In life, there will be experiences that will change the way you view the world. In this instance, Sam Swope life as a children’s writer was changed as he took the opportunity to enter the lives of a third grade class in Queens, New York. Sam Swope’s I Am a Pencil
A Teacher, His Kids, and Their World of Stories, book is a vivid and wonderfully written account of his tales of the classroom he originally only meant to teach a writing workshop to. The class however, filled with various personalities all first generation Americans from families all across the world. The educational themes that both Ms. Duncan and Swope followed were following a progressivism approach where they allowed the students to openly engage in their learning. This book is unique in its authentic take on how teachers can influence the lives of children, and how students from various background poor or rich have a passion to be something better than their situation. As a teacher, I can relate to the sheer pleasure that Swope felt connecting with each of these students, and finding inspiration that teachers can enhance not only the student’s lives but the teachers as well.
Sam Swope is the embodiment of the philosophy of great teachers, “Professionals worthy of the title spend most of their waking moments, and even some moments deep in sleep, thinking (or dreaming) about their work. Contemplating teaching is what good teachers do.” (ECI321, 2013) Reading the tales from each chapter, I found myself thoroughly engage in each child’s life as the Swope became. As he described his encounters with each of the children during the first year, I became like investigator reading through the children’s stories looking for clues on their lives. The most intriguing of course were the stories of Su Jong and Miguel. Although each student that he encountered had a very enthralling backgrounds, their two stories are what captivated me. The class was structured through the three areas of classroom management: they planned, the teachers established rules, and more importantly did an admirable job of managing the relationships and listening to each of the children. (ECI321, 2013). As Swope read stories to them as he would collaborate with them, which is a vital part of the progressivism approach, “integrate real-life to curriculum.” (ECI321, 2013) The teacher Ms. Duncan was an exceptional teacher. Not many teachers are like her, and the way she handled her classroom reminded me of the days when I was in school and the teacher had a no-nonsense policy. She followed a student centered approach that pushed for social Reconstructionism and behaviorism by having the right incentives for the children to learn inside the classroom. (ECI321, 2013) She encouraged learning as evident of choosing Swope to teach the children to write, she thoroughly enjoys the class. Mr. Swope was the teacher that many felt that would still be in the classroom, he like myself want to push children, engage them, and get to know their different personalities so they can shine. The push for letting them write out stories using their imaginations is an essential attribute of emergent literacy that allowed them to use hone in on their language skills through reading, storybook reading, and writing. (ECI321, 2013) Their transformation throughout the three years is remarkable.
In any case, this book is relevant to all levels in teaching. Teaching is hard work and requires much patience, passion, and ingenuity that places the students’ overall wellbeing before the lesson plan. As the children grew in 5th grade they grew anxious about middle school and faced several more problems at home, however Swope stayed with them encouraging them, pushing them to express themselves in their writings. Miguel and Su Jong were the most I was intrigued with because they went through and how they still managed to learn. Swope has inspired within me a brighter torch to not only teach children but take a more centered approach in getting to genuinely know them in order to bring out the best in them.
- Spring, Jennifer. (2013). ECI321 Class PowerPoint Presentations. NAU.
- Swope, Sam. (1999). I Am a Pencil: A Teacher, His Kids, and Their World of Stories. Macmillan. New York.