Twice in our end-of-year Language Arts circle in June, teachers said they were going to use the summer to figure out who they were. One said she was going to figure out who she was when she’s not here, because the last school year had hollowed her out. The other said she needed space to remember who she is again.
As I sat and listened (because I hardly ever share much of significance, being the private person I am), I thought of the quote from The Tumbling Turner Sisters, a book I was reading at the time: “There’s something to that…What you have when you’re just you.”
My awesome friend Mary does my hair, and when we were talking about an upcoming publication of one of my poems, and another poem I’d just started about my daughter, she asked me, “Heather, when do you write, seriously?”
First of all, David, we call them our “kids,” not “teen-agers.” Yes, some of us may be parents apart from being teachers, but the “us” I’m referring to in this case is their teachers. Yes, we are the “most maligned and ignored professionals in American life.” So it’s interesting to me that you also chose to ignore the people who could have—and likely would have gladly—provided you with insight into what teenagers are actually reading.
You are right in that “The good [teachers] are not sheepish or silent in defense of literature and history and the rest.” So I’m going to tell you that you’re wrong. Teens read seriously. They read for purpose. They read for ideas. They read for knowledge. But most importantly, THEY READ.
Two years ago, I sat at my desk after getting on Twitter, and wondered how it was I could make reading books into a “career,” so to speak. I knew nothing about book blogging. I didn’t realize what a boon Twitter—and the connections I made on it—would be for me as a teacher, editor, book lover, and, as I’ve finally admitted, writer.
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.
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.
When I received the email from Bostick Communications announcing the publication of Katie Pierson’s new YA novel, I was excited. It was described as a novel that mirrored our time in 2015, when we still “argue[d] bitterly over the parameters of legalized abortion,” with a “sex-positive” message for young girls.
I have writing notebooks hidden under my bed. The writing in them spans years of my life; there are many words on the pages.
The thing is…I haven’t looked at them in years. Literally. I am afraid to look at them. I am afraid to remember things I wrote about, things I have long since forgotten. I am afraid of the memories. Most of all, I am afraid of my voice.