As part of a warm-up to write our own “I Am/Am Not poems,”in Session B.29-I Am Not: Using Poetry To Empower Students To Define Themselves, we brainstormed stereotypes about teachers. The following list is what we came up with.
- coffee drinkers
- grammar cops
- control freaks
- good students in school
Presenters Ellen Hagan and Renee Watson talked about how reflection happens organically as you begin to chart responses and gives momentum for others to think deeply about themselves. We then created charts for stereotypes about women and men.
After we had charted our responses we were encouraged to write a poem using the “I Am Not/I Am” format as a model. We each took a line or short stanza and got together in about groups of five and put a new poem together with our selected pieces. What I want to share with you is the excerpt I took from my poem:
I am not just a public school teacher
who plans lessons, grades, and teaches the younger generation.
I am a bridge connecting
the past and present
towards a purposeful future.
Attending the National Conference of English Teachers Convention for the first time gave me the strength I need to affirm my identity as a teacher.
When I turned 25 years old, I found myself running into the teaching profession. Reading, writing, and being around youth keeps me hopeful for the future. And when I reached the line where I was working as a full-time teacher, I did not want to ever have to look back. However, I then became scared of having it all be taken away from me. I forgot about the hard work and collaboration and support from others that had brought me here and could push me forward. I became frightened by the budget cuts, reforms, and test scores. I was under the illusion that what evaluations and test scores had to say about my teacher effectiveness mattered more than my students’ or colleagues’ feedback. My reflection on my professional development felt like it meant little in the face of what the superintendent may have to say.
After the NCTE conference though, I realized that I have been moving on from a need for security to a need for establishing myself as a professional. The sessions and conversations I have had with teachers over those past two days convinced me that I have to be the one to initiate using my voice and practice as the professional teacher I want to be. Why wait for things to be handed to me? They never were given to me in the first place.
I was inspired by Ignite sessions around collaboration and owning your profession as a teacher. I am reminded time and again that students are often the untapped resource when it comes to collaboration. Together with explicit discussion around the work we do, I want to build another set of Commen Core Standards to lie above the mandated CCSS. One that has our values and issues at heart. One to connect the English Language Arts with personal growth, dialogue, and critical citizenship through literacy. I heard from a couple of teachers during the conference that they have done this work and it inspired me.
I am now relying on what I know to be true: networking and collaborating with others will enhance my teaching.