Many days in the classroom I found myself questioning whether or not my methods were valid – was I teaching poetry correctly, was I teaching writing correctly, was I teaching analysis correctly. This past week I received affirmation of my own methods. I had the wonderful opportunity to attend APSI – AP Summer Institute for new Pre-AP English teachers. It was four days full of reading, community, sharing experiences, jokes, writing, analyzing, and more. I may not have previously known the official names for analysis formats, but I was doing everything correctly. I had been teaching my students Jane Schaffer analysis. I had been teaching TP-CASTT poetry analysis. I may have set the standards high, and we may have had many days full of struggle, but my students were getting it, and they will be ready when they get to high school.
One of the biggest things that resonated with me this past week was that we teach what we know. My instructor’s biggest goal was to reteach new concepts, new strategies, and a new love of topics that may have been mistaught to us during our own education. One of her main focuses was poetry. Don’t get me wrong, I still struggle with poems, but I love poetry because of its puzzle like nature.
I guess, too, that I have been blessed to have had wonderful English teachers who have taught me the many skills that my APSI instructor focused on. It has been drilled into my head that every paragraph needs a quote, and every quote needs to prove your point, and every quote needs to be explained – a Jane Schaffer analysis (or T.S./C.D./C.M.). That’s what we always did; I just didn’t know it had a name.
When we read poems, we always summarized, looked for hidden meaning and figurative language, identified tone, and reflected on theme. That’s what we always did; I just didn’t know it had a name – TP-CASTT.
I left Friday with a newfound confidence for my ability. I left Friday with a newfound excitement for August. I left Friday with a list of items to prepare. I left Friday ready to hit the ground running.
One of my biggest goals for next year is to be more goofy. My instructor said, as all teachers have heard at some point in their career, “Teaching is 25% preparation, 75% theater.” Until she began imparting her wisdom upon us – and I began reflecting upon my year – I did not realize how true this statement was. If my students were not understanding a concept, no amount of recitation will help them, it is all in my presentation. That is where the videos, the songs, the games, the markers, the games, the projects, the theater comes in. I attribute much of my 6th grader’s grammar knowledge to songs, markers, and construction paper. So, while I did have the analysis methods correct, I need to work on my theatrics. Some days my classroom was a multi-act play, and other days the worst Off-Broadway production. Here’s to next year winning a Tony!