Sincerely, Stasia

Living and learning on a teacher's salary.

Who Are You Writing Your Story For? March 2, 2012

This week I started one of my favorite writing units with my students: Fiction. I love listening to them brainstorm and hearing them get excited about each other’s stories, which are typically very creative. To start the unit, I always have them develop a main character that they’ll use throughout their stories.

To do so, I ask them to put their heads down and I walk them through a scenario where someone has entered our classroom and is standing in our doorway. Whoever they choose to see becomes their character. They first imagine and write down the characters’ external traits, then dig a little deeper to brainstorm their internal traits.

I teach them that one of the most important steps in making their characters come to life is that they have to be real. In order for them to be real and believable, they can’t be perfect. We discuss, at length, how no one is perfect. Everyone has flaws. Everyone has things they’re not good at. Everyone is scared of something. Those features are what make the characters human and give them obstacles and problems we can write into their stories, giving them the opportunity to solve those problems and grow.

I’ve taught this lesson, with some minor tweaking, every spring for the last four years. It wasn’t until I taught it this week that I realized I haven’t been following my own advice. Like everyone else, I’ve come into contact with many people in my life, and especially in this past year, who gain pleasure from pointing out what they see as other people’s flaws and shortcomings. I never teach my students that if someone keeps their nose in your business it means they’re jealous because, honestly, it’s not always true. Sadly, some just enjoy that sort of thing. People like that are toxic and I’ve let them get to me. No more.

Straight to the Point: No one is perfect. Everyone has flaws. I’ve started embracing mine – They make me who I am. Things I haven’t been good at, things I wish I’d done differently, or obstacles and problems I’ve been faced with have helped form my character and given me the chance to strengthen my resolve as I’ve moved past them. Someone told me a few months ago that it’s not about your past, it’s about your future. I agree, as long as you factor in that the issues and problems you’ve encountered in your past affect the way you approach your future. It’s up to you to decide that outcome.

I learned an important lesson from my brother a few years ago. When people try to publicize what you’ve done “wrong” or what you’re not good at, why deny it? Your issues become a lot less interesting and people don’t have much they can say if you’ve embraced your faults. I am far from perfect, but I love who I am and I wouldn’t be that person without my strengths and my weaknesses. Most importantly, the only person that has to like who you are is you, and if you’re not happy, you have the power to change. It’s like I tell my students constantly – Your story isn’t finished until you decide it’s good enough. And even then, when you think you’re done, you’ve just begun.

Sincerely, Stasia


What are you proud of? February 23, 2012

Filed under: Teaching — sincerelystasia @ 8:00 am
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Why are middle school students so hard on themselves? Well, do you remember how difficult middle school was? It’s not typically anyone’s favorite life stage. Take socializing and peer pressure, add academic stress then throw in puberty for good measure… Just the thought of going back to that is enough to put a knot in my stomach! Luckily these girls don’t typically have our sky-high aerosol sprayed bangs to go with their thick rimmed glasses and braces circa 1990, but they also don’t have Bel Biv Devoe, so I guess it’s a trade off. Ah, Poison. Sigh. My own middle school memories aside, I find that my own students rarely realize how amazing they are and sometimes need a little reminder. Enter Post-It Notes of Pride.

Straight to the point: Every Friday my students’ Do Now is the same. While I check their notebooks and agendas for an organization grade, the students each brainstorm three things they’re proud of from that past week. Their proud moments don’t need to be school related and they don’t need to be monumental. Each student then decides what they were most proud of and they write it on a yellow Post-It note along with their name and the date.

I make it a point to walk around the room and read each one silently as I collect it, followed by a sincere comment and a high five. I want these kids to be proud of themselves and know how proud I am of them! I put each Post-It on my bulletin board and we stack them as the year goes on, adding a new note every Friday.

At the end of the year, the students get their stack of notes (stapled together). It’s a fabulous reminder of everything they’ve been proud of all year and they get a huge kick out of looking through it in June! The brainstorming is hard at the beginning, but a little patience goes a long way with this activity.

Kids have so much to be proud of – Give them a push so they can be as proud of themselves as you are!

Sincerely, Stasia




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