Melissa Mann, Neptune Midtown Elementary School 5th Grade Writing
I always knew I wanted to be a teacher. I have been teaching for 15 years. My class is in an inner city school, so they need a lot of support. These are kids just like every other kid, but they come from hard situations at home. Their parents might leave them, or they live on their own, and nobody is there for them. They may come in with an attitude, but I make every effort to let them know I care. It can be difficult to motivate them and help them to see that what they are learning is important. You have to make what they are doing seem relevant. They want to know, ‘Why am I doing this?’ I have had students who hated writing, who tell me that they will never be a writer. But I show them how writing in everyday life is important. Like there was this one student who wanted to join a team, so I said, ‘Ok, how are you going to fill out the application? I tell them, if you want to go to college, you have to be able to write an essay.
I do a lot of one on one with them, which helps me to understand them more. They don’t get lost in the crowd when I work one on one with them, and I am really able to see clearly where the misunderstandings are. The best part of one on one is I get to know my students really well. They write about their own lives, so I get insights to them that really help me to know how to reach them. And because of that, they open up to me. They trust me.
We have a writer’s workshop in class, and I share stories of my own life, and that opens up connections with me and the students, and they share their lives with me, and what they are going through. Some of them go through some really hard things, like abuse at home and stuff like that, but they know that I am there for them. I had a student who was very difficult, and all he wanted was attention. He tried to get the negative attention at the beginning of the year, but then I thought about it, and came up with a plan to help him. I began meeting with him just five minutes a day, and ask him about football, and making that connection with him. And now when I see him, he’ll always ask me about football. We don’t even like the same teams, but that makes it more fun. And that got him trusting me. As a teacher, I get to know what each student needs. It takes some time, but it comes.
- Interview by Gregory Andrus
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