But the majority of the students wore the notes I gave them right on their shirts and into the lunch room, looking at what I had said about each student’s poem.
With standardized tests approaching, the teach-to-the-test mentality is engrained in teachers’ minds as clearly as possible. At struggling schools, this mentality is inescapable coming from both administration and for teachers’ accountability for their scores (don’t even get me started…). However, this experience with the city’s theatre group will definitely inform my teaching after these tests are finally over. It’s perfect because I’m introducing a poetry unit and incorporating a student poetry portfolio into the curriculum, so I can work to choose poems that inspire them so that they, in turn, can create their own poems.
I can’t help, though, feeling a little pessimistic about this. Over the past six months, I have tried to find readings that engage my students, but one class won’t even be quiet enough to be able to read or listen to any of it. Two of my classes, hopefully, will retain the growth they’ve shown in behavior and will respond to this poetry unit. But one of my classes is so turned off by me, so hostile towards me, that I’m doubtful if it will work. It’s the class that a student teacher came into and left saying, “I feel like I just got hit by a bus. How do you do this every day?” I guess I’ll just have to wait and see.