September 1 marks the start of my 25th year teaching middle school. In two different districts and three different middle schools, highly qualified ceritification, standards, benchmarking, and state testing, one thing has been constant: work family. Each school I’ve been in has focused on creating a work family. Sometimes, the family is more dysfunctional than others, but through it all, we’re there supporting each other. We celebrate the good times, we mourn losses, we hold each other up.
Because I’ve been reading a lot about classroom libraries, I’ve been making a conscious effort to add books to my room that represent all of my students. I’ll be honest, teaching in a predominantly white, middle/upper-middle class school, I wasn’t sure how students would respond, but not all of my students were white, upper-middle class, Christian, heterosexual people. Not all of my students had families that were “normal.” And so, I started listening more closely to students talk about books like Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper, Rules by Cynthia Lord , or Wonder by RJ Palacio. I began to have conversations with my students when I thought about adding a book like Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the UniverseBenjamin and Aristotle Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz to the class library. I took their suggestions when they recommended books to me. I asked them about favorite characters, especially when the books they were reading had characters who were no cis-gendered, mainstream people.
As I’ve watched the events in Charlottesville unfold, I’ve been struggling to process it. I first read about what was happening yesterday morning via Pantsuit Nation. A law student at UVA recounted her experience arriving on campus Friday (8/11/17) evening to a procession of white men carrying torches and chanting, “You will not replace us” and “White lives matter.” The student, identified as Elizabeth Ann, felt that she and her friend needed to document what was happening. They kept their distance and videoed the procession. The video is chilling to watch. She then recounts that there were about 10 students holding signs reading “UVA Students Against White Supremecy.” The white terrorists surrounded the students and then began to attack them. Elizabeth Ann goes on to talk about how frightened she was and despite her fear, she planned to protest the rally on Saturday. She states, “These nazi groups are emboldened when met with little opposition. We need as many protestors here tomorrow as possible; there is strength in numbers, as well as safety. I’m scared, of course I am, but I will be there tomorrow because I have a duty to be. As a white person, I know it is easier for me to occupy this space safely than persons of color. I’m going to show up for all of the people who cannot.”
At the start of the summer, I signed up for a NetGalley account. Quite honestly, I didn’t think I’d be approved for an account, but I figured my role as an ELA teacher and YA blogger might help. I was quickly approved, found myself requesting titles, and then I waited. The first book I requested was rejected. I figured, “Oh well.” I certainly have a million and two titles sitting here to read. My friend Kate
is an enabler recommends great YA for me to read and passes along ARCs for my classroom. I certainly wasn’t going to go without books to read.
I cringe every time I see the “joke” what three things do teachers love best about teaching? June, July, August.
In reality, at least for teachers in the Northeast, June is a nightmare. It’s rush, rush, rush to finish up: cram in one more lesson, complete the unit, administer the final, get everything graded, pack up the classroom, sign yearbooks, and by the last week in June, we look like we’ve been run over by a school bus.