Speak, Trigger Warnings, and Listening to Student Needs

Andrea Marshbank


English language arts is a vulnerable subject. It involves self-expression, serious reflection, and deep discussion in a way that I did not understand when completing my pre-service teaching program. Entering this profession last year, I was pleasantly surprised by the complex subjects my students were eager to write about. Excited, I grabbed ahold of their engagement. We used it as fuel. My students have written essays, podcasts, and blogs on their home-life struggles, the unbelievable pressures of high school, and the microaggressive acts of racism teachers can not quite catch in the hallways. Together, my students and I learned that writing and talking about these issues creates positive change. I loved giving my students the chance to write about and discuss hard topics in my classroom. On the days when we cleared out the mumbo-jumbo of “normal” class expectations, when we simply talked and wrote about real world issues, it was those days that were special. They were meaningful. My kids asked for more days like them, and I tried to honor that request.

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