Sometimes as teachers we don't realize how much confidence we gain when a colleague recognizes us for what we are helping students achieve.

Today, during our PLC meeting, one of our school's science teachers called me aside to let me know she had worked with one of my students on some missing work when she was in during Saturday school (used for catching up on academics or discipline, depending). Her words were something similar to this: "I am so impressed with how much you are making them WRITE! It's simply awesome!" and then she went on to tell me how hard the student was working, how much annotating he was completing, and how impressed she was with my high expectations. I thanked her before the meeting began, but the compliment resurfaced all day.

This evening, we hosted a "last walk-through" in our high school before we move to our new school in December. I sought out the same science teacher, letting her know how much I genuinely appreciated her compliment, explaining how little I am recognized for what I am making happen in the classroom. This teacher, who I'll refer to from now on as Mrs. S, further complimented me after my thanks (which was not at all my motive: I simply wanted to let her know I appreciated it). Well, she then told me something every English teacher aspires to hear: "Mrs. H, I have seen so much improvement in the students' writing. The kids you had last year...their writing is already improving. This tenth grade class is one of the best I have had. We've had." We then made small talk about my high expectations and discussed how far the current ninth graders may come after having me for two years. It's comforting to know other teachers notice how you are helping students improve in all classes. Definitely a compliment "for the books".

For American Education Week, I asked my Theatre I class if they would like to be guest readers at the elementary school. I knew some of them were not confident with their reading skills, so, to complete the needed amount of readers, I hand-selected about 10 students from my English 9 and English 10 classes to read as well.

There's something special about these English 9 and English 10 students: for most of their lives, they've been labeled (although I detest such terminology) as average. I have extremely high expectations for all students, regardless of the background they have. When they enter my English 9 class for the first time, they are told I believe they can achieve anything. They are told they can and will be successful. They are told I will be proud of them at some point during their journey through English 9 and 10.

Many of these students have never heard "I'm proud of you" from an adult: it's never too late to start.

So, as a reward for those English 9 and English 10 students, I offered them the option to be excused for part of Wednesday's classes to read at the elementary school, explaining to them what they had done to earn such a reward. Some of them were offered this experience because of attendence. Some for their work with others. Some for academics. Regardless of what the student had accomplished, he or she had impressed me, and I felt I owed them such reward.

If only I could have captured some of their faces when I told them how much they had impressed me. Pure, genuine happiness. A moment where, for an instant, they were rewarded for what they had accomplished...part of me wondering if this was the first time they'd ever been appreciated.

We read to the students at the elementary school today. They were asked to look nicer than usual, and all of my students stepped up, not weraing a ball gown or a tuxedo, of course, but wore a nice pair of jeans and a dressy top or button-up. One student even exclaimed: "See Mrs. H? I actually wore pants!" Referring toThe standard had to be set even in appearance: We are role models from the high school.

On our walk back to the high school, I heard things like "Kindergarteners ask some strange questions, but they're fun!" or "That was fun. I liked reading to them." Or others "They were all so good--so well-behaved."

A truly rewarding experience that had to be shared!
As I've mentioned a few times before, I work in a very rural school. Most of my students' parentss are fairly conservative, and most of my parents and students have very specifc views on race, religion, and same-sex marriage.

Every other week, students complete an Article of the Week. For this assignment, students annotate, answer questions, and then they receive a speaking grade as well (for answering questions presumably already prepared). Anyway, this time students read the articlce "Just How Many Facebook Friends Do You Need?" (linked here: As students were annotating this article at their tables (groups of three to four) conversations began to arise first about how "unsafe" social media can really be and then, as it was the day after the election, conversation turned to discussing the results.

Before I continue, I need to make a slight point: I educate my students to become critical thinkers. People who question. I have no disrespect for my students' families' views, but I also want to open their eyes to possibility. That's not to say I impose my own personal beliefs on my students. Quite the contrary, really. If presenting anything politcal (or controversial, even), I present the material in a neutral manner that allows students to provide the final element:choice.

As students began discussing the article about social media, conversations began about the results of the 2012 election (which had been the night before). I was very impressed with some of the conversations. One table in particular had quite a leader in the group. This girl confidently began a conversation about the three other members' opinions (all boys) on same-sex marriage. Though two of the boys made rather immature comments about this topic, the other boy began a very intellectual conversation with her. He began to discuss with the other two boys how he would want anyone to have the same rights as him, for all should have the right to love who they want without worrying about what other people think. He made a comment shortly thereafter about how a same-sex couple would not interefere with his personal life or his pratice of man-woman relationships. This silenced the two who were making somewhat immature comments, and then the girl put her comments in as well, discussing how the other two boys should reconsider. After all, what if they were gay themselves? The defending boys then became defensive, but she and the pro-same-sex boy continued their conversation about equality.

It was a really rewarding moment. She was challenging her classmates to do exactly what I want them to do: think about issues in a different light. To question. I was proud of she and the boy who tried to convince the others to think like the two of them. Of course, I will always believe the two boys who defended "traditional" marriage the right to believe in this, but at least the