It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see.
I wrote some notes at the beginning of a song someone will
Sing for me . . .
—From Hamilton by Lin-Manuel Miranda
The gray hangs from the February sky like the roof of a tent heavy with rain. It’s during these wintry days when I feel most vulnerable as a teacher. I’m also sensing winter’s hold on my students, and I begin to wonder if I make even the smallest difference for them.
As a reader, I am captivated by characters. Major characters who drive plot or who find themselves transformed by conflict, minor characters who flesh out stories and live in the space between interesting and important, or characters who are easily forgotten.
As my sufferings mounted I soon realized that there were two ways in which I could respond to my situation—either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course.
―Martin Luther King Jr.
Teachers are on the front lines. We are advocates, mediators, magicians, actors, and even healers. Yes, healers. On any given day a teacher can witness a student trying to make sense of struggles in his life. As teachers, we carry students’ stories with us. Some of the stories make us cry, some just about break us, and some transform us.
Imagine a lesson that is accessible to all levels of learners. Students are actively engaged and believe their voices matter. Imagine a lesson where students have easy-to-use structures in place that support independence and thinking dispositions such as curiosity, open-mindedness, reflection, critical thinking, creativity, and innovation. As students collaborate, they realize learning is not just an individual process driven by the teacher but a social endeavor where understanding grows from a community of students making their thinking visible to one another. Last, imagine a lesson where you have time to observe students closely, reflect on their thinking and learning, and create curriculum that truly grows from their needs and interests.
One of the things I love most about teaching is that it constantly offers us new beginnings. Every semester is a chance to reinvent ourselves, our teaching, and our classrooms. Few professions offer this opportunity for reinvention, and all around me I see brilliant educators embrace it again and again.
In 2009, I interviewed for the PA Writing and Literature Project (PAWLP) Summer Institute. During the interview, Deb Dinsmore, one of the institute facilitators, asked me something that I have never forgotten:
Today on the Heinemann Podcast, we're exploring credo.
In 2013, Heinemann celebrated the legacy of Don Graves at a special breakfast during the National Council of Teachers of English conference in Boston. Three years later, at the 2016 NCTE conference, we wanted to reprise this moment by inviting those in attendance to consider the theme of credo. The event was hosted by Tom Newkirk and Penny Kittle and featured Heinemann authors Katherine Bomer, Smokey Daniels, Georgia Heard Allison Marchetti, Rebekah O’Dell, Cornelius Minor and Heinemann Fellow, Kimberly Parker. We began the event with a welcome from Heinemann’s General Manager, Vicki Boyd. Listen below: