“The baby that doesn’t cry dies on its mother’s back.” My daughter just reminded me of this frequent saying of her high school math teacher from Zimbabwe. I was expressing excitement about all the students I’d been able to give writing feed back to this week--face-to-face or via email--but also fretting about the students not asking for attention who I hadn’t been able to attend to. I appreciate the sentiment as plugging the life-skill of self-advocacy, but I can’t have any dead babies in this writing class. So Monday I start with the students I haven’t talked to yet. I’ll have to come into class with a list, or I’ll get sidetracked.
Nevertheless, it has been a good week of writing. Remembering Kelly Gallagher’s dictum “I go, then they go,” I modeled a mind map in each of my 2 classes one day--then students went--and the following day I modeled a thesis with an implicit, logical preview of points based on the previous mind map. (The first period map and thesis were much better than the third period ones--which was the period the headmaster wandered in. Ah, well, what’s good for the goose....) The conversations I’ve had have been very exciting--their ideas are original and significant. And in those conversations I’m trying to remember that I shouldn’t be working harder than the students are (Thanks, Gini Rojas).
Experience helps me not work so hard. I’m delighted (while mildly surprised) every time I have just the right tool to pull out when a student needs it--from a tip about writing introductions, to a list of verbs for introducing quotations, to characteristics of a good thesis. And when the input magically clicks, the student’s face lights up with epiphany, that’s one of the highs of teaching.
In fact, I’m beginning to feel I could organize some of those tools into stations where I could say to a class for a given mini-lesson, “Go to which ever station you feel you need most practice on--beginnings and endings, introducing quotations, writing a thesis, using transition...” Hmm...have to think a little more on that one, but I’d never even thought it possible before. One of those idealistic differentiation strategies that might work for elementary, but never for me.
I love a new idea.