Last year, when I asked students to complete an entry survey for my second semester senior elective, Adolescent Experience, I received this response:
My heart dropped. How do I fix this? Can I fix this? Where do I even begin? Needless to say, I did not find a solution that semester. I didn’t know where to start. I had failed that student. As a system, we were failing countless students. I can’t imagine going through school with the mindset that this student possessed.
Fast forward a year through the 2014 NCTE Annual Convention, through my reading of Kittle’s Book Love and Write Beside Them, past my own trial and error institution of Independent Reading in four of my five classes and this is where I find myself now – reading responses that look like this:
We are just ten weeks into this grand experience and it’s making a difference.
A HUGE difference.
Now, don’t get me wrong – change is messy at first. It’s confusing, disorderly chaos. When you clean out a closet, you’ve got to toss everything out onto the floor initially, then sort it, throw some things out, salvage others, recycle a few odds and ends, and then rearrange your possessions so that everything fits back in, all tidy and neat. This is exactly what happened in my classroom. We went from this:
And you know what ended up getting cleaned out in the process? Past preconceptions, self-doubt, and negativity. I now have a classroom of organized bookshelves as well as classes of independent learners who can skillfully articulate their reading preferences and who are beginning to understand more about their choices, their reading lives, and themselves.
Now, I can’t imagine teaching any other way. You know what I learned?