Friday, July 7, 2017
What I always enjoyed about my favorite school teachers was when they shared a little bit about their lives beyond their classrooms. For me it was important to connect with my teachers especially if I was going to take academic risks in their class. Yes, I had intrinsic motivation AND I performed better if I had a working relationship with my teachers. For example, I needed to trust my physics teacher in order to feel comfortable asking him for extra help (actually a lot of extra help--hence, why I'm an English teacher and not a physics teacher--haha). Or if I wanted to share with my English teacher a piece of personal writing, it helped to know she used the writing process as well when she was writing.
So it helped me when my teachers shared their own stories as teachers or a little bit about themselves. For example, my junior English teacher shared stories about the trials and tribulations of her teenage sons. My freshman English teacher made up stories that she was really a witch who lived in a cemetery (yes, a bit creepy--but definitely humorous and creative). My junior social studies teacher told us about his sports stories from his high school days. And our Spanish teacher told us stories about the boy she fell in love with in her younger years when she was a high school exchange student in Peru. Yes, decades later, I remember their stories and more importantly the relationships I forged with them, which allowed me to be a student who was willing to be vulnerable, courageous, fun, funny, and love learning. One big factor for why I was successful was because my teachers modeled their humanness for me in my learning. It wasn't just about an equation or a thesis statement. It was about learning how to be curious and interested in learning through story telling, sharing, and connection.
So now years later as as a high school English teacher myself, I do choose to share certain stories about being a student years ago, or I share a little bit about my interests and hobbies and certainly a bit about my children.
Years ago I created a corner of my white board with artifacts that represent my past and present. A lot of the artifacts represent my high school years: 1987-1991. And you'll note there aren't any textbooks, tests, formulas, etc. Although I was a "good" student in high school who did value my academics, my priorities were sports, music, and friends.
a. So my #23 Craig Janney Bruins shirt represents the following: First, the crush I had on Craig Janney while I was in high school. I loved and still love the Bruins, and in high school while so many of my friends had crushes on #8 Cam Neely, I adored Craig Janney. Yes, he was cute AND he was an amazing center. I loved watching him set up Neely for a goal. I loved that he wasn't a fighter like the other players. I loved that he was a smart player. I observed how he played and tried to incorporate his work ethic and intelligence when I played field hockey, basketball, and softball.
My friends and I would take the train into the Boston Garden all the time to go to games (tickets were cheaper than today and we would buy the obstructed view seats. We would then move to empty seats.) So one day we found out that Janney was going to be at the Bruins' Wives Benefit Carnival at the Garden. I wanted to go in the worst way, but I had to work at Star Market grocery store that afternoon. I asked my manager if I could come in late or switch my shift. She said no and if I came in late to not come in at all. I said, okay and I quit on the spot. My parents were not initially pleased by my decision (although I argued with my mother that she used to skip college classes to watch the Celtics and Bruins play). I did not regret my decision as I got to meet Craig Janney in person. And yet, I know quitting a job on the spot in high school is definitely an example of the impulsivity that teenagers exhibit at this time in their lives. I hang the jersey in my classroom as a reminder that my students will make impulsive decisions and they will be okay. We sometimes make questionable decisions, but that does not mean we are mistakes. And the jersey reminds my students that yes, their teacher was in high school once.
b. My Slippery When Wet Bon Jovi album represents some of my musical taste in high school and a reminder that I had a collection of records and cassette tapes before itunes and Spotify. What makes me laugh is that I have had more than one student ask me if "that" Bon Jovi was the father or grandfather of the Bon Jovi he/she listens to. I say, No, that Bon Jovi is the same Bon Jovi! And music is so integral to students' identities at this age as it serves as tools for communication, therapy, and connection.
c. The Wonder Woman magnet I actually added this year. At the end of the school year, I saw Wonder Woman--TWICE! I loved the movie. Gal Gadot was fantastic as Wonder Woman. Growing up, I watched the Wonder Woman series with Linda Carter. I played Wonder Woman when my brother and I played with the neighborhood kids. And then to see this movie in which we get her origin story and her displaying her powers of compassion, strength, and intelligence was incredible.
So my personal corner is a constant reminder of my experiences, thoughts, and feelings when I was a teenager as well as a source for my students to remember their teacher was in high school. And although we are decades apart in age, they are reminded that our generation gap isn't so big.
P.S. Yes, that is a New Kids on the Block program that I bought when I went to their concert in 1991. AND yes, I'm going to their concert tomorrow night at Fenway Park. ;)