A Letter to Myself

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9 thoughts on “A Letter to Myself”

  1. Got a sour girl who never smiles. She’s a princess. Doesn’t need to smile. Never smiles. Today I found out she’s a new year’s baby. El primero de enero. Rhymes. It’s smile-worthy. I told her (in L1) “that’s an important number, primero, to know for you. I’m going to ask you every day for the next two weeks what it means. I give you permission to just hear it. But then, you’ll say it in your head. Next you’ll need to say it outloud to yourself when nobody else is around and ultimately, you’ll have to say it to me with a smile.”
    In the middle of this, after “just hear it” I stopped and whiped the sour look off my own face. Her sourness makes me sour and I know I show it. And I said, “And every time I say ‘primero de enero’ to you I’m going to sing it and I’m going to smile at you. Do you know that you never smile at me?”
    Her reaction was interesting. She covered her mouth with her sweatshirt sleeve, lowered her head just a bit and let out a little bit of human emotion in the form of a knowing glance.
    I believe I have enough love deposits with her that putting her on the spot in this way will push her to be more human in class. I may be wrong. But I don’t think it hurts to let them know you’re paying attention to their affect. I didn’t say, You’re always sour, though I feel that. I just said, you never smile. In other words, c’mon and put your own chips in the game, kiddo.

    1. Wow, thanks gentlemen. I needed a letter to myself like that this morning. My dad (*gasp*) came into my room today to film two classes to prepare to send something to you, Ben, and for a presentation I need to do before the school board in December. Lots of English from my kids, but they were mostly in the form of “cute answers,” though not quite during an appropriate time (students were drawing the images from the story at the front of the room, we were beyond inventing at this point). It was a little distressing, because I wanted the video to be perfect. Did I lead them astray? Am I not enough of a hard-ass? They were so engaged, and I thought they had really learned things, but am I living with rose-colored glasses? I guess that’s why the video is important. This was not the PQA that we did for one day prior to the story, it was not the 2 days it took us to invent the story, it was the review and follow-up activities. But they know the vocab and the structures, and I worked my ass off to get in lots of repetitions. Maybe I’m getting better? I suppose only the video will tell…
      And Grant, your words struck a chord with me as well. I have a new student this year in fifth grade (year 2 of French for my students) who is extremely passive, pretends a lot. She raised her hand a couple of times today to answer questions but backed out. I pressed her a little the second time and got 2 words out of her. Not bad, I thought. But then during our true/false comprehension check, she didn’t even make an effort. I have had individual conversations with her to check in but “everything is fine.” (Mom says she’s not sure how long the family is going to live here, so she doesn’t want to get the daughter all worked up and involved in something if she won’t be continuing it–that makes me feel great). I have the feeling that this little girl’s love bank is empty all around. So now I know, Grant, I have to really make an effort to fill it up any way that I can. It’s my job as her teacher.

      1. …I wanted the video to be perfect….
        There will be no perfect video. There will only be semi soft shit that we will be more embarrassed to post than we should be. That’s pride rearing it’s ugly head.
        …I have to really make an effort to fill it up any way that I can. It’s my job as her teacher….
        With all respect, I hold that, from what you wrote above, Allison, you are reaching this child on a level far beyond what you have any idea. You are doing that unconsciously. We see that in real teachers. I am sure that others who read what you wrote can see that point. It’s all there, in between the lines.

  2. Dear Ben,
    Don’t be so tough on Ben! I’m sure he’s trying really hard. Can’t you see/tell? You try doing what he’s doing every day. If only you were in his shoes for one day, you would get off his back (I think).

  3. Ben,
    I love the idea of writing myself a compassionate, reflective letter about what’s happening in class–as if I were really a dear friend to me–not ME (who would likely only do the “rip it to shreds” part or might not want to look at it at all).
    Noticing. Noticing how it works when it works. Noticing how we get unhitched. Resolving to do better. Enjoying and connecting with the kids more. Doing it all again tomorrow. That’s really all there is.
    This letter was brilliant! (Yes, you sound too hard on yourself, but I GET IT!)

  4. Jody I think that we are cut from the same mold. Many of us who read this blog were. I’ll publish a rant on what that mold means to me, how it is defined, here tonite. In short, I will try to make the point in that rant that, as you say above, it is all about learning to hang out with ourselves and where we are with the method in a loving and accepting way, which is exactly Brigitte’s kind point above. Now this is Laurie Clarcq territory. It is all simply about loving ourselves and believing in our work and how we have chosen to perform it in spite of any and all opposition. What is so supremely beautiful in all of this is that it is this method of storytelling that holds within it for us something far greater than a job – it is nothing less than a way to learn to love ourselves. It is so much more than work, this learning how to play.

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