As English teachers, we have a lot of great opportunities that perhaps some of our more content-driven counterparts do not. One of my favorite aspects about our discipline is that we can bring in content that can support and engage the learners in our classrooms. Whether it means we discuss snowmobiles or cars or Justin Bieber, we have the power to encourage critical thinking and analysis through the interests of our students.
Our discipline is also quite fortunate as we have the opportunity to get to know our students on a more personal level through classroom discussions. Our grade 12 College level English class studies the novel, The Glass Castle, and the conversations that flow from reading that book really demonstrate the individual personalities of the students. The students are all able to make connections to different aspects of the novel depending upon their background knowledge and experiences. In my class this past semester, the students celebrated each others’ ideas especially if it challenged their thinking about an aspect of the novel. It was a safe environment for even the quietest of students to share their thinking and interpretations which allowed for a very deep analysis of the text but, perhaps more importantly, a stronger feeling of respect for each individual in the room.
One of the absolute joys of teaching is when you have an unexpected outcome and the strong sense of community in my classroom this past semester really enriched our collective experience. Different backgrounds and experiences can sometimes drive people apart, but for us, it was a unifying quality which is definitely worth celebrating.