Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Lessons I Have Learned

With the posters off the walls, the curriculum binders packed away, and the final papers graded, I’ve spent some time the last few days reflecting on the year, my teaching style, on what worked and what didn’t. Reviewing my blog entries from this past year reveals that I spent a great deal of time thinking and writing about ways to bring authentic assignments and learning into my classroom. Many posts rattle on about wanting to help students use their knowledge to engage in the world around them; however, as I reflect on my teaching strategies, I wonder how much time I actually spend doing this. I have a few key assignments where students write or present for an audience other than the teacher, but looking at what I do on a daily basis, most of the time, students are working at their desks. One of my goals this summer is to evaluate my assessments. What am I spending time assessing my students on? Is this worthwhile? Where will students need to use this particular skill in the future? I’ve signed up for a couple of classes through the Pennsylvania Writing and Literature Project (PAWLP) in the hopes of engaging with other teachers as they also reflect on these curricular conundrums.

But of course, that’s not all I’m going to spend my summer doing. With little baby boy on the way, I’ll also be spending some time thinking about what my changing identity means. Lately, I’ve been remembering moments from my own childhood that have shaped who I am today. I’ll be raising my child in a very different world than the one I grew up in. Whereas my summers were filled with bike rides, boat trips, and picking cherries, my little boy will have a whole technological world to explore that wasn’t there when I was growing up. It has me thinking about the lessons that I learned, and the lessons that he will learn.

So taking some inspiration from California Teacher Guy’s blog entries, I thought I would post some of my lessons learned in the form of poetry. Not only is an appreciation of poetry something that I try to pass on to my students, but one that I also hope to foster in my child as well.

Children of Cherries

Summer smells of pesticides,
cherry pits,
grass stained knees.
As children,
we chose to stay hidden in the pines
edging the orchards
when the sprayers chugged by
spotting new fruit.

The migrants refused to wear
regulation OSHA masks,
sweaty WWI contraptions
which left rings ‘round the nose and mouth,
and in the warmth of June,
made it impossible to breath.

We would make a game of it:
dashing into the pines as
the bright red sprayer drew close,
jumping out again
after the haze had settled
to holler and wave at the migrants
and slowly breathe in our
summer of pesticides.
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