| Teacher Portfolio: Amie Newberry
a Northern Nevada teacher shares on-line lessons and ideas
Let me be straight up with you; I’m a pretty average girl. I boast of no extraordinary English skill, no supernatural talents, no innate gifting for unwrapping the mysteries of Old and Middle English, and quite honestly, I’ve had my grammar corrected while in conversation by older, more experienced veteran teachers in my department—which I might add is pretty humbling. I am not an English teacher genius. However, I do believe I excel in one area…I love my students. I LOVE ‘EM! And I want to make learning come alive for them everyday. My name is Amie Newberry, and this is what I believe:
#1 Love them where they’re at. Teachers often reminisce that students were better read, better prepared and better writers way back when—even I have caught myself saying this…however, I’m not sure I really believe that. I can pine all day for what used to be, but the reality is I have students sitting in desks waiting for me to meet them where they are. So I do. When they write, I believe it’s my job to love them right where they are—lack of skills and all. Celebrate them. Encourage them. Cheer them on…and when they are ready…Coach them.
#2 Writing needs to be real and relevant. I know that there is a time and place for the literary essay with appropriate MLA documentation, but I make it a point not to get stuck on the ‘essay’. I have never met a kid who excelled in writing that couldn’t grasp how to write an essay. I believe my job is to get them to see that writing is more than the ‘essay’, so I focus on more relevant modes of writing—letters, resumes, emails, texts, lists, personal narratives, information pieces, poetry, etc. I believe they’ll buy in if they find a use for a skill.
#3 Writing needs to be meaningful. Words are powerful. If students can experience the power of words, I believe they will be they will find value in using them. One of the most moving lessons I do is an episodic piece my students write to a personal hero. One would think the ‘moving’ part was when they composed those short episodes about their hero, but that isn’t it. The ‘moving’ part is when my students receive letters back from the people they wrote about—that’s when you see their eyes glisten and their smiles get wide. When I see them proudly sharing what a person wrote back to them, I know writing has become meaningful.
Well, that’s it. I know it’s simple and maybe even flies in the face of traditional English teaching, but my goal has never been to be a ‘traditional’ English teacher. My goal is to share with my student that they have value and worth and a purpose in life—and teaching writing is one way to communicate that with them.