National Council of Teachers of English Logo
Relationships First

Relationships First

                                                                                                                                                                                                              I admonished the eighth grader for doodling during the Treasure Island read-aloud. How could he possibly be paying attention when he was absorbed in his own creative endeavor?  By the end of my student teaching experience, my supervising teacher compared me to the infamous substitute teacher Ms. Viola Swamp (from James Marshall’s Miss Nelson Is Missing.) Like her, I was just too strict.

I was devastated. I vowed to be anyone but Viola Swamp. Over the past 16 years, I have never forgotten that vow. I have chosen to build relationships first, teach content later. Listening and learning from my students, we build relevance and reality because reading and writing for many students is still a muddy mystery. We are in this together: we explore formulas for research and writing, processes for analyzing poetry, attitudes for approaching literature as something to care about, to savor, and respect. Together we demystify the secrets of language.

Ms. Viola Swamp? Who’s that?

Jo-Ann Hussion
Wayne Finger Lakes Board of Cooperative
Educational Services, New York
16 years of teaching

Related Resources..

Both Art and Craft: Teaching Ideas That Spark Learning

Author(s): Diana Mitchell, Leila Christenbury


This lively, readable text offers countless practical ideas and activities for the middle school or secondary school classroom teacher in the areas of literature, reading, writing, and thematic units.


Genre Theory: Teaching, Writing, and Being

Author(s): Deborah Dean


Synthesizes theory and research about genres and provides secondary-level teachers with practical classroom applications.




Document and Site Resources

Share This On:


Anonymous commenting is not allowed. Please log in with an individual NCTE account to post comments to this page.

Most Recent Comments (0 Total Posts)

There are no comment postings on this page yet.

Page Tools:

Join NCTE Today

Related Search Terms


Copyright © 1998-2019 National Council of Teachers of English. All rights reserved in all media.

1111 W. Kenyon Road, Urbana, Illinois 61801-1096 Phone: 217-328-3870 or 877-369-6283

Looking for information? Browse our FAQs, tour our sitemap and store sitemap, or contact NCTE

Read our Privacy Policy Statement and Links Policy. Use of this site signifies your agreement to the Terms of Use

Visit us on:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Linked In
  • Pinterest
  • Instagram

Document URL

Document Owner

Organization Name

NCTE - The National Council of Teachers Of English

A Professional Association of Educators in English Studies, Literacy, and Language Arts