Today, some crazy sh*t happened on Twitter. Celeste Ng, author of Everything I Never Told You, tweeted a request that teachers not “assign students to email an author and ask questions” because “It’s not fair to us or them.” Much inappropriateness ensued, with “outraged” people tweeting things like, “Oh good, another author to not bother reading” and other such nonsense about “duty,” discouraging kids, and her being selfish for not responding.
So on Monday I posted my teaching “vision statement” as a way of sharing more of what I’m like as a teacher. That is, after all, my “first” career, with editing and book blogging being my secondary ones.
In an attempt to build community and allow the kids to know even more about us, my co-teacher and I allowed them to ask questions of us. They were allowed to do so anonymously, and then we chose some to answer in front of the class. I compiled their questions into a list (because that’s the organized type of person I am), and I’m posting them here. Why? Well, because their questions constitute yet another reason why I teach, especially the one in bold. Hope you enjoy!
I’ve answered this question a lot, and the way it’s phrased varies depending on who’s doing the asking. Family members and friends usually preface their question by saying, “I don’t know how you do it.” Students ask, and it’s often framed as “Miss, why do you teach US?”
This year, I’m co-teaching with my best friend (who posted her teaching vision statement on her blog last year), and part of our community building is to share our vision statements with our shared class.
Admittedly, I balked at first. I figure students will learn soon enough why I’m here and what my hope is for them. Plus, I am not the touchy-feely sort of teacher (or person, really), as will become evident when you read my statement. Also, whenever I hear “vision statement,” my brain goes two ways. I think of a vision quest, which is awesome; but then I also think of nasty educorporations that want to vision statement their way into schools and take them over. So the connotation of the “vision statement” phrase is an interesting and conflicted one for me.
At any rate, I wrote one to share with my students. And since sometimes I do post about teaching on here, I figured it was the perfect time to share with the world in general why I teach. So, without any further ado, here is why I teach.
I don’t post a lot about teaching; mostly I post about books and reading.
But I was thinking today about the practicalities of teaching. The things that people do not bring up in teacher training courses. And I figured I would take some time to write about the things that have saved me—literally or figuratively—for the past seven years.
I remembered that, instead of teaching my period first class like I always do, I would instead be running an “infrastructure trial” for the upcoming state test.
During class last week, I showed students how to break down practice AP Language and Composition argumentative essay prompts. The one I used to model for them was an excerpt from a speech in King Lear.
Yesterday, Ruth Graham published a post on Slate that infuriated members of the Twitterverse and Blogosophere titled: “Against YA.” No, I am not linking to it here. The subheading was: “Read whatever you want. But you should feel embarrassed when what you’re reading was written for children.”
Last week, Mireille Silcoff wrote an article for The New York Times: On Their Death Bed, Books Have Finally Become Sexy.
Given that I recently published a blog post, “Sexiest Book Alive,” I took issue with the idea that physical books have ever NOT been sexy. Then I read the piece, and I took serious issue with some other things, indeed.
This year, I am teaching AP Language and Composition, and “standard level” World Literature. AP Lang is all nonfiction, and since it is my first year teaching said subject, I tried to adhere to the nonfiction focus as much as possible (some teachers include a nonfiction novel). My World Literature class focuses more on the skills needed to do well in senior English and in the “real world” beyond school. There is no Shakespeare for me this year, and it’s a sad, sad affair.
I saw this video, and just had to share it everywhere possible. Bill Moyers has it right, and more people need to wake up and pay attention.