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Part 3: Adventures in Real Word English/Language Arts – Let Them Be Great

I love English Language Arts (ELA), but real world ELA can be eye opening.  I have been teaching my Technical Writing class for two weeks now. And I have had my share of ups and downs. I’ve always taken myself seriously as an educator. My love of literature and writing always translates easily into the classroom. I’m confident and passionate about my English classes. With technical writing, I feel shaky, but I had a few great moments that I am proud of. I believe in celebrating victories because those victories make every difficult moment worth it. I want to share my moments with you.
I believe in celebrating victories because those victories make every difficult moment worth it. Click To Tweet
Louisiana is in distress. I know you watch the news, and I will spare you the details because you did not come here to read about flooding, but I was gone for two days- Friday and Monday. Tuesday morning, I was on duty, and one of my technical writing kids ran up to me and said, “Thank God, you are back. We missed you so much!” I looked at her and said, “Really?” I was in complete disbelief. I was constantly fighting with them to stay on task, and they complain about every assignment, but they missed me? Of course, my heart melted. Once in class, they asked if my house was okay and if they could help with anything. Then they said, “Please don’t leave us again.”
They took their first test Wednesday, and they were a little overwhelmed. I saw they were struggling. I asked if they studied and they admitted no and they didn’t even take notes. I told them that this was a serious class and if they wanted other people to take them seriously this class would help them develop those skills. Yesterday, as I introduced the new unit, they took notes, asked questions, and we made word clouds. (I put powerful words such as police, rat, cult, revolution, beauty contest, etc.. on the board and they wrote three words they associated with the initial word and they “collected” their classmates’ words and surrounded the initial word with the associations. I walked around, watched them, and they talked about the word associates and said, “Why did you put that?” or “I have the same word.” My heart broke when I saw some of the words surrounding initial words. I let them talk about why they put certain words and I never stopped them. One said, “I love this class. We’re not on lock-down.”
Then I introduced their business proposal project. It is this important project that carries over every unit till the end of the semester. I was a little afraid of rebellion, but then I just took a breath and went for it. They were so excited! They could not wait to create their own businesses and products. They played with catch phrases and what to name each business and product. They even tied the word cloud lesson to the assignment. I heard, “Well if you name it that, people are gonna think of this!” (Trust me, the language was not exactly that. I have had a few moments where it is difficult to keep from laughing, and I had to ask them to clean up their word choice). Despite our rocky beginnings and initial refusal to work, they make me proud. In fact, I think I am prouder of them than any of my AP classes because they have to work harder, they have more working against them, and they are putting up with a teacher that is a tad insecure and unsure of what she is doing, and that in itself is a challenge.
I learned a few things this week.
1. Never, ever doubt how much you are needed and loved, the children that need you are the ones that never show it.2. Have faith in your abilities. They are learning, trust me.3. Learn about your students. There are reasons behind every choice and action. (My word cloud assignment turned out to be more than a lesson in connotation. It was a lesson for me.)4. You have to give students the opportunity to be great. They deserve it.
I am dedicated to my technical writing students who made me into a better teacher in the short two weeks we have been together.

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