While we were doing Literature Circles in my inclusion class, I really started thinking about comprehension, reading strategies, metacognition, and connecting with the text. Not to toot my own horn, but I think one of my strengths has always been helping kids make connections with what they read.
However, it seems that for a while now the focus of my class has veered away from these much needed reading strategies and focused
more only on citing evidence to answer constructed response questions.
Sometimes I think if I say the words “Find evidence from the text to support your response,” I might throw up.
If they aren’t understanding and connecting with the text, how are they going to be able to come up with a solid response with the right evidence?
When I step back and look at the big picture, I start to feel confusion, conflict, and a little bit of chaos in my mind. Eighteen years of ideas, strategies, tricks, and educational jargon is swirling around in my head and I can’t figure out what to do and how to do it.
What is more important? What needs to happen first? What do my specific kids need? How do I get there?
I feel like I have temporarily lost sight of my beliefs and my philosophy.
Or is there a possibility my philosophy doesn’t work in today’s educational world?
I know I have strong opinions as an intervention specialist. I know that have my own beliefs about how kids learn best. I know that I have some great teaching strategies that work. I know I have a lot of ground to make up with my students who are still reading far below grade level and state-expectations.
I just can’t find a way to put it all together.
I cannot make the connection.
I am searching for a connection between all that I know and all that I have and all that I read and all that I want to do and all that my kids need to understand to make it in the life that is planned for them.
So yesterday, when my 1st period class started and two of my girls started asking me tough questions about a young man in our town who just received a life-saving heart transplant, I had to veer away from my plans.
They had shown the news story on our morning announcements and once this small side-conversation started, my whole class joined in:
What if he didn’t get a heart?
How much did they have to pay for the heart?
What happened to the person who donated the heart?
How do they take his old heart out and put a new one in?
Do you have to die to donate your organs?
Was he awake when he got his heart?
What was wrong with his heart?
Do you have to donate your organs?
How do doctors learn this stuff?
How did they find out?
Was he scared?
Could they put a new heart in my grandpa and make him alive again?
Is this a good example of being resilient?
If this is a happy thing, why do I feel so sad?
These are tough questions. Some of them may sound silly, but we all know there are no dumb questions. They trust me and they wanted to know the truth. I answered truthfully when I could. I admitted when I couldn’t. We stopped our conversation for 20 minutes to take the quiz I had promised them.
After that, I gave them the time they needed on the iPads and my computer to search for the answers and learn more. They found numerous newspaper articles about this boy. They found a website set up for people to donate towards his medical expenses. They found a place they could send him a message. They found video clips with interviews with his friends. They found his Twitter account, which held the most important and life-changing words this boy has probably ever tweeted: “This lady just came in. My hearts here.”
My own heart was filling with love for my students who just wanted to understand. My head was filling with ideas of the things I could teach them if only I had the time. Think of the skills I could incorporate into something they were so interested in and that so perfectly fit into the two themes we have focused on this entire year:
How can conflict change us?
Being resilient in tough times – Do you have what it takes?
I do not know this young man who has made an impression on my students and my community. As I bounced around to different buildings in district, I somehow missed meeting him, teaching him, and knowing him.
We still have 7 weeks of school left, but this situation and this classroom moment felt like the culmination of the school year and the connection that I’ve been desperately searching for.
The answers to all my questions and all my doubts lie right here in my heart.