There were so many great sessions at NCTE14, the toughest part was choosing which one to attend. The panel discussion on Reluctant Readers Overcoming Shame chaired by Justin Stygles was one that called to me. Initially, it spoke to what I know to be true with my readers.
The reflections on their own learning experiences were personal, revealing and in some ways startling. The power of teachers words was at the core of each panelists’ presentation.
Lynda Mullaly Hunt (One for the Murphys and Fish in a Tree) shared pieces of her growing up and teaching life. She was that snarky-make-me-do-it kind of student. She didn’t fit the mold. It took a middle school teacher to “see” and her strengths to help her get past her shame and grow. As a teacher, Lynda, found ways to reach “those” students . One way she let kids know she “saw them” was by giving them a business card with space to write a personal message. Something quick and easy, but also thick and durable: a real keepsake for a student needing acknowledgement. I love this idea and plan to get a stash of cards printed up.
Liesl Shurtliff (Rump) shared the importance of listening to students and respecting their choice in books. She highlighted the need to be careful about what we teachers say is a “great” book. Imagine sharing a book we “love” and students for whatever reason don’t love it. What does that imply?
Teacher’s words can lift up or put down and possibly, inadvertently shame a student. I walked away with this important reminder. Thoughts about good teachers being in touch with their inner student also tugged at my heart.
This led me to think a little more about myself as a student. I’ve thought on this before, but never really named it. I wasn’t the struggler. I wasn’t the super star. I was the one who followed the rules and tried not to get noticed. You know that kid. The hider. For students like me, school was a place where I was invisible. It took leaving the school world, age, and mentors who saw me and asked more of me before I managed to step out and grow. Imagine, what if a teacher had seen me sooner.
Those kids, the hiders, make up a pretty big portion of my students. Their names are ringing in my head.
You can’t help but notice the strugglers and the stars. But the hiders, the quiet ones, are easy to ignore. I admit it: I”m guilty. And oh what a very big and unexpected aha.
When I walked out of the session on shame I had two things in hand. The bigger thing took days to get to. Today I celebrate the brave teachers who shared at NCTE14, the time to think about their message, and a space to reflect and grow in.