Help Me Make a Difference!

February 02 2014

Hello World! That sounds SO good to me. Considering I rarely get out of my routine, our neighborhood…rarely meet new people, I can’t stop smiling from the idea that I am communicating with nearly 25,000 people (if all read this). So here goes…

I come from a family where most relatives in my generation have sloughed off the dysfunctional aspects of life in which we were raised. Me? Racism is non-existent in my heart and behavior. I replaced the word never with more hopeful vocabulary because experience has shown me that hope, like enthusiasm, is sticky. So I touch everyone and everything and leave hopeful enthusiasm everywhere! Some of the most powerful words I own are YET! WHY NOT? and IF…

From the age of eight I knew that I wanted to teach. School was always our first play choice. When the weather was warm my sister, Donna, and I would hang blankets from trees to create walls. She pretended she ran the school…I pretended that EVERYONE, like me, LOVED learning. Hahahaha

Scratch that, and fast forward to 2014 where my goal now is not merely to teach and foster a love of literature and language, but to make a difference in a community where poverty robs kids of their dreams and gunfire is what happens outside, so most kids don’t play under the trees like I did. Increasingly for too many of my students, school is a place to socialize, eat (“meals” with conversation at home are rare), feel safe, and have access to technology.

I am awed, entertained, and educated every day by something technology brings into my life (like this Listserve). My teaching partner calls me the Wizard. But, it’s not magic. Technology is a way of life, so I do my best to find digital tools that are current, useful, and challenging and embed them into our learning practices. Technology is the only proof I need to show kids that do-overs are an essential part of life.

Music is another love that I pass on to students. My classroom walls are lined with vinyl album covers of bands they all come to know through what I call, Lyrics to Live By. Some quotes that generate hearty discussions:
• “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.” -Rush, Freewill
• “If you can judge a wise man by the color of his skin, Then mister you’re a better man than I.” -Aerosmith, Livin’ on the Edge
• So often in time it happens, we all live our life in chains, and we never even know we have the key. -The Eagles, Already Gone

I know I’m not the easiest teacher. It’s a hate/love relationship we develop; kids hate the way I push, but eventually love the way I NEVER GIVE UP….and that’s what ensures, in spite of the fact that reading and writing are HARD (because learning became the least important thing on their plate years ago), kids show up every day and TRY something new…some even end up learning to love the power of words. I call that a win/win!

What would I like from my Listserve readers? I would like to know what words and literature you find powerful. What lyrics do you live by? (I love adding to my music collection). Write me and follow me, @Poeteacher on Twitter. Help me grow my Personal Learning Network. Teach me something new I can pass on to my kids @Calumet New Tech, the best kids in the world! (well, at least, my world). And let’s share strategies for how to make a difference!

Charmaine “Charlie” Wierzbicki
[email protected]
Gary, Indiana

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