My favorite book in the world is “To Kill a Mockingbird,” and it is special for me to share that book with my students. They experience myriad emotions it evokes alongside me; we laugh, rage and cry together. And because they trust me and my love for this beautiful piece of literature, I have learned that they will let me take them along on whatever wild scheme I imagine because they know that I believe it will make the novel come to life for them and strengthen their growth as people.
But…as much as I love the book, I am confounded and constricted with its instruction at times. I love to read it and discuss it at length; I love analyzing the subtle nuances, the pointed diction, and the character development. But I also love kinesthetic activation, and I believe that muscular involvement and movement stimulate both academia and artistry. I seek to infuse movement in meaningful ways within every text I share in the classroom.
My difficulties had persisted in this endeavor, however, because I had not been able to find many ways implementing activities in the text during the unit study. I playfully kicked around the idea of rolling students down the hall in a tire to re-enact Scout’s first encounter with the laughing “phantom,” but I knew the idea was wacky and, aside from administrators fretting over student safety, I assumed no high school student would willingly curl up in a tractor tire and roll down the hall.
Except I was so incredibly and ridiculously wrong. I was inspired by English teacher Tracee Orman’s meme creation that said “Touch the Radley’s House: YOLO” and created a character relay walk race for my students. Students teamed up as Jem, Scout, and Dill and created character analyses based on direct and indirect characterizations from the text. Each character team identified character traits and produced textual evidence. Then they race-walked down a length of hallway and “slapped Boo Radley’s House” (a large paper house glued to the wall of our school’s hallway) in imitation of the way Jem had done it in the book.
My students loved it and had a great time racing in teams, and as we were debriefing for closure that day, I started giggling and told them that I’m glad they’d enjoyed it—that I had originally batted around the idea of rolling them down the hall in a tractor tire! I just knew they were going to laugh me under the table for such a notion, but instead there was a sudden uproar of students begging me to let them do it! They offered to wear helmets, to sign waivers, to not get hurt at all—whatever it took to roll in a tire down the hall.
Spoiler alert: I didn’t roll them down the hall in a tire. The point was never about going through with a harebrained idea; the point was that my excitement about bringing a literary-inspired project to life generated an eagerness in them to love learning and do more with a text then they’d ever dreamed prior.
I love when that excitement blossoms in our classroom. I love the energy and the vitality of it, and that is probably why loving teaching comes so easy to me. I love laughter and wide-eyed stares of wonderment and anticipation.
My favorite moments in the classroom are when I have succeeded in galvanizing my students’ spirits, awakening their brains and bodies, and harmonizing all three—mind, body, spirit—into an adventurous, artistic synthesis created by literary emersion. And that is why I #LoveTeaching; teaching lets me inspire creativity, generate positivity, and promote a joyful confidence that all students deserve to experience. How can you not love that?!