Tuesday, February 12, 2013

What they need

at Two Writing Teachers!
How is it that life always seems to give you what you need just when you need it?  (Strong evidence, in my opinion, that there is someone up there taking care of things!)  I've learned that I can count on my students (and my mom, and all of you!) to pick me up and push me to keep going when I'm overwhelmed and discouraged. And just when I'm in danger of getting too wrapped up in testing and standards and measuring and "moving" students forward, they remind me that there's more to teaching than all that.  They remind me that in addition to learning, they need so much more.

Sometimes, they reveal a personal crisis, open my eyes to hard truths, or give me a glimpse of life in their shoes.  They want to know me and they share their own journeys.  They explore big ideas and ask tough questions.  Often, they just want to know: "Do you like kids like us?"  Every once in a while, they even reach out directly for what they really need: love.

Twice a week, my beginner ELLs write to me on a dialogue calendar.  (I stole this idea from a reading teacher at one of the middle schools I used to teach at!)  They can tell me (and ask me) anything they want, and I respond and ask them questions.  It's basically an ongoing conversation on paper.
They practice their writing and reading, and we get to know each other better!
Last week, one girl (whose birthday is coming up in a couple of weeks) wrote the following:
"Are you going to hug me on my birthday?  I'm asking because I'm going to be lonely that day. :/ My family is going to be working the whole day and I'll only have the affection of my friends. :-("

I could feel tears springing up in the corners of my eyes.  Her family is loving and supportive, but I know they all work really hard just to survive.  So I wrote to her that I always have a hug ready whenever she needs one, but I also wrote that I know her family is working so hard because they want a better life for her.

How do you measure that?


  1. Measurements of the heart are the most difficult, but it seems that you and your student have surpassed the proficient level. Give her an extra hug from your blogging buddies.

  2. I think you measure it in your heart, Jennifer. Your dialogue calendars are such a good idea. My students had what we called letter journals & they wrote to me 3 times a week. I sat after school those days & wrote back. Not only did they have practice writing, but they too got to say anything they wished. Sometimes we argued! The journals stayed in a basket in the classroom & were very private. I don't think anyone ever broke that privacy to peek at someone else's thoughts. You are wonderful to give your students a way to confidentially talk with you. And no, we can't measure the data.

  3. The most important things can never have a number attached.

  4. This is such a powerful reminder of the need to take time to listen. It warms my heart that this student had you to reach out to. It speaks volumes about the connections you build through your teaching.


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