Tuesday, October 29, 2013

If we have the courage

at Two Writing Teachers!
"All our dreams can come true, 
if we have the courage to pursue them." 
-- Walt Disney

Teachers don't get many chances for outside input on our work.  Every once in a while, an administrator might drop in to observe or evaluate, but most of the time, we're on our own in our little classroom bubbles with the kids.  We reflect, we seek student feedback, and we collect evidence, but we are so closely involved in our work that it's easy to wonder how others might perceive it.  We know our students are learning... but what would an outsider see?  Would someone else, unfamiliar with the detailed inner workings of our instruction, notice all the learning that we work so hard to facilitate?  What kind of a difference are we really making?

That's why I've been amazed at the reactions of several doctoral students are observing my classroom in preparation for a research study: after just a few observations, their comments and questions to me articulate my most ardent beliefs and philosophies.  It's evident that they're seeing exactly the atmosphere I've worked so hard to foster.

"Your students are all so happy and comfortable!"
"Your classroom has many opportunities for real communication."
"I'm so interested in how you use technology to help your students interact."
"Do you believe that reading and writing are interconnected?"
"Your class activities are so meaningful for students!"
"You really know each student's writing and what they need!"

I've been feeling the sparks of magic in my classroom this year, but it's even more incredible to have my perceptions validated by outside observers.  I feel like my classroom is finally becoming the place I've dreamed of, and I'm really becoming the teacher I want to be.  When I think about how this has happened, that Disney quote pops into my head and I realize just how much courage it's taken:

  • Courage to share your real self with a roomful of teenagers.
  • Courage to let them raise their voices and share their stories.
  • Courage to try things you've never done before.
  • Courage to fail and try again.
  • Courage to challenge the way things are.
  • Courage to do things that nobody around you is doing.
  • Courage to reach out to people you've never met.
  • Courage to go where the learning leads, even if it wasn't where you'd planned.
  • Courage to give up control.
  • Courage to keep searching.
  • Courage to have the tough conversations.
  • Courage to keep showing that you care, even when it doesn't seem to make a difference.
  • Courage to be the one they can trust.
  • Courage to stand up for them.
  • Courage to keep believing.

Thank you for helping me find my courage. 


  1. It is so validating when outsiders see exactly what you've worked so hard to build. Way to go Jennifer! Your list of courage reminds me of the book Courage by Bernard Waber.

    1. Someone shared that book at our CAWP Summer Institute, and I totally forgot about it until you mentioned it, Elsie! You're right, my list is kind of like that!

  2. That is amazing--both the cool things going on in your classroom and the validation from others who both see and get what you are trying to do. What kind of research study are the students doing? What is your role?

  3. I'm glad they will be describing the magic of your classroom. It sounds like a place that Walt himself envisioned!

  4. Your post made me think of the one I wrote last week. It is evident that you are at a write place. You have found your calling. Your passion for your students comes through everything that you write about them. You have courage! Keep on believing in yourself and in your students!

  5. I wish I could see inside, too, but you've described so much through all your posts that I'm not at all surprised with your visitor's comments! Wonderful for you!

  6. You have created a community that allows growth and learning from you and your students. Amazing! I love how you ended your piece with all the areas of courage. Powerful.

  7. You are courageous. Your writing shows that to all of us every time you share about your classroom, Jennifer!

    BTW: Don't teachers and writers have a lot in common? Both often work alone (though teachers have pupils in front of them... just no other adults in the room). I'm not sure if I "buy" that connection I just made, but I wanted to ponder it out loud. What do you think?

    1. Thank you, Stacey. The amazing community you and Ruth created has helped me find my courage. And I think you're right -- teachers and writers are a lot alike!


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