I taught English, Language Arts, Reading to 7th- 12th graders for almost 20 years. What I loved most was literature study and teaching writing about literature. I always encouraged my students to be intellectual risk takers, to propose and defend whatever idea struck them when reading a piece of lit. In fact, I always emphasized to my students that my evaluation would never be based on whether I agreed with my students or not, but rather how well the argument was phrased, presented, supported, and defended.
In the course of my evolution as a teacher, I also learned that kids can always smell a fake and that teachers who were teaching something they didn’t feel passionately about, were not connecting with their students.
I decided a few years back when I had the opportunity (albeit a burden at the time ) to teach all 130 8th graders, to only teach my favorite titles. Further, I decided to offer 2-4 titles for each unit so kids could choose their own title.
I was thrilled with the excitement that came from my students not only because they had a choice, but also because I could share my passion for the titles with them.
When I moved into admin roles, I extended this practice to my guidance and support of my teachers. My message was simple: pick titles, topics, concepts that get you excited, that percolate your passion, that will create a climate and culture of learning in the classroom.
I had questions like:
What about covering XYZ?
Don’t worry if the experience is great
What about the level of the text?
Don’t worry, the depth and engagement are more important.
Basically, my message has since been that sharing content with passion will pull students in as the passion is contagious. Engagement, depth, the ensuing rapport and making memorable moments in the classroom are the most important endeavors.
When a teacher asks a curricular question about this or that, I always respond with a simple question:
What will get you excited in the classroom? What content do you love?
Ultimately, it is about creating rich, meaningful, infectious experiences for our students where we share our passion for learning via content that excites us enroute to helping students find content that excites them and ignited their passion for learning.