My 4 1/2 year old has a crazy imagination. He is able to create stories at the drop of a hat. I love to sit at the dining room table and just listen as he crafts stories using his Lego minifigures. Dave and Drew produce and direct Lego movies using the Lego Movie App on Dave's phone. Drew comes up with these amazing titles and story lines. He develops intricate Lego sets with zip lines, towers, Star Wars characters, and an occasional dinosaur. Drew makes all the typical sound effects, "CRASH! BOOM! RAHHHH! WOAH!!!" Drew will have his minifigures take death defying leaps from Lego brick towers, duke it out with light sabers, or swing from the top of the Arkham Asylum as the Joker tries to catch Batman. His creativity is overflowing as he tells me story after story after story.
Today at school, I was researching picture books in preparation for planning with a third grade teacher. I was going through all my CCSS resources and wracking my brain for the perfect picture book to teach character development and determine central message. I was hunched over my computer talking out loud, when my co-worker heard me mumble something about Miss Rumphius. And she said," Really? You are going to use Miss Rumphius? As a mom of boys, I am surprised." I looked at her and said," Huh?" It's not for my boys, it's for a class." She said, " Exactly, do you really think boys are going to want to hear about a woman planting flowers everywhere?" I paused for a moment and thought. In a way she was right. If we really want students to understand character development and how it directly ties with central message, we need to choose books that are engaging. The books and texts we choose should make the students want to dive into the story line, not put the book down and tear it apart to find out what is going to happen next. The text needs to be the center of the lesson. Just because a CCSS resource recommends a book, it doesn't mean it is the absolute best resource to use when crafting lessons. The students could and should drive a teacher's choice in books and texts.
As I pondered my co-workers question, I realized that this conversation directly links to the panel presentation I am part of at #NCTE14 in November. I will be presenting along side +Lynda Mullaly Hunt , @LieslShurtliff, @justinstygles, and Melissa about a tough topic, shame. Shame is the feeling kids begin to acquire overtime as they experience failure after failure in their reading life. My part of the presentation is about developing lessons, utilizing strategies and choosing texts that are going to make these students successful and love reading. Being in a Literacy leadership role in my district, I need to practice what I preach. The planning session with this teacher tomorrow is the perfect time to do this! (Needless to say, I did not choose Miss Rumphius.)
So, how does that conversation connect with Drew? I realized that after talking with my co-worker and watching one of Drew's many Lego movies, I don't want Drew's creativity to be stifled in school. When he starts Kindergarten next year, I want him to be able to draw pictures of Star Wars, Ninjago, or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and know its ok for him to do that. I want him to be able to write about his Lego minifigures adventures, even if his stories have bombs, light sabers, and fights in them. Our job as teachers is to keep our students engaged and motivated. This is especially important for boys! My co-worker and I continued our conversation about writing in the classroom. She said, "Do you really think boys are going to want to write about a warm spring day? Can you see Drew writing about that?" My response, "Yes, if it involved a sword fight, a speeding race car, or Darth Vadar battling Luke Skywalker."
While reading over Slice of Life blog posts, I came across +Kevin Hodgson (@dogtrax) post. It was titled "Why I teach." His post was my inspiration for tonight. I teach for kids like Drew who are creative and want to share their stories through words, pictures and actions. I teach to support teachers in letting go of some control and letting students write about a topic of their choice as well as read a book of their choice. I teach to spark a love of reading and writing in students and teachers across all grade levels. I teach for the students who are struggling, and just want opportunities to feel success.
I sincerely hope that Drew and I will be able to draft our story, Ninjas Don't Have Mommies in the near future. I want to make that happen and I will.
I teach for Drew.
So think about it....
Why do you teach?