A Letter to My English 9 Students
Would you like to hear a secret? I am very nervous about teaching you this year. I started my teaching career 34 years ago, but I haven’t taught freshmen since 2002 and so much has changed since then: you have changed, technology has changed, and I have changed. As we begin our year together, I’d like to share some thoughts.
I want you to know I am in awe of your technological expertise. Many of you are masters of multi-tasking, and I marvel at your ability to walk down the halls while chatting with friends, listening to music on your IPods, and sending text messages—all at the same time. I still haven’t sent a single text message, I don’t have a Facebook Account, and I usually turn off my phone when I take long walks in the afternoon.
This year you will be thrilled to discover laptop computers in our English classroom. Each of you will be assigned a specific computer for daily or occasional use, and you will learn to use a variety of technological tools that can enhance your learning, expand your global interactions, and help you create professional presentations.
So why am I nervous? Technology is an amazing tool, but it is just that—a tool—and at times it becomes a distraction. My passion isn’t teaching technology; it’s teaching the art of communication through reading, writing, speaking, and listening. I can’t wait to share with you my love of literary classics as well as strategies for becoming articulate writers, convincing speakers, and active listeners. But learning effective communication skills requires hard work, focus, and commitment. At times, you will be tempted to check your email, play computer games, or send a text message. Technology has made your lives easier in so many ways. You are instantly connected to friends; YouTube provides constant entertainment; you have invented your own language and can ignore traditional grammar rules, while cutting your messages down to 140 characters of Twittering.
But let me share another secret. I am old-fashioned—in fact, I’m older than most of your parents and may have even taught some of them. Reading and writing are two of my favorite hobbies, and I love curling up on the couch with a good book or reading a five-page letter from a close friend. I’m also sad that some elementary schools no longer teach cursive writing (I must confess I have saved the letters my husband wrote to me before we were married—he has beautiful handwriting and writes eloquently . . . which is probably why I married him!)
Because many of you are experts in the art of instant, condensed communication, you may feel reluctant to read long, challenging works of literature that expand your vocabulary and your world view. You may become frustrated revising your compositions multiple times, or learning to make eye contact when you share your ideas. But learning the basic skills of reading, writing, speaking, and listening is essential if you want use technology to reach your future goals rather than allowing technology to control you.
I am going to push you to use technology as a tool, not a substitute for learning. I am going to push you to read demanding works of literature much longer than 140 characters. I will teach you grammar, vocabulary, writing skills, and traditional essay structures. I will expect you to arrive to class on time, put away all distractions (electronic or otherwise) before walking through the classroom door, and open your mind to scintillating ideas and higher-level thinking.
As I end this letter, I no longer feel nervous about teaching this year. Putting my feelings on paper reminds me why I became a teacher, and I can’t wait to share with you authors such as Shakespeare, who will give you words for feelings you didn’t even know you had until you read his words. I also can’t wait for you to share with me your energy, your humor, and your unique perspectives. And will someone please show me how to send a text message?
Mrs. Marlys A. Ferrill