A very quick note (I type this as my 2nd hour seniors are silently reading Elie Wiesel’s Night): Today has been the best start of a day since I have been student teaching. My eighth graders have been very difficult to please, and they have given me hell as a result (I guess because I’m not entertaining enough), but today, something worked!

The something was an idea I’d seen somewhere on the ‘Net, an “I Am/We Are” poem. The idea is to have students write several lines of alternating statements about themselves individually (“I Am”) and the group (“We Are”). (I encouraged students to write statements using other verbs but in the same format, e.g. “I have a great sense of humor.”) This idea strikes me as a very good one for middle school/junior high because it respects students’ individual opinions and allows a safe outlet (relatively so, at least) for expressing them.

And it worked like I had wanted: the students wrote some interesting statements about themselves and the class. To make things interesting, I had the students write 12 lines, 6 of each type, and then I had the students contribute a line each from their own poems to make a class poem; odd numbered students would contribute “I Am” statements, while even numbered students will give “We Are” statements. (I have 13 students in this class, and one was absent, so it worked out nicely.) After all of the 12 lines had been written on the board, the students wanted to end the poem on a different note, so two more students contributed an additional line, the concluding line being “We’re not weird; we’re just ourselves.”

It is a magnificent feeling after having so much trouble with this class. One student who I have had many conflicts with actually said that they were proud of me for coming up with something they actually liked, and I thanked her (privately) for saying such a nice thing to me. As a result, I’m on cloud nine – this shows that I can have success, and to a large degree, even a moderate success in a sea of failures can make the whole thing seem worthwhile.

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