Sunday, March 2, 2014


2 of 31 at Two Writing Teachers!
Last year was a year of floundering. So much to learn. So much to try. So much to adjust to. Through it all, I kept myself "floundering pretty well" (as one of the CAWP co-directors claimed in response to my description of my teaching) by getting to know my students and figuring out what I believed about their learning.

I saw kids who felt marginalized and just wanted to be liked.
I saw students who hated reading and viewed writing as an unpleasant task to be completed for a teacher... or avoided altogether.
I saw language learners whose lives outside of school were dominated by their native languages, while their lives in school were flooded with difficult English and not enough support.
I saw hesitant teens unsure if their languages and cultures were assets or roadblocks.
I saw international students unfamiliar with using technology for learning.
I saw kids who were struggling through incredible emotional, academic, and economic challenges.

I loved them right away. And I committed myself to turning them into voracious readers, powerful writers, and enthusiastic learners. I resolved to encourage them to practice English at home while advocating for their unique needs at school. I vowed to give them a safe, supportive space where they could feel at home. For a first-year-all-over-again teacher, I did a pretty ok job. But changing a learning culture takes time and careful planning.

This year, I've had a variety of observers in my classroom, from graduate students getting licensed in TESOL to graduate researchers & professors. Their reactions to my classroom have encouraged me, kept my beliefs at the forefront of my thinking, and given me opportunities to ponder those beliefs even further.

They have seen a community of readers who whine when reading time ends, talk & write about books, set goals, and make plans.
They have seen courageous, expressive writers who seek strong words, choose unique details, and explain their craft decisions by saying that they don't want their readers to be bored.
They have seen learners engaged in real tasks for real audiences, aided by technology.
They have seen a multilingual, multicultural community that values and celebrates differences.
And they have seen students who want to come to ELL class and trust their teacher to take care of them.

So, even as we approach another season of testing, evaluations, and growth measures, I feel at peace. This week, my classroom will be filled with noisy, messy, enthusiastic learning as my students prepare to share pieces of themselves with the whole school. (More on that in future slices!)  This month, I once again embark on a joyous and challenging month of writing with my students.  We are centered around what matters and grounded by a common vision. We are readers, writers, and learners. We still have a long way to go, but we are doing it together.


  1. I would love to visit your classroom. I'm glad you give us a glimpse through your posts.

  2. I feel the best thing I can say is: Amen! "...we are doing it together" says it so well! I also really like your students' honesty in their posts! Maybe I could share a few with my students during the month.

  3. I'm glad you wrote about this today. Sometimes to firmly plant how we feel about what we do we need to write about it. I also would love to visit and see you in action.

  4. Jennifer, I love how you share that your students also whine when reading time is over! I appreciate your perspective about creating a culture of readers and writers, and how invested in their learning you are. Your students are very lucky to have you as their ELL teacher. I can see your commitment in how you describe your classroom and your routines! I look forward to reading more of your blog entries!

  5. I am so proud of you as a daughter and as an educator. It all starts with loving life and your students with passion and persistence-- and that is what you do! Love, Mommy

  6. If I had to name a passionate teacher, you would be at the top of the list. Your school is so lucky to have you to guide these fragile learners.

  7. Jennifer, every time I read what you share I get excited all over again, and I am usually excited anyway! You are such a thought-filled teachers. Wish we were closer so I could visit! I love "We are readers, writers, and learners. We still have a long way to go, but we are doing it together." That's what I have always thought was so, so important-doing it together-learning together! Thanks for saying it so loudly!

  8. I love this! As a teacher of MANY years, I am still humbled by the challenges of our work--and love it.

  9. Can I just cheer?! I love what you do for your students and I love that you are devoted to them. Let's schedule a Skype connect and introduce our classes. I'm working on getting my students commenting and blogging this week (we're a little behind you). Maybe your students would like to show/tell my kids how...

  10. Aw, thanks everybody... you are so encouraging. I'm proud to be part of a community of such dedicated, positive teachers who share so many of my beliefs.


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