The stories they tell…

I am back at it again for my third semester and my outlook this semester is very different. I am trying to live in the moment instead of just surviving the moment. I wasn’t joking when I said in effort to be better at being an instructor, wife, mother, daughter I cut down tremendously in some stuff I really love. I am my first years teaching and finding myself so excited with each new moment and experience. This is one message I continuously try and convey to my students and how can I convey it if I don’t live it?

The first assignment I always assign is the overdone but so interesting literacy narrative. Don’t know what a literacy narrative is? Go here. The reason it is so overdone is a good one and it falls into that if it is not broke don’t fix it catagory. Plus I find it so valuable to see how my students arrived in my classroom that day and how they feel about their own writing/reading.

In effort to make something old new I have toyed with the assignment each semester. I have yet to do the same thing any semester. The first semester it was a longer written paper chalked full of hyperlinks to add some digital aspects. It worked really great but I just felt like it was missing something. The next semester I had them write a similar paper above but they had to relate it to an object related to their literacy. Honestly, it kind of failed. I couldn’t wait for it to be done. The papers weren’t what I expected. Thankfully, I took a class with her about teaching ALL students and she really helped me think through the project most of the just asking “why not?” when I said, “But, I can’t.”

This semester I think I have finally tweaked it to be what I want out of it. My students had to present a literacy narrative collage. They are able to use songs, writings from others, pictures and books to demonstrate how their writing/reading selves were created and inspired. Yes, I know there is very little writing here and I teach freshman comp. Well to go with the project the students have to analyze their writing using the ideas and concepts in rhetorical analysis. Which is a core principle of the class so it is win win.

I am so pleased where my students have taken this project this semester. It freshened literacy narratives up and the stories my students tell are just amazing. They are able to isolate this part of themselves and share it with others. It has created a tremendous community as we dive into the meat of the class and they have found others who are similar to them. By allowing them some creative freedom in how they share this information their ideas just go rampant and I am left in awe at what they have created and the stories they tell.

I have also learned that despite my own personal protests that Harry Potter is very much engrained into my students literacy pasts. I heard story after story of Mom/Dad/Grandma reading me a chapter every night before bed. I don’t know why I resist, but I do. I learned that not much writing seems to be focused (at least for my students) around anything other than literature from the time they learn to write until they get to college. They think writing, they think literary analysis. They loved it when they learned that Shakespeare will never grace their eyes in my class. I learned that the teachers that made the most impressions on them were the ones that taught outside the box despite Indiana state standards that try and dictate something different. My kudos go to those teachers because it can prove to be risky to do this (now more than ever). The stories of teachers with guitars and having their students rewrite fables. AWESOME!

Lastly, I learned that I have some amazing students, with amazing stories that seem really eager to begin this 16 week journey with me. All they seem to want is to be heard and validated. I can do that. They may not all be what they consider “good” writers but they are willing to go with me where I want to take them and that is all I ever ask of them.

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