Today I made a new bulletin board in my classroom. I realize it is the end of May and that a month from yesterday the students I love will have cleaned out their lockers, left 8th grade behind, looking only toward the season of freedom and their new high schools, which, whether you hated or loved it, is generally smiled upon more than middle school. So. I want the last month in room 116 to matter.
Our unit is called “Reading and Writing Through Coming of Age” and everyone has to read a coming of age novel. Instead of doing book clubs, students can read a book of their choice and we are trying to notice patterns across the genre: what parts of coming of age are universal? What are personal? In the midst of sharing, I hope that students find something that resonates with what life feels like to them right now.
Today everyone had to bring in 2 quotes that spoke into their characters’ coming of age experience in the first half of their book and I was blown away by what they found. I’ve been reading young adult fiction incessantly for the past month (Girl in Translation, Sweet Dates in Basra, The Girl Who Fell From the Sky, Weeping Underwater Looks a Lot Like Laughter, A Northern Light) and though they are all engaging books, I have not been inspired to write off of any of them, or the coming of age experience, which is also the reason behind my severe lack of posts recently. Until today.
I took about 25 of the quotes from 10-15 books that my students are reading and wrote them with permanent black marker on sheets of white paper. I hung them all across the bulletin board that stretches across the entire back wall of my room. All of a sudden it was reverse personification–I saw all of my students somewhere in the paper mess (well, let’s be honest, the quotes are hanging orderly, but still) of complicated emotion–and then it became post modern, because I could almost trace their jumps from one quote to another at different times throughout the year. For instance:
“This was simply around the time my parents stopped understanding what I wanted and I stopped understanding what they wanted me to want.” (Born Confused)
“Standing there, I loved and hated myself. It made me feel my glory and my shame at the same time.” (The Secret Life of Bees)
“You still have a lot of time to make yourself into what you want.” (The Outsiders)
“I told the waitress I’d been out all night ‘looking for trouble.'” (Teen Angst…Nahh)
“I didn’t answer him. I didn’t feel like it.” (Catcher in the Rye)
And I guess the reason that I wasn’t connecting with any of the young adult books I was reading was because I wasn’t picturing my students in them, because after listening to them read all their quotations and hearing their voices, I was tapped into their lives–albeit the slivers they allow to come out in English class, but it was as though the beauty of becoming and possibility was present. I’m not sure if they noticed it. But I did. And I’m absolutely sure that they will make fun of me for my waxing poetic about a day in class. But.
This week we talked about the first half–the pain, the confusion, the struggle. Next week we talk about the second half–the resolution, the growth, the wholeness, the strength. I. Love. Story. And I love to think about the people that these favorites are going to become and the stories they are going to be able to tell when they make it to the other side of growing up. But here are a few pictures of who they are right now. They are kind of endearing, right? You can read their writing at www.room116ela.blogspot.com.
|My “Sold” bookclub with supplies they bought for Restore NYC’s safehouse.|
|Mustache Monday. Obviously.|
|We take reading seriously.|
|Like I said, seriously.|
|My homeroom gets so excited to come back after lunch. Ha.|
|Sometimes we play paper football.|
|There aren’t words for just how great this one is. Or how amazed I was to capture the single second that they weren’t hysterically laughing after decorating my board so thoughtfully.|