“Has this year made it harder or easier to write, Mrs. Ripp?”
We are sitting in circle today (a restorative justice process we use to communicate), and the question now hangs between us, fourteen kids staring at me, waiting for an answer.
I know what she is asking me; has this year, with this group of kids, made me write less or more? Has this year been too tough to handle or have I found inspiration? What will I tell others about the kids I teach?
I don’t hesitate, I tell her the truth, after all; these kids tell me their truth all of the time.
So I tell her it has been hard. That I have had to weigh my words more carefully. To really craft the sentences that have been published on this blog. To think deeper before hitting publish. To take a moment to breathe before I go to write. To write clearly, to write with intent. To write with care and with meaning.
But not because this year has been hard.
Not because these kids have been hard, although some days have been hard.
But because this year I have been pushed as an educator further than I have been pushed in many years.
Because this year I have felt like a terrible teacher more days than before, and not because I lost my temper, or things fell apart, but because I wanted to be everything for everyone. Because I wanted to change the narrative; the story these very kids told me of the reputation they came with, of how they knew they were the “bad kids” and how hard that was to carry when they didn’t feel bad. To help them know that they are not “bad” or “trouble,” that the actions of a few do not define the whole. I wanted to help them know that we, teachers, saw this as a new beginning, that with us they could reach the goals they set, even if some days would be hard. To help them all believe that reading was worth their time. To help them understand how transformative writing could be. To help them at this incredible stage of their journey. To make sure that every day I brought my best because they deserved it.
But some days I have failed. Some days the minor things have piled up and I have left feeling like I could never be enough. That I was not enough. And that is hard to write about. After all; which parent wants to read about how their child’s teacher does not think they are enough? Who wants to publicly admit that sometimes they don’t have the right answer, a new idea, or even a clue as to how to make everything work for all of the kids you teach.
Yet. This year, with these kids, this is one I will remember. For how they pushed me, for how they questioned, for how they wanted to be something more than the story they felt was written about them. This year may have been hard to write about, but it sure has been good to be in. And that is something worth remembering, even when we feel we are not enough.
If you like what you read here, consider reading any of my books; the newest called Reimagining Literacy Through Global Collaboration, a how-to guide for those who would like to infuse global collaboration into their curriculum, was just released. I am currently working on a new literacy book, called Passionate Readers and it will be published in the summer of 2017 by Routledge.If you are looking for solutions and ideas for how to re-engage all of your students consider reading my very first book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students. Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.