A Face Worth Writing About
Teaching has certainly changed over the 20-plus years I have been in education. I have seen the “whole language” vs. phonics based learning approach; survived the NHEAPs, the NECAPS and am about to experience Smarter Balanced. I have seen technology change, the internet happen and the use of personal devices in the classroom. I am now knee deep in Common Core. I have been teaching long enough to see the proverbial pendulum swung in each direction several times.
Throughout these years, there has been one thing that I continue to believe is the most important part of teaching. It’s not the curriculum, it’s not the textbooks, it’s not the interactive whiteboard, or the number of iPad’s available in the classroom. It’s not even the teacher. The most important thing in any classroom is the relationship between the students and the teacher, and it’s got to be personal.
Back to the face worth writing about; meet Ms. Beatrice Pigglesworth. Beatrice is the beautiful girl who belongs to my friend Tina. I love her face, her personality and even the way she breathes heavily and slobbers when she gets excited. She is truly a unique pup and I took complete advantage of her gifts for a recent writing project for my fifth grade students. The results blew me away.
The idea was to write about a dog that got on a bus on his/her own. I wanted my kids to write about an adventure, tell the story from first dog point of view, include dialogue and use transitional words. Ironically enough, while my kids were writing, the story about the dog who takes the bus to the dog park in Washington State broke, it provided a great parallel. Asking my students to write about a dog taking a bus didn’t seem all that exciting so I printed large pictures of Beatrice, and hung them in my classroom. I told my students about Beatrice, and her family, and some of the things she does. Beatrice is a huge Patriots fan! My kids went crazy. I had kids who have proclaimed to hate writing tell me they never knew writing could be so fun. I had kids who would struggle to write a paragraph write 16-17 page rough drafts. I had kids who willingly went through the entire writing process and worked a month, from start to finish, on this piece. Each story was different. Each story was wonderful, and Tina was surprised and in awe of the gift that was given to her; three books, “The Adventures of Miss Beatrice Pigglesworth” one by each of my language arts classes.
This story was a success because I brought Beatrice to life in my classroom. I shared something in my life that was important to me as a person, not just as an educator. When we make our classrooms personal, when we learn important things about our kids, and share important things about ourselves we are able to attach greater meaning to each other. We naturally wish to do more for those whom we value.
In our classrooms today we have so much to compete with. Technology and all that comes with it provide a virtual world that we and our kids spend so much time in. Our kids need the chance to enjoy a trip into the real world, especially one where they feel validated and as though that they did something that brings joy to someone else. My kids saw the excitement I shared, and when Tina and Beatrice visited us, they saw and felt the joy and the validation.
Make your classroom personal. Tell your kids about yourself, your family, your hopes and dreams. Listen when the share theirs. Smile when they smile, cry when they cry and provide a place where they can safely ask, “Why are you grouchy today?” or “Can I have/give you a hug?”. The results will be nothing short of amazing.
By Karen True
Karen True is a Fifth Grade Teacher and boys’ soccer coach at Chester Academy in Chester NH.
She is a wife, the mom of a college sophomore and a 13 year old black lab, Casey. She holds three New Hampshire certifications and has been teaching for 20 years.