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?
Wayne Finger Lakes Board of Cooperative
Educational Services, New York
16 years of teaching