Monday, March 17, 2008

Flat Stanley will save us

Hakeem: "Miss Brave, I need to get another tissue because another booger is coming out."

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One of my ESL second grades sent their flat selves to a friend of mine who lives in San Francisco. She took them to the Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay Bridge, a local farmers' market, and Full House! To wrap up our Flat Stanley experience, this past Friday I gave my students the pictures of them in San Francisco to take home.

The looks on their faces when I gave them the pictures of their flat selves in California...It was pure joy. They compared photos with each other -- "Look, we're in the same place!" They eagerly quizzed me on where the photos had been taken. One student said she planned to take her picture home and put it on her wall. Today I gave another student her picture of her flat self in Boston; she studied it lovingly for a long while and then exclaimed, "I've never been to Boston before!"

It was that kind of moment I dreamed about when I decided to become a teacher.

Flat Stanley, the Noun Eater, and the "I took my ____ to ______" project -- those are the lessons I want to become a part of my teaching legacy, and best of all, they're all lessons I conceived and created by myself. I get no mentoring, no professional development, and no coaching, but my students still know that M-A-T spells MAT because I've made them wear vests with letters on them and tap it out; they know that conjunctions connect words and phrases because we've sung the Schoolhouse Rock "Conjunction Junction"; they know that antonyms have opposite meanings because we read What's Opposite? and chorused the word "antonym" about a hundred times; they know that writers leave spaces in between their words because we demonstrated how words are like people who feel squished and say, "Move over, I need some space!" when they stand too close to each other. They know that periods are like stop signs at the ends of sentences and that exclamation points are so excited about sentences with strong feelings that a line jumps up above the period.

I'm proud of that. No matter what I decide to do after this school year is over, no matter how disgusted I sometimes get with myself or my students or the DOE -- I need to remember that I'm not a bad teacher, I'm just a beginning teacher. I have done some good work this year. And I am proud of that.

Speaking of which, if you know a teacher you're proud of, Lands' End contacted me and asked me to let my readers know about their Light the Way awards for outstanding teachers; you have until April 17 to write 500 words describing how your favorite teacher is a "bright light in education," and if your teacher wins, you get $250!

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