I will try to establish trust at the beginning of the year by first letting students get to know me. It is difficult to trust someone you do not know, so I will introduce myself and let students ask me questions so they can get to know me. I will also get to know them so I can be aware of their needs. I plan to use a student assets survey to learn about my students and what they need in my classroom. Then, I can begin to establish trust by remembering who they are and actively incorporating strategies into my teaching that meet their specific needs.
I will then help my students establish autonomy (basic skills) by encouraging students to be responsible for their own work. I want to try to help them with this by incorporating group work into the class and giving each student a role in the group. This can give them the opportunity to develop their skills, and know that others are looking to them to complete their own work. I have observed, especially middle school students, ask for help with basic skills that the teacher knows they are capable of. I want to help my students establish their autonomy by not helping them with things I know they can do. Instead, I can encourage them, I can ask them questions about the task, and I can remove distractions so they can complete the task that they are capable of. I also want to help them establish autonomy by recognizing their successes, whether that’s through positive feedback or by displaying their work.
Then I will allow students to take some initiative (choice) by working on projects and assignments that they choose. I plan to have a few projects where students can choose how to demonstrate their learning—a video, a poster, a picture, a skit, etc. Once students have a sense of autonomy and know they can do the basics, they’ll be able to choose how they want to show what they’ve learned in the unit.
This will prepare students to develop industry as they successfully complete long-term projects. In English projects, especially big papers, you’re sometimes committed for a long time to a certain topic. If students have been able to take initiative in their project, they’ll be able to work through the project and develop that sense of industry as they complete a project. To help students with these longer projects, I plan to provide students with in-class work time, peer review sessions, visuals, graphic organizers, and other scaffolding to help students develop industry. As they use these scaffolds, they’ll be able to tackle a project that might at first seem overwhelming, and develop a sense of competence in my class.
I will engage students in exploring aspects of their identity by actively connecting our texts to their lives and who they are. Many characters in literature face crises of identity, and many pieces of literature invite readers to think about the themes in terms of their own lives. I want to encourage students to think about how the complex themes in our literature apply to their own experiences, and I want students to feel enough trust and hope that they can also think about how their life experiences apply to the literature. I feel like English is a great content area for students to think about their identity because we spend so much time talking about characters, it’s easy to make those character-to-self connections. I also plan to have students write personal narratives where they can explore significant life events and how they view the world. I hope that both of these strategies will help students develop a sense of fidelity where they are able to know who they are and can be true to themselves while still being part of society.
I will help my students learn to develop true intimacy by teaching students how to communicate and especially disagree, and by learning about relationships in literature. I want to have some lessons with academic controversy and other models where students need to disagree respectfully. I plan to help my students, especially younger students, with this by providing clear structures and sentence stems they can use to agree, disagree, or raise additional information. I hope that this explicit teaching of effective communication can be a model for students to use—disagreeing respectfully isn’t limited to the English classroom, and I want to clearly point this out to my students. I can also help students learn about intimacy and develop love by focusing on relationships in literature. Several novels I want to teach, and novels young adults read, explore themes of true friendship, what a family really is, and how you know someone loves you. It’s OK to talk about these relationships in English class. I want to help students by talking about a character’s real friends, and how we know who the character’s real friends are. I also want to talk about who a character’s family members are, and how we know that those family members love the character. This can help students learn to identify healthy and unhealthy relationships, and begin to recognize the healthy and unhealthy relationships in their own lives.
I will provide my students with an opportunity to feel generativity by giving students opportunities to help each other in class. I want students to be able to ask their peers for help, and for their peers to feel comfortable helping them. This also goes along with trust—students have to trust to be able to ask for help—and with industry—peers who give help will develop a sense of industry. But I believe this can also help students develop that sense of care for others because they can feel like they are involved in the classroom. I can also give my students jobs in my classroom so they can feel an important part of making our classroom function.
I will help my students feel a sense of integrity mainly by allowing them to redo their assignments and tests. I want my students to feel like learning is an ongoing process, and that they can always put in the effort to be successful in their own learning. I don’t want students to feel like their time on a project has been wasted, so I want to be able to provide effective feedback and an opportunity to improve their assignments so they can feel a sense of satisfaction and integrity with themselves, knowing they have tried their very best and are happy with the outcomes they’ve achieved.
Helping students develop their identity is an ongoing, behind-the-scenes process. I hope that by implementing small things—some in my classroom procedures, others in my content area—that I can help students develop a sense of competency in English, and especially continue to develop a healthy, positive sense of self.