Teaching is a second career for me. I spent years on Capitol Hill and in the public affairs business before going back for my masters in teaching. Through the years I had tutored students after work and I shared a love of books with all the kids I knew.
Today my whole life is richer thanks to my time in the classroom. As a sixth grade reading teacher I get to talk books all day with a wide variety of students. But I can point to one moment in my classroom this year that exemplifies why I teach and why I will continue to teach.
I had a student this past year who liked to talk about books. He always sat near the front of the reading area when I introduced new books. He was eager to talk when we discussed a shared read aloud. But, reading had been a struggle for him. English was not the primary language at home and he had always found himself behind in word knowledge and reading level.
I loved making a big pile of books for him to consider as we worked to increase his volume. Sometimes he gravitated toward graphic novels or quick reads and other times he wanted a challenge. Book by book he was changing his life as a reader.
One day he asked me for The Book Thief. Several students in the class had been reading the book and he wanted to join in. Additionally, the movie based on the book was hitting theaters. The Book Thief was a challenge…miles beyond any book he had read up to that point. We talked about it and he was determined to give it a try. I decided to read along with him so we could talk about the book–what was happening, what was challenging for him, etc.
Reading The Book Thief took a while for this student. But one bright morning he was the first person in my classroom — long before I would see him on a normal day — and his face lit up. He was clutching the book and said, “This is the BEST book I have ever read!” We talked all through homeroom about his experience. I asked him to book talk the book in class later that day.
That moment still brings happy tears to my eyes. He entered the room clinging to that book with unabashed joy..THAT is why I teach.