On Climate Change and Hard Days of Teaching…

Sometimes teaching is really hard.

But even when I feel like I’m in a rut as a teacher, or if I feel like my classes aren’t moving forward fast enough, or I worry that I don’t have enough time to do everything I want to do with my students, if I sit back for ten minutes and reflect on the first half of the school year, I have to conclude that things are going well.

Because yes, I feel all of those things as a teacher. Frustration about time constraints and that maybe all of my students aren’t reading all of the books I want them to read. Frustration that I haven’t motivated all of them to read their minimum two hours per week, and that some of them are reading books that might not be at grade level.

But when I start thinking about my students more as individuals, instead of the receivers of a prescribed curriculum, and remember that they are individual kids with fun personalities and individual learning styles, I’m encouraged rather than frustrated.

It’s because of the workshop model. It really is working. 

It just works slower on some days than others.

And that’s okay.

Developing the climate to be a culture of reading is hard and takes time, and I am giving myself permission to let it happen. To push it and encourage it. It’s not going to happen overnight.

And it’s not about me.

It’s about the students who are reading more than they did last year.

It’s about the students who didn’t think they liked to read, and are warming up to reading, slowly, in small bursts and then maybe having long lulls without a book they love. But they are making forward progress.

It’s about the girl who can’t wait to talk about the newest issue in The Kite Runner, and tells me that she can’t imagine that the book can get any more intense because “everything possible is happened already!” and she’s only 200 pages in.

It’s about the boys who don’t remember the last time they finished a book, if ever. And they did this year. And liked it. And are proud of themselves.

It’s about the girl who has been slowly reading The Handmaid’s Tale, but she can’t wait to talk about it, and she is reading, processing, and thinking. She told me she didn’t want to read the last twenty pages or so because she didn’t want it to end. And then she was mad about the ending. It’s because she’s expanding her comfort zone and thinking about new ideas.

It’s about the boy who read The Arab of the Future and wants to confer about the Homs he visited as a child vs the Homs that’s described in the book.

It’s about asking students in the hallway, randomly yet authentically, what are you reading? and they have context for the question. They know that reading is now an expectation.

I used to be worried about whether or not they had their assignments done. I’m now worried about whether or not they have a healthy reading life.

A healthy reading life is an expectation just like eating healthy foods or exercising is an expectation. Like having emotional intelligence is an expectation. It’s part of being a whole person, a grown up, someone ready to engage with the world.

I wasn’t having these types of conversations with students last year, but this year is different.

It’s the power of choice, and the power of conferring. I’m listening to students, and in turn, they listen to me.

It’s more authentic than ever before.

So, even after a hard, busy day of teaching, I have to remember that what matters is happening.

My students are developing their reading lives. The climate of reading is developing and growing every day.

And my students are growing as readers.


Follow Julie on Twitter: @SwinehartJulie

Author: adventuresinhighschoolworkshop

Julie has been teaching secondary language arts for nineteen years, spending the first fifteen in rural Central Oregon, four in Amman, Jordan, and is currently in her second year teaching in Managua, Nicaragua.

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