I must be missing the classroom as I have drifted to several sites that support teachers and their job/mission this week. The latest site that “found” me is here: http://www.teachingheartfirepoetry.com. Since next week is National Teacher Appreciation Week, I propose that we take a few moments… maybe even more than a few… to stop and visit this sight with an intention of honoring yourself (if you are a teacher) or honoring a teacher who made an impact upon your life.
First let me say for those that don’t like poetry, Don’t Hate! This isn’t some complicated literary site that may be boring and difficult to understand. No one will ask you to explicate anything, to read iambic pentameter, or to look up literary terms. If you are a “math or science person,” you may still appreciate the messages. Just do your best to suspend any judgment until you see it. A quick look around sealed the deal for me. Notably, the website’s mission is “… to inspire and support teachers, and to honor and thank them for the work that they do.” Well, it had me at HELLO! The mission statement acknowledges that teaching is the hardest and toughest job in America…Um, Yeah! Don’t you just love it when you finally hear those words from somewhere else besides your head? Not surprisingly, I actually own the book Teaching With Fire that is the inspiration for this site. I bought it many years ago when I was still a classroom teacher. It helped me to focus on the important issues on days when I was out of gas. In today’s world, what is the next step if one has a successful book and a passionate mission? Creating an online community, of course. Just like that, the book has developed into a beautiful one with a Teachers Blog and Teacher Talk Interviews. These options allow teachers to create a space for reflection, the challenges, the successes, the resistances, and the joys of their work. The way to participate is to send in submissions. Additionally, the website has a Thank You, Teachers Project where individuals can submit Thank You letters, and publicly recognize the outstanding and complicated work that teachers do. Thank you letters are formatted and are posted on a Thank You Letter Gallery Wall. What a way to show gratitude for the hard work of teachers! I hope that you can take time to explore this supportive space. If you like it, share it with your colleagues or a special teacher in your life. Even better, if you are a parent, say thank you to a teacher, and, if you are a teacher, become a part of this supportive community.
Incidently…Who would I acknowledge? Many teachers, first as a student and then as a teacher, influenced me and my practice in countless ways. Most that taught me are gone. I can only imagine a conversation or note acknowledging their contribution to my life. Mrs. Bass (1st grade) was a drill sargeant. I feared her as a young girl (I wouldn’t tell her THAT), and, looking back, I can see how she loved the “first grade me” through spelling, math, and reading… pushing me to my best self. Mrs. Wagner (3rd grade), sweet, gentle, and neatly coiffed, created units about states and birds that I remember parts of to this day. Pragmatic, professionally-dressed, and inspirational, Mrs. McCann (5th grade) convinced me that I was as a “smart” young lady with lots of potential. The importance of learning to read and to write well…beyond just enough to get by… was a gift from Mrs. Lacey (8th grade reading). Senora Green (Spanish), a native speaker, impressed the importance of learning about other cultures and languages. Mrs. Schilling (9th grade English) displayed an enthusiasm for the English language that lit my fire for reading and writing. I can go on and on here, and I haven’t even touched my college years or the mentors who influenced my teaching practice.
That Was Then, This Is Now
After 25 years in the classroom, I have come to believe that teachers are born to teach. I know I was. When I was a little girl, I used to play school with anyone who was willing, even dolls or pets. As I grew older, I imagined myself in front of a class and pictured how I would teach reading, spelling, or penmanship (yes, we had to learn how to form letters properly). A small scholarship in education to a small school in south Louisiana sealed the deal for me. I suspect that most of us have our own stories of how we landed in the best job ever! I settled on English Education as a major with a Psychology minor and the rest is history. As an educator, I loved starting Hamlet to the moans and groans of students, knowing that when we got to the end they would have a change of heart. It was a challenge and a joy. Over my career (depending on the school) the challenges changed, but the joy of leading students to a different idea or attitude never left me.
Finally, I would love to hear what you think. What were your experiences, challenges, and successes as a student or as a teacher? Who helped you, led you, informed you? Click on over to Teaching Heart Fire Poetry and acknowledge that person. OR you can email me or just post a comment on this blog. One final thought, if you want to support me as I continue on this writing journey, please fill out the newsletter form that appears at the bottom of this post. I would love to stay connected!