Writing is powerful. Whether it's a little girl hiding from the Nazis in an attic, or Amnesty International writing letters on behalf of political prisoners, the power of telling stories is usually what causes change.
When you're too robotic and scripted, the students tune you out. So I always tried to use different learning modalities - kinesthetic, auditory, visual, whatever might bring learning to life.
I was going to show my kids that no matter what happened with their parents, parole officers and other teachers, I wouldn't give up on them. I let them know it matters to me that you come to class, it matters to me that you try, it matters to me when you succeed.
I am a teacher born and bred, and I believe in the advocacy of teachers. It's a calling. We want our students to feel impassioned and empowered.
The stories my pupils told me were astonishing. One told how he had witnessed his cousin being shot in the back five times; another how his parents had died of AIDS. Another said that he'd probably been to more funerals than parties in his young life. For me - someone who had had an idyllic, happy childhood - this was staggering.
I have learned that, although I am a good teacher, I am a much better student, and I was blessed to learn valuable lessons from my students on a daily basis. They taught me the importance of teaching to a student - and not to a test.