The winter term was so busy that I didn’t adequately pause and celebrate my first real publication, a chapter entitled “Student Teachers: What I Learned from Students in a High-Poverty Urban High School” in the book The Poverty and Education Reader.
This chapter is a personal essay in which I take a moment to reflect and define what I gained from my 10 years in the high school classroom. It was prompted by a polite wedding conversation between myself and a man who teaches at one of the nicest high schools in Chicago; he asked me, after realizing that our teaching experiences stood in stark contrast to each other, what teaching those kids was like. I had to fight back my urge to go all preach-y on him over his use of the word “those” when he referred to my students, but his question really gave me a moment of pause. What had I learned? This essay explores a few answers I came up with after months of tossing this question around in my brain.
I haven’t read the book’s whole collection yet, but I have read several of the chapters. What I like about the book is that it is a variety of academic articles, personal essays, memoirs, poetry, fiction and I find this mixture more powerful than a entire body of any of these genres standing alone. I like how they are mixed up, how after reading an academic piece you can then quickly read a poem of the same topic and can consider the two together, and how they all quilt into a story of poverty, teaching, recognition, reflection, and resilience. I am proud to be in a book that experiments with this format. It’s a metaphor for what teaching is like: academic, poetic, reflective, personal.
Of course, when reading my own chapter I found about a million and a half revisions I would make to my own printed words, but I’m trying to let that go.
This book is edited by Paul Gorski and Julie Landsman and a testament to the fact that the world is small and connected. I was a fan of Julie’s work (specifically White Teachers/Diverse Classrooms) before I met her at the Urban Sites Network conference of the National Writing Project in spring of 2012 and she is a good friend of Paul’s. And, if you can believe it, Paul and I went to Sterling Middle School and Park View High School together (although he is a couple of years older than me and we were never friends, but we knew each other), and, the book is published by Stylus, a publishing house in–wait for it–my (and Paul’s) hometown of Sterling, Virginia.
I love everything about all of that. So weird and wonderful.
Hopefully this will be the beginning of much publishing in the future.
Fingers crossed and typing (though not at the same time–that would be hard).
Photo of my shout outs to a couple of my former students–Willia, Shana, Rudy, Heeba!:Photo of my favorite poem from the book. I, too, had a student who lived in a car when he was diagnosed with cancer. For a split second I thought that maybe we had taught the same student, and then I sadly realized that no, that has happened to a lot more than just one kid.