This is my 23rd year as a teacher in an elementary classroom. I think it’s safe to say that those years of experience have strongly impacted who I am at this point in my life. There is no question in my mind that those years have impacted who I am as a college professor (adjunct teaching two sections of a children’s literature course both semesters this year).
One of the recurring assignments, both semesters, has been literature discussion circles. In the fall I used books we could access online, which definitely limited our choices to an extent. This spring I felt strongly that I wanted students to read a longer text and one that fit in our study of diversity and equity. I began searching out used copies of a number of different books (Amina’s Voice, Cardboard Kingdom, El Deafo, Flying Lessons, Open Mic, and a few others). I book talked them all and had students fill out a google form to rank their choices. Then I worked to create groups in each section for various books. Finally, I mailed or hand delivered books to students. (If I mailed them, I included a prepaid, addressed envelope to return it to me after our discussion.)
It was a lot. A LOT.
The discussions were amazing. Their journal entries after the discussions were the best I’ve seen yet. They loved the books and the chance to talk about them. It was totally worth it.
Then I had to get books back. (I’m sure I won’t get all of them back. I knew that going in. It’s all good.) They started trickling in by mail. My kids and I spent one afternoon driving all over and picking up copies, including all of the ones that were overflowing my mailbox on campus (I have a mailbox on campus!). It’s the end of the semester and I’m tired. I questioned my decision making and didn’t feel great love to past me.
I saw students in person. The first house we went to didn’t have the book out front so I knocked. The student had forgotten and ran to grab the book. She was so generous is her gratitude for our class. She’s a nursing student but she’s considering education now. (I told her my mom was a nurse for years and taught nursing students so she could do both!) Another student is studying to be an art teacher. She included some lovely sculpey creations, a book, an owl, and a Stinky Cheese Man. Another wrote the loveliest, kindest note to thank me for the semester.
I have been completely overwhelmed by it all.
It is such a gift to be a part of these students’ lives. It is such a gift to have them dedicate such time and energy to the work and assignments I give them.