Happy to Share this Magical World with Maggie Smith, Maya Angelou, and You

16 Nov

Maya Angelou GraffittiLike you, I wish Hogwarts was real. Magic should be a part of this world. If it were, I know in the deepest marrow of my bones, I would get sorted into Gryffindor, make the Quidditch team, and somehow—through some combination of my compassionate heart, ignitable passion, and deft mastery of transfiguration—earn a wry, approving smile from Professor Minerva McGonagall. Of course, this probably won’t ever happen. Probably.

Luckily, we do experience other forms of magic in our everyday lives, and I am thankful for the glimpses behind the veil I receive, those bright flashes of magic of a different ilk.

When I was first asked to teach grade 6, I was terrified. I had never dealt with a student under the age of 15, and I was worried that I wouldn’t know what to do with an 11 year-old. I needn’t have worried. Younger students can be quite hilarious, and they do just about anything you ask them to do. They have not yet forgotten how to play, and that mindset can lead to some very authentic, effective learning. I really love teaching this age group (and I am also happy that some of my classes are with older students, too).

As one of the opening activities in the grade 6 poetry unit, I started class by handing out textbooks-the-size-of-tombstones and saying, “OK, kiddos. You have ten minutes. Thumb through these books and find a poem that interests you.” After a brief lesson on how to use the Table of Contents to find poems quickly, the students dove in.

After the students selected poems, we read a few aloud and briefly discussed this question after each, “What is a poem?” This lesson plan was not my most detailed. I expected this activity to take twenty minutes; we would quickly move on to something more prescribed.

We spent the entire class period sharing poems. The students were having fun, and so was I. I just stayed in the moment. It was one of those magical times when everyone was just “into” what we were doing.

I don’t really know why such serendipitous moments pop up in the classroom. I have learned, however, to recognize them and not rush past them.

The hour ended with Maya Angelou’s “Life Doesn’t Frighten Me.” Several students had selected it, and she is one of my favorite writers. My devotion, combined with our shared roots in St. Louis, Missouri, were getting me pretty excited. I have also had the privilege of hearing Ms. Angelou read on two different occasions. I was trying to explain the unique quality of her voice, when one the students said, “Why don’t we just look it up? I want to hear her read it.”

Well, Duh.

Good point.

In less than thirty seconds, we found this gem. It was the perfect way to end a magical class:

HT@brainpicker: “Life Doesn’t Frighten Me” Maya Angelou’s Courageous Children’s Verses, Illustrated by Basquiat

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