About Ms. K

I have always been a writer and a reader. I floated on a sea of words from an early age. 

As soon as I learned to read, I was never without a book. I saw books as avenues, a way to go places I would never otherwise be able to visit. I was equally thrilled when saw myself in books, little girls who sometimes let their mouths get ahead of their brains. I wanted to be a part of that world, so I "published" my first book at age 5--if you count folding a stack of papers in half, stapling them and proclaiming myself to be an author as publishing. My illustrated book featured a precocious and somewhat impulsive mouse named Mousekin, who loved eating so much that he literally ate himself out of his own house. On the back cover, I listed out the books that would be coming soon in the series: Mousekin was going to go on a lot of adventures, including skydiving, joining the circus and, perhaps the grandest of all, becoming a teacher. I didn't know it then, but it seemed like a prophecy.

Now that I am in my 7th year of teaching English to some wonderful middle school students, I realize that my younger self has a lot of wisdom to share with the adult me. I base many tenets of my classroom philosophy around the mentality that I embraced at a young age about reading, writing and teaching. 

Believe in my students as writers
When I stapled together my first book, I learned that writing is an act of bravery. It requires the writer to be exposed and vulnerable. This is difficult to do at any age, but it is especially hard for middle school students. As much as possible, I believe in cultivating a safe environment where my students see that it is okay and rewarding to take risks with their writing. Some students come to me loving writing; others hate it. My goal is to step back and let those who love to write already fly, while helping those who need it see the writer in them. I share my messy drafts with my students. They see me struggle. I let them know that writing is all about the productive struggle. There is no one right way and approach, and I strive to help my students find and own their own process. We all have stories to share. I want to hear them all, even silly ones about a mouse who eats too much. I see all of my students as writers. It's my job to help them believe too. 

Nurture my students as readers 
I cannot imagine a life without books. Like Mousekin's relationship with food, I am impulsive and unrestrained when it comes to books: I devour them. They haven't quite taken over my house, but my classroom is definitely looking a little cramped with all of the books I have amassed over the years. 

As Plato says, "the unexamined life is not worth living," and books are vehicles for self-examination and the examination of other lives that are outside of our own. I strive to provide books that are mirrors and windows for students: books that let them see themselves reflected in the pages, and books where they get to see inside a life that is not like their own. A combination of both is how we thrive as readers. As with writing, not all students come to be with books in their hearts. Some of them have been prescribed reading that they hate. Some have been told that they can only read books "on their level." I wish for every child to have the experience of loving one book before they leave my classroom, and I am relentless in that pursuit. I won't give up on the notion that every one of my students is a reader--I'll believe it for them until they believe it themselves. 

Teaching is an adventure
Just like the planned adventures for my mouse protagonist, I've always seen going into teaching as an example of a rewarding risk. It's risky to walk into a classroom every day and be the person who has a front-row seat to the development of such wonderful young minds. Remembering that teaching is a journey and an adventure has served me well in the classroom. It has allowed me to try new approaches, see my students for who they are and who they might be, and it has helped me to reflect on myself and my practice. I want my students to know that I'm on the path of learning with them--we are learning side by side as readers and writers. Together, we can make meaning.