Finding a job that aligns with your passion is a dream come true. And, that’s just what Dawn Kozlicki found when she became a high school English teacher at Lake Zurich High School in Lake Zurich, Illinois. Read about how Dawn’s passion helps in connecting with students.
Becoming a teacher was a simple decision for me. I knew when I was in middle school that I wanted to become a teacher. It was not until high school that I decided English would be the subject I would want to study and teach. I had a high school English teacher who loved what she did. I could feel and see her energy on a daily basis. When she instructed us to read The Great Gatsby, I fell in love with the book and realized it was because of how fun she made the unit. From that point on, I fell in love with reading.
Now that I am a teacher, I think back to when I was a student and constantly reflect on what I did. I understand that not every student will love the literature his / her teacher assigns, but I do have the ability to help my students enjoy class.
In order to connect with my students, I have to draw on their interests. For example, my freshmenare currently reading Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet. When I first introduce the text to them, they immediately grunt and question why we have to read something that is 500 years old in a language that is so difficult to understand. I love when this happens because I am able to show them how relevant Shakespeare still is. We talk about movies, books, and music that have all been written because of Shakespeare’s influence. How else do I engage my students? I get them acting in front of the room with props and costumes, and I demonstrate the language with compassion and emotion. The students love getting up in front of the room and acting out the famous fight scene with Romeo and Tybalt. They love seeing their classmates perform the infamous balcony scene. When I show excitement and passion, my students recognize it, and they become more likely to enjoy what they are doing. Last Friday, one of my freshmen boys said to me, “When I come into class, I feel energized!” That comment will stay with me forever. It confirmed why I do what I do.
I connect with my juniors in a different way. We are currently reading Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. I cannot think of a better text to get my students to think critically. I want them to always love the text we are reading, but more importantly, engage them in high-level thinking. So when we read the text, I pose several questions to my students that show how engaged I am with the text. With these questions, the students respond in so many different ways. They comment on my questions; they question what their peers are saying, etc. To me, this is the best conversation to have with my students. The more they talk, the more I know they are engaged in the text, and the more I’ve found a way to connect to them.
I recently received an email from a former student. She wanted to thank me for assigning Fahrenheit 451 because she gained a new perspective on life and how we interact with each other. I love reaching my students through my passion: literature.
Dawn completed this reflection as part of her coursework for Learners Edge course DL 855: What Great Teachers Do. Great Teacher Advice and great advice for those of us in any career. We hope you can use some of Dawn’s inspiration to help in connecting with your students.
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