That was a day, wasn’t it?!
Z did a pretty good job getting the global feel last night in her post– me I was pooped and went to bed.
I woke up this morning thinking about our presentation yesterday, and Jimmy Santiago Bacca, and the awesome people we get to see and get to know here at NCTE.
We did this session yesterday about our songwriting workshops, and I went to a great session on folk songs/protest songs, and we had a lot of conversations about authenticity.
Being ourselves in the classroom (and the rest of our lives). One of the things that I find so magnetic about Bacca is that he is completely himself. There is no distance between the poet and the man. I drove him to the airport last year when he came to visit us, and we spent the ride talking about trucks (he was asking if I like my Tacoma- yes, of course I do), which sounds pretty mundane. At the same time he makes more casual literary references than just about anyone I’ve ever known. And I do know a few lit geeks.
When he’s teaching he’s no different- he’s just being him. When I started teaching, like a lot of folks, I thought a lot of things about how I had to ‘be’ as a teacher. The short version is that most of it is bull. The part that isn’t bull is that I do have to know what I’m doing when it comes to literacy- other than that, the more me I am, the better I feel, the better kids respond, the better the whole thing works.
That’s what we were getting at with the two prongs of authenticity idea. It isn’t enough to ask kids to do authentic things. You have to BE your authentic self. The songwriting stuff came to be because I got busy being my authentic self- and to be authentic I had to bring that self to work. I couldn’t really be someone else.
And it’s the same for your students. We have to make classroom spaces where they can be themselves. They won’t do authentic work (no matter what the assignment), if they can’t be authentic people. If they can’t be who they are. Note- that doesn’t mean you have to tolerate disruptive or abusive behavior, but but you do have to be ready for honest conversations about school, your class, teaching, what your class is doing, whether they like it, whether it’s working (this is actually a really cool conversation to have), and sometime just some time to talk.
There has to be room for choice and self creation in your class. For you AND the students. How are you going to be your authentic self in the classroom?
And to put in another frame- if we are expected to differentiate for our students, then we have to differentiate for teachers.
Jimmy Santiago Bacca said in his morning address:
“Make your classroom as individual as you can to affirm your own spirit.”
Also- holy hell St. Louis! What is up with Gooey Butter Cake!?!? That stuff will kill ya.