A year and a half ago, I left my full time job teaching elementary ELL and since then I’ve been working part time at the university. But now I am ready to go back to full time, so I sent a quick note to a couple of people I used to work with to let them know. My thought was to plant the seed so that, as they made plans for the next school year, they would have me in mind. I never expected to be offered a position so soon. Within twenty-four hours of sending that email, I spoke with my former principal about a position she was trying to fill.
Since talking with her about the possibility – the possibility – of taking on this classroom, I have been teaching imaginary lessons in my free time. I spent an entire car ride presenting a mini-lesson on adjectives and planning center activities that would allow for creative exploration of the topic in a few different ways. By the end of that ride, I had a photography exhibit, a poetry collection, and a student-produced dictionary all planned, complete with connections to science and social studies objectives.
I didn’t realize how much I missed elementary school.
It’s more than just the energy and enthusiasm of young students, though the snarky 18 year olds have been getting to me this week. No, it’s that integration of concepts throughout the academic day; the demand for overlapping curriculum. When I conceive of writing workshop lessons for elementary school students I do so with the entire school day in mind. We learn process writing so we can describe how to complete a Math problem. We practice careful, objective description in science labs and later turn those images into poetry with figurative language. Since I am involved in all the subjects, I can tailor our writing to support our learning in all areas. That’s just not possible in the current college level curriculum.
So, a week or so after that first conversation, it looks like we can make it work. As soon as my college semester is over, I’m jumping right into that second grade ELL classroom. Before I’ve even posted grades for my freshmen, I expect to be checking on reading levels and language proficiency. By the end of January I may not even remember a single snarky comment about the uselessness of college writing; I’ll be too busy creating opportunities for writing all through the day.