Lighten Up and Laugh

Last night I participated in a Twitter chat. I still do not fully understand how it all works, but I comment and retweet. The chat was an educational one, go figure, and the entire set of questions were about engaging students and getting them to love literary as much as teachers do. The discussion focused on the connection between enjoying reading and the desire to want to write; yes, the dreaded writing issue.

There were many great ideas but as I added my 2 cents worth I realized it all comes down to this. It depends on how the teacher is able to motivate, inspire, connect, and build relationships with their students. (We may have blogged on this before, like 68 times).

I currently go with my gut instinct. This approach works much better for me. I never make a reluctant reader read aloud unless he/she volunteers, I never make a student read their writing in front of the class unless he/she wants to, (unless we are grading on a speaking and presenting standard and they are well aware ahead of time).  I do not compare a struggling student to a high performing student because these things hurt and demoralize, not motivate.

Now, most of my current students love to read and want to write. There are a few that really need me to get them started and stay close during the process. They are still independent but they get stuck. They need some reassurance and I give it to them. These are usually the students who cause class disruptions and fight me on everything, but they come around with patience and those small academic wins. This is not that difficult to do. I just do it, it is not rocket science, as my friend Vicki Petrella likes to say.

My former students, who were not native English speakers, struggled with writing. It was so confusing and frustrating to them. Every time they thought they had the grammar or spelling correct the rule changed. We ended up with some great pieces of writing from these amazing students. They put in the effort because they knew we were all learning together. It was safe to try.

Lori and I always wonder if we are doing enough, if we are in the right place, if we are making a difference; I think all of us in education tend to reflect this way, or should. I feel pretty good when I start to reflect. I get Facebook messages from students I taught years ago. Some actually tell me about how school is going. Lori and  I also get emails and the occasional comment on this webpage from students. They think it is a hoot that we have a webpage and always want us to write about them. Ironically, we always write about them. They are all we think about.

So, if you are an educator who is struggling with burnout or lack of enthusiasm, change it up, do what feels right inside, laugh every single day with your students, don’t be a curmudgeon.  They will read, they will write, they will attempt those difficult math problems, if you enjoy teaching and authentically develop those relationships. Kids are hysterical, how fun to be surrounded by kids all day, what a great job we have! 


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