“I Believe” I Can Do This, Finally

As so often happens in our lives, a blog piece that had been sitting in my “inbox” got buried under so many end-year/start-year tasks (more on that is coming soon).  When I read Bill Ferriter’s second response to the “This I Believe” meme, I figured it was about time I finish my first one.  So, without any more delay…

I am humbled by the invitation that Bill Ferriter made for me to contribute to the meme created by Barry Bachenheimer:

National Public Radio does a piece called “This We Believe” where individuals share essays they have written that enumerates their philosophies. With this concept in mind in terms of curriculum ideas, (with apologies to the National Middle School Association and National Public Radio), “This I Believe.”

While I have only been blogging for a short time (< 1 year) and haven’t been teaching much longer (< 8 years), I was looking forward to this opportunity to express the reasoning and philosophy behind why I do what I do.

But, several weeks later, I am just now able to put my beliefs in words. So, here goes:

I believe that personal connections are the only way to teach middle school students. The first (and most important) step in the teaching process is engaging students, and I have found that the simplest way to do this is to know them (and let them know me). I have seen the effect and it works.

I believe that connections are also the only way that meaningful learning takes place. Students need to connect what they’ve already learned with new information if it will ever be retained.  They need to connect to the school community.  They need to connect to the wealth of knowledge in their families and circles of friends.  Connections are the key.

This I believe.

3 thoughts on ““I Believe” I Can Do This, Finally

  1. Very cool entry, Paul—and one that I think every middle grades teacher in America will nod their heads at. The most effective work that I do comes after building connections with kids and the least effective work comes when I haven’t taken the time to get to really know my kids or to let them know me.

    The challenge, then, comes in having the courage to invest the time into building meaningful connections with kids. Sometimes the activities that result in the strongest connections are the most time-consuming to structure and deliver….

    And in a world where getting through ridiculous curricula in preparation for a multiple choice test, it can be frightening to drift too far from drill and kill.

    That’s a tension that I feel every day.

    Anyway, rock right on….


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