For the past several years, I’ve started my first day of classes with a simple focused, free writing exercise: What are you passionate about?
This year, I made a switch.
For the first week of school, I’ve decided to focus solely on academics. In my freshman composition class, we’re looking at concepts of rhetorical situation, inquiry and writing process. In my IB English class, we’re looking at the evolution of the depicition of war and soliders in films from WWII onward.
I was worried about this change. I certainly don’t feel like I learned anything personal about my students. Instead, I privileged their intellectual and academic selves, and perhaps, learned more about what they would actually bring to our class: their ability to speak lucidly about a subject, their ability to talk to one another and not just the teacher. Also, I wanted to respect the introvert, those students who would be threatened by personal sharing on the first day.
My move, I thought, was a kind of heresy. For almost twenty years, I did some kind of get to know you activity. Most English teachers I know, or have read about, do something similar. It seems common pedagogical practice in the ELA classroom. Yesterday, walking around the building, I heard people starting Faulkner, teaching parts of speech, getting going on readings that would lead to synthesis essays. Heresy? I wasn’t being burned at the stake.
I’ll get back to my personal free-writes next week, for sure. Don’t despair that student, student interest, student passion needto find other rooms. They’ll be back next week with a secure academic disclurse in place.