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Reflections on Senior Year

Or, what happens in 6th period stays in 6th period.

So, my first ever class of seniors have graduated and I poured my heart and soul (and the blood of many paper cuts) into making them book page graduation garlands. It was a labor of love for a class that I was truly blessed to teach this year.

At first, I was hesitant to teach seniors as I considered myself strongly in the role of middle school educator. But I've taught everything from K-9th grade, and it was only for one class period/day so I thought, why not?!

I am so glad that I did. I have posted several times this year about this class. What started out as a class of predominately non-readers, turned into a class of thoughtful, engaged READERS!

Here are some highlights of our year together:

1) "WHY DOES MY SCHEDULE SAY LITERATURE FOR MY ELECTIVE?!" Yes, this is how I was greeted on day one by many students who were forced to be in the class because they needed to recover a literature credit. I was scared that this did not bode well for our time together.

2) "What happens in 6th period, stays in 6th period." While I'm still a little disappointed we did not make class shirts with this slogan, this quickly became our class motto. "We" discovered that reading was FUN and that our class dynamic was great for discussion and they didn't want it disrupted by late-semester transfers once word got out that they were in the "best elective." (Okay, we weren't really this mean and would have welcomed other students, but the school didn't allow schedule changes anyway, so if was fun to pretend we were a secret club).

3) Breakup with a Book. By far, one of the best in-class activities I have ever done!

4) They started recommending books to their friends in other classes! You can see their Top 10 picks for High School readers here.

5) Book Character TED Talks: Every Tuesday was TED Talk Tuesday in our class. (As spring progressed, this turned to commencement speeches by authors). For their final reflection project, I had them pick a character from one of the books they read and outline a TED Talk they would give. WOW! So impressed with the reasons they picked and what they thought those characters would say.

6) Watching the students identify as READERS! Just one example: the girl who started out proud that she "hadn't read a book since 4th grade" was so proud every time she finished a book (which at last count was 10 or 11 books for spring semester) that she would announce loudly "Ms. Butler, I just finished another book!" every time the principal walked by the classroom. She was only partially finished with Sarah Dessen's "Saint Anything" on the last day of classes and did nothing but read during our class party, so I let her take it home to finish with the promise that she attempt to return it at some point as it was my own personal copy. (FYI, she returned it to the school today). She would always joke, "Mrs. Yusko, I'm your success story, right?" Without prompting, during one of our final Free Read Fridays, they started an informal discussion about how their views on reading had changed over the course of our class. I sat off to the side and listened. One young man in class turned to me and said, "Mrs. Yusko, I bet this makes you happy to hear." #myworkhereisdone

7) We don't teach for the glory, and definitely not for the paycheck, but when you receive heartfelt notes (and emails) from students, it's ALL WORTH IT. #whyiteach #imnotcryingyourecrying

No really, THANK YOU! It's been one of my favorite classes in my entire teaching career.


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