Rewarding, NOT Easy: The 2013-2014 School Year

As the 2013-2014 school year fades, I can’t help but look back on it as the best year in my professional career. Teaching has become doing and creating with students and community. It is my zone. But it is NOT easy. This teaching thing is hard work and my colleagues and I are deserving of our upcoming time to read professionally, to create new ideas, and to work on implementation. Truth be told, if I didn’t have last summer, I wouldn’t have accomplished much of what my students, community, colleagues, and I did this summer.

For a personal recap, here’s the Top Five List of Accomplishments in 2013-2014:

5. Speaking Engagements at Mattawan, Jackson, Whitehall, MACUL, and More. By engaging in these conferences, I get to reflect so much in my preparation. Through it, I get to question my own practices and strengthen my convictions in them, too. Along the way, I hope what I present makes a difference in other educators’ practices. During these talks, I’ve been able to meet phenomenal, motivated educators in other districts, people who are keeping Michigan education strong. Conversations with Brad Wilson, Andy Losik, Rebecca Wildman, and Aaron Koleda have kept me motivated to get better at my craft.

4. This Weekly Blog. Now in its second year, this blog has been a beacon of professional development for me. Publishing my thoughts keeps me accountable. Like I express to my students, words matter. Whether the audience is small or big (one post hit upwards of 500 views), someone is reading my words, so I need to make them matter.

3. Creative Writing. The first time, officially “having” the Creative Writing class has led to some wonderful surprises and some phenomenal work from my students. Between our hybrid blogs, our public readings, and our soon-to-be published book, we’ve done real work–real writer’s work. It’s been so much fun leading these young writers in what writers do: think, revise, write, struggle, celebrate.

2. WORDS HAVE POWER. The past summer allowed me to set up the WORDS HAVE POWER essay among my fall Advanced Composition classes. We used our words and research to argue on behalf of local non-profits. With the generous gift of the local community foundation, we were even able to award cash prizes (which had to be given to the non-profits) to essays that classmates thought were best.

1. The Community Book Club. This fall, our community–with the support of the entire school district–worked through an important book: Emily Bazelon’s Sticks and Stones. Through great online and face-to-face conversations, we traveled to a place of more empathy. And that is never wrong.

So, the work was not easy. But invigorating, important, rewarding work never is.

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