This I Believe: A Growing Philosophy

“I’ve fallen in love with literature. I try to read for one or two hours every day. I only have one life to live. But in books I can live one thousand lives.”

The beauty of this quote is the truth behind it. I firmly believe that reading strengthens my ability to sympathize and empathize with others. Reading challenges my perceptions and beliefs. Reading allows me to make pilgrimages, slay giants, or solve mysteries. The beauty of reading is that it leads me down a path outside of my own box. Sometimes, a piece can even take me back inside the box with a resounding wave of emotional familiarity.

I gain such joy from simply reading a book, and I have a deep desire for my students to feel this same way. I don’t expect every single student to be as passionate as I am (though that is the goal). I hope that with some transparency and honesty, my students are able to get a glimpse at my reading life and see something worth echoing. With some nudging, I hope that my students can find this in themselves and make it their own.

My sophomore year of high school, one of my teachers shared an emotional piece she had written about her father in front of the class. I remembering feeling hypnotized as she read, amazed that what I was hearing was from my teacher. That moment stands out so vividly in my memories because it was the first time that a teacher had ever disclosed that much in a class.

1. I had never really had a teacher share anything personal at all.

2. I had especially never had a teacher share a piece of original writing.

This small act had an impact on me as a writer. I want to have this same effect on my students. When they see that writing is something that can always be useful and relevant, I hope they are transported out of their realm of preconceived high school writing notions. I want my students to look past the five point essay with a flawless bibliography as one of the few ways to write. Writing is so much more than that.

I am holding myself responsible for modeling a process to my students. I believe learning can be a richer and deeper environment when I show, not just tell. Starting off rough, having jumbled ideas, and wondering how to make a piece better is all part of a natural process. Published authors do not just write an award-winning book in one sitting, although to a student who can only see the finished product, it might appear this way. If I am thoughtful in the way I write, if I present my ideas with the intentions of feedback, if I am open and honest about my writing life, I feel that students will follow my lead.

In Douglas Kaufman’s article, “Living a Literate Life, Revisited,” he narrows four advantages for modeling a literate life given to him by a survey of eighth graders whose teacher used this approach. They are as follows:

She modeled literate behaviors, strategies, and processes, which showed students how to conduct their own lives in a literate way.

She presented excellent ideas, topics, and products, which helped students find their own writing ideas.

She let students know who she was and what she valued, which helped them to take her more seriously and fostered greater receptivity and increased motivation.

She helped students take risks and explore; they felt more comfortable attempting more difficult work as well as sharing their work with others.

Looking at these results, I cannot see how my teaching could be structured any other way. It is easy for me to say all of these things now as a college student who has yet to be in charge of a classroom. I understand that “living a literate life” for my students will not always be easy, but I am sure that it will always be worth it.

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One response to “This I Believe: A Growing Philosophy

  1. This is why I value Katherine Sokolowski’s blog so much and learn so much from her teaching: she shows her students who she is. (Beth Shaum is another good teacher to follow for that, especially if you’re on Instagram.) Wonderful post, Nicky.

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