Amazing Things Our Students Do

After teaching for 13 years, I find myself forgetting which students were in which class.  I also have trouble remembering which class went on which field trip.  Did we read that book last year?  The years, classes, and activities tend to bleed together like food coloring in a bowl of soapy milk.  However, I will never lose sight of how amazing each new day in the classroom is.  I learn something new from my students and colleagues on a daily basis.

Working with my advanced math students in STEM class yesterday, I learned how to multiply and divide scientific notation equations.  Crazy, right?  I know.  I also find myself amazed each and every day by what my students are able to accomplish in the classroom.  It blows my mind.  While some days my amazement is tempered, on other days, I can’t stop celebrating the greatness of my students.  They truly are wonderful and amazing creatures, even though they sometimes make me a little crazy.

Today in Humanities class, the students spent the period typing and revising their Where I’m From Poems, which they began crafting at the start of the year.  After letting these poems sit and fester for several weeks, we felt it was time for the boys to revisit these pieces with a fresh perspective.  So, after reminding them of the purpose of the original assignment, we reviewed the poetic form and what makes a poem great and effective.  We also gave the students the option to revise their original piece or start from scratch.  The door to possibility-ville was wide open.  The boys then had a chance to ask any questions that crept into their minds as they pondered this new task.  They seemed to grasp what was being asked of them.  That’s when we dropped our arms and shot the starting gun.  Now, as this is a very different group of students compared to groups from past years, we didn’t really know what to expect.  We hoped that they would quickly get to work and type out their pieces.  However, we were truly amazed by what happened next.

So, the boys began typing their poems on their iPads.  The sound of clicking keys was all that could be heard as my co-teacher and I meandered throughout the classroom, observing the boys at work.  They were focused and diligently working.  As I began to look closely at their Google Documents, I noticed something peculiar.  Their new poems were almost completely different than their original pieces.  They weren’t just copying what was on the page, they were challenging themselves to create a better, stronger, more effective poetic representation of where each of them is from.  Wow!  And these new poems weren’t just haphazardly thrown together.  Oh no, these new pieces were brilliant and creative.  They were really showcasing their growth as writers in class today.  Was it something we said?  What is happening, I thought.  I was so excited.  They were pushing themselves to the next level of greatness as writers.  They were applying all of the feedback we’ve been providing them during Writer’s Workshop sessions over the past five weeks.  How is that possible?  It was amazing.  One ELL student, who has really been struggling to handle writing and reading in English, crafted an entirely new poem that contained a final stanza summarizing questions he posed at the end of each previous stanza.  Wow, amazing!  Each and every student displayed tremendous growth as a writer in crafting a new, revised Where I’m From Poem.

We were blown away by the effort, focus, and growth our students demonstrated in class today.  They were amazing.  While we’ve been very impressed with the way this group of students has been working and growing, some days are better than others.  Therefore, we didn’t really have any expectations for today’s lesson.  They did more than just shatter our hopes, they amazed us with their awesomeness.  While I’d love to think that what we saw today was because of our pre-teaching of the activity or the effective feedback we provided them, but we all know that the students did the work and not us.  They were typing these new masterpieces, not us.  They were the brilliant poets.  Wow!  After a class like that, it’s hard to do anything but smile and celebrate.  So, I’ll end my post here today so that I can go and do a happy dance.  Go sixth grade, go!


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