Sunday / May 19

Books and Bravery: Practice What You Preach

I cracked open the book and gulped. Reading your own personal writing in front of your students is hard. Why? We work with students everyday. We ask them to share their work, to be brave about making mistakes, to persevere, to keep trying.

And yet here I am. Feeling like 1,000 caterpillars swarmed in my stomach.

My first middle grade fiction novel, The Order of the Trees, was published May 1st by Green Writer’s Press. I’m reading my class an advanced copy. Or, let me say, trying to start reading my class the advanced review copy. My heart starts racing. Will they like it? Is it exciting enough?

I wipe my sweaty palms on my pants and realize this is exactly what I ask my students to do on any given day. I take a long, deep breath, and tell them I am nervous. They are encouraging. Ever encouraging and patient, kids are. They wait.

I start reading and know it is the right thing to do. What do they see? They see a person taking a risk. They see a person challenging herself even when it is hard. They see that their encouragement makes a difference—how they act makes a difference. They see a person honoring her ideas and sharing them publicly. These are all good things I want my students to see and do everyday.

But that doesn’t make it easy!

Being brave could be different in your context. It could be sharing a personal story to connect with a student. It could be advocating for your students or fellow teachers in a faculty meeting, district, or statewide meeting. It could mean writing about or speaking up nationally about public education, about teacher work, or about student needs.

Teachers need a dose of bravery in their work. There is an endless list of to-dos and should-dos and people telling us our work is not ever good enough, and that we are not successful. Our response can be small (or large) acts of bravery on a daily basis. Finding comfort, food, or support for a student. Showing up at a school board meeting to talk about an important issue. Advocating for the needs of students. I see teachers around me being brave in important ways all the time.

So the least I can do is read my book to my students!

I do. And they ask me to keep reading. This is the work of teachers and students. Putting yourself out there, making mistakes, learning, and being brave.

In what big and small ways were you brave today, or did you see bravery?

Written by

Katy Farber is a teacher and the author of two books about education, Why Great Teachers Quit and How We Might Stop the Exodus and Change the World with Service Learning. Her latest book is an eco-adventure novel called The Order of the Trees, published by Green Writer’s Press in May 2015. Katy has written for various news, parenting, non-profit and educational publications, including Educational Leadership, Edutopia, CNN’s School of Thought Blog, Problogger, Fox News opinion, and many others.

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