Learning Between the Lines

There is so much learning in class —curricular and non-curricular. Both categories are equally important. I often like to know where my teaching lands in my students’ learning. As part of their final evaluation in the English class, I asked them to tell me what they learned related to English lessons. Happily, they learned a lot of useful lessons that pertained directly to language arts.

I also asked them what little gems or learning they picked up over the year from conversations with me, things I said, comments I made. Here are some of the winners:

The Lessons

1. Looks can be deceiving I thought Ms. Counios was in her 30’s but apparently, she’s much older than she looks.

The child was not bribed, nor rewarded for her observation. I do take it with a grain of salt as anyone over 30 is old to a 14-year-old. In any case, thank you for the compliment.

2. Having conversations is a skill and it’s important.

This was curricular but I appreciate that it transcends speeches and writing a good paragraph. Being able to say what you need to and be clear in how you say what you need to—and being understood is indeed an important skill. In my opinion, and the opinion of a couple of students in the class good communication is a necessary skill for being a successful human.

3. Composing and sending a proper email is useful. I wrote a really good email for a job and got one reffing. Thanks for helping me put 1000 bucks in my pocket with your how-to-write-an-email advice.

Because letter writing is slipping away and being replaced by digital letters and emails, and because our world has become so very immediate, we don’t pause to find the words, to be cordial, to be kind in sending or replying to an email. Imagine after 100 emails if no one took the time to give a good morning or extend some sort of appreciation how spent you’d feel as the receiver of the emails and letters. Emails and letters that have a touch of kindness or connection are received in a much more positive way. If you were approached by someone in the flesh, you’d expect a level of professionality wrapped with some kindness. This is what makes us human. I may not have a huge influence but 30 kids listened and a few of those got it. Be nice when writing emails. Be nice when writing letters. Be nice.

4. Listening matters. It makes people feel important.

To quote The Fight Club, “we’re not really listening, just waiting for our turn to speak.” I remind kids that there are different kinds of listening and it is a skill that is important in communication—and you don’t always have to add something. You can just listen.

5. Film as story can leave clues and symbols in the story to add layers.

Didn’t think I was turning English 9 into a film class, but I did for one kid. And why the heck not!

6. How to climb a mountain, get first class on a plane or put a fire out in a club are things I may need to know in the future. They could happen because they happened to Ms. C.

I’ve blogged about some of this. I think it’s good for kids to know that teachers don’t deflate at their desks at 3:30 and re-inflate in the morning. We have lives. We do things. We do cool things.

7. Drawing penises on everything can be like sexual harassment.

This came out of a discussion in class where students were asking what the big deal is when they draw penises on things. I laughed and said “Officially it’s really not a big deal, however, I don’t understand it. And, girls, we don’t do that do we? We don’t draw those things on walls and desks, and books etc.” The girls nodded. I told them that I do understand that they think it’s funny—they are kids, after all. Immature. Silly. Light hearted. “But, you won’t be kids forever and I want you to know how that behavior will be received in the adult world. Imagine you are 30 and working at your desk at your office and someone keeps drawing penises on a notepad on your desk. That’s not kind and, well, it’s sexual harassment. Your job could be at stake as well as your reputation.” Kids heard this. It stuck with some of them. Time and place team. Time and place.

8. Live with integrity so you don’t have to lie. (oh my heart<3)

9. Be yourself.

Thanks Dr. Seuss

10. You can easily distract a storyteller like Ms. Counios by having her tell a story.

I knew what they were doing, asking the questions. They didn’t feel like working, so they got me talking but after making this list it didn’t matter, they were still learning whether I was telling stories or discussing a book we were reading, or taking notes about parts of speech.

11. Always come prepared.


12. Teachers can always tell when you’re talking even if you’re whispering.

13. Telling the truth doesn’t always end in a scolding and it’s the best way to build trust.

This was a big one because the boy who wrote this was caught lying so many times. I think I finally cracked the code!! He might just get it. A win for me—and him.

14. Life experiences are one of the greatest forms of education.

15. There is value in reading daily.

I also warned them that when they are adults and have jobs and obligations it will be more and more difficult to carve out time daily to enjoy a book.

16. The ice cream test is a good way to find out if you should keep your partner or not.

You can read about that here.

17. 90% of our class would die in a zombie apocalypse.

Apparently, I had a “You didn’t make it through the apocalypse” list on the board. Each time a student was noisy, made a bad choice, was late…anything really…they ended up on this “oops yer dead list.” One of the themes we explored was surviving and conquering. It extends into life: pay attention; listen more than you talk; be on time; be respectful; help others.

There was more, but these were some of the light-hearted gems. English had a lot of marking but I also feel I made some pretty special connections. I do appreciate the learning that went on, and the relationships that were built. I wish these sweet freshmen all the best in their future English classes. May they keep the lessons that rang true for them close to their heart. And if I’ve done a couple of things right maybe in ten or twenty or thirty years they’ll be chatting about this crazy ol’ English teacher—who—hell, looked 20 years younger than she was.

Teaching is a complex beast.

As always, thanks for reading lovelies.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: