Segment I – Background and Inspiration
Tell your story. Where are you from and how long have you been teaching? What classes have you taught?
– Chris has been in education for 12 years. He started as a middle school teacher in the Bronx, then moved to a high school in Brooklyn. He has also been a literacy coach, and he’s worked with the Reading and Writing project with Columbia University, where he served as a senior staff developer. Now, he’s working on the K-12 level effecting literacy and he has moved into the digital world with his blog.
Who has helped you in your journey to become a master teacher?
– His family — his parents and grand parents, who inspired his love of learning. A pivotal person was and made him believe in himself was his 7th grade English teacher, Mrs. Ekstrand, who took him from shy Chris and made him believe in himself. Caroline Wagner, at NYU, also believed in him and noticed that the way he listened to kids is special.
It is important for other teachers to know that we all have had setbacks in the classroom. Identify an instance in which you struggled as a teacher and explain what you learned from that experience.
– In his second year there was one student who was the quintessential classroom management problem. One day this student threw someone’s backpack out the window. No one knew what to do with this young man that was so disconnected from the school experience. His parents started to lose faith with the school because no one was getting through to him. Looking back, Chris learned that this student’s parents didn’t feel valued or believe that their voice was heard. The school really didn’t listen to her concerns and collaborate with her about what to do with her son. Chris realizes now that he and the school should have asked more questions and listened more to her answers.
Why teach English and the Language Arts?
– It primarily gives each student, when it is really working, the power to use his or her own voice. Chris comes from a place of social justice. He wants every child to feel empowered. He believes that when we learn to write well, we are allowing our students to impact other people. Reading allows us to escape, to learn new things, but it also allows us to learn to pay attention to characters and consequently pay attention to ourselves.
What is one thing that you love about the classroom?
– Everything! Chris loves children’s minds as well as educators’ minds.
Segment II — Digging into the Teacher Bag of Goodies
The longer list would include Penny Kittle’s Book Love: Developing Depth, Stamina, and Passion in Adolescent Readers and Smart Charts K-2: Optimizing an Instructional Staple to Create Independent Readers and Writers
What is one thing a teacher can do outside the classroom that can pay off inside the classroom?
– Go to other classrooms and other schools!!! It broadens your horizons and helps your to collaborate a lot more. You learn so much walking in someone else’s hallways and sitting with students in someone else’s classroom.
Is there an internet resource that you can recommend which will help teachers grow professionally?
– Chris believes that you have to be on Twitter. The educator community is so huge and vast. You can join in the various education chats there. Nearly every day there is some sort of educational chats. One of his favorite resources is the Nerdy Book Club, which is a group of educators and young-adult book authors.
What can a teacher can do to make students better writers?
– The most critical action you can take as a writing teacher is to write with your students. You don’t need to be a novelist or write blog posts all the time, but the act of writing in front of your students helps you to slow down and it also helps you to see what’s hard in the writing assignment as well as what’s possible.
Update the cannon. What book written in the last 10-15 years should be a part of the school curriculum?
— The best book that you can use is the one that an individual student needs next. It is less about the titles that we teach and more about meeting a student’s need. It is about having many more options. Chris not was an avid reader in high school because he wasn’t always interested in what was a part of the curriculum. More choice is a better option. We need classroom libraries and well-staffed school libraries who know students and are extremely well read.
Connect with Chris