Louisville Magazine

DEC 2018

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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50 LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 12.18 "Every bit of the positive we can give these kids is needed. It's needed in every school. You have people who look for the nitty-gritty little things that I think are petty. Who cares if you're out of dress code — you're here today. I'm not worried about it. I'm not real sure why they are (out of dress code), but it's usually one of these things: one, they didn't have anything clean, or two, they didn't sleep at home last night. It's not their fault. I read this book, I Wish My Teacher Knew, and I learned a lot. You've got to learn to say I'm sorry, especially to these kids with trust issues. •ere's so much more to teaching than teaching. •at's why with our governor — I don't understand his thinking. I don't understand it. He has no idea how hard, on a daily basis, it is to come in and teach. "I have one little boy who just had a baby sister who was born three months early. His mom is in the hospital with the baby. His dad works long shifts. He's between his grandma and aunt and bouncing all over the place. Everything's really confusing to him. To come in here and sit for six hours — that's not going to work for him. We have to do a lot of getting up, moving around. •ese kids, their culture is very verbal. It's loud. I had to get used to that. But they'll learn that there are times for quiet. Like at a restaurant. I'll eat with them in the cafeteria every day. I don't have to do that. But I sit with them and we have a con- versation to learn a little more about each other because we can't do all of that in the classroom. You're teaching many aspects to their lives." What is your classroom's focus? "I have this strong desire that the girls leave my room seeing themselves as people who have a voice and a contribution in the world. Women haven't always had advantages that these young women not only have, but demand. I want them to know that they come from that history and culture, as well. We research in‡uential women. Our independent reading is geared toward strong, female protagonists. It's not a girly room. But we explore the idea all year long: What does it mean to be a girl in the 21st century? •at's kind of the undercurrent in my classroom. "A couple years ago, we started the year with Malala Yousafzai, the young woman who was shot by the Taliban for continuing to not only go to school, but for advocating for girls' education. You know, sometimes kids don't want to be in school, but we can show them, no, look, it matters that you're here. What you're doing here has purpose beyond you. I get the students in sixth grade and they'll go on, so I don't always get to see the results of these seeds that I sow, but I'm pleased to sow them anyway." How ethnically diverse is your classroom? "We're 16 percent English-language learners. It's a wonderful mix. We have a number of Somali students, Middle Eastern students, girls from Myanmar, South and Central America, Cubans. We're almost entirely free or reduced-price lunch. But that doesn't slow anyone down. •ey're just as capable, engaged, interesting. We ‡y under the radar in the district, but anyone who walks into our building knows it's some- thing special." Any unique aspects to your teaching style? "What I love about language arts is that I can teach the standards using anything that is of interest to the students. Anything that requires them to read, critically think, com- municate those ideas. It's awesome to just step back and stay out of the way. My real job is to set up the circumstances where the girls are engaged and they construct their own understanding of the world. I'll give them a subject, or they'll pick one, and I'll give them resources and guide them, but they develop their learning. "In the Young Authors Greenhouse program last year, we did a 'What makes me angry?' poetry activity. Incredibly powerful. It was shortly after the Parkland (Florida) shooting. Some of the girls wrote about school shootings. Some wrote about their relationships with their parents. I saw this kernel and thought about taking it further. What kind of argument can I craft to make this situation better? A big part of my class is sharing. Standing up and sharing what you've written. Sitting in a Socratic seminar and sharing your thoughts, responding to others. I said: You can present your argument however you want. You can write it as an essay. Create a web- site. And this girl was like, 'Can we do this as a TED Talk?'" What do you think about lockdown drills? "For me, it's all about keeping them calm. One year, I had an encyclopedia of mysteries, and the plan was, if we had a JENNIFER WADE- HESSE 12 YEARS TEACHING OLMSTED ACADEMY SOUTH (ALL-GIRLS MIDDLE SCHOOL), SIXTH GRADE, LANGUAGE ARTS; SEVENTH GRADE, YOUNG AUTHORS GREENHOUSE CREATIVE-WRITING PROGRAM Why'd you become a middle-school teacher? "It's not what I started with. I got a master's in education at U of L, in speci›cally college personnel. I worked at several universi- ties. I ended up as an academic advisor for students on academic probation. Some of those kids would say that they hadn't en- joyed school since middle school. I thought: What are we doing wrong? Why were we losing students in middle school? "Since I got my job in 2007, I haven't looked back. It's amazing. Even on my worst day, I never think about quitting, or moving up in education, out of the classroom. I picked the right age. •ey have all the basics down and now we get to talk about real things, explore real issues and ›gure out who we are. •at's part of it for me. It feeds my soul."

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