#WhyITeach: An Ode to Reading and Writing

For our first installment of the #WhyITeach series, the CLE is pleased to spotlight an incredible educator, Emma Fleming. Ms. Fleming is a fourth-grade teacher at Our Lady of Fatima School in Stockton, California. She taught elementary school music in Ireland and is serving her second year as an ACE Teaching Fellow. She is a candidate for a Master's in Education from the University of Notre Dame.

Teachers will periodically contribute to the #WhyITeach series on the CLE blog. These posts feature motivating moments from practicing educators associated with the CLE. Here, passionate teachers will share the joys and magic that comes with teaching students how to read and write. 


(When teaching and literature give music to my heart, this blog was bound to be a poem from the start.)


I teach for the sound of small fingers on the soft pages of a book,

for the imaginary creatures that seem to touch a student's heart

as if that creature were to step out and look

at the world of our classroom and settle in for a while,

for they live here, with us, in the heart of my child. 


I teach for the way graphite curves and bends

to express a thought on where, in fact, the sidewalk ends.

A pencil becomes something more in a young person's hands,

like a mixing spoon pulling together the theme and character's common strands


This pencil gets heavier, especially in fourth grade,

as the weight of its actions, though erasable, never fade.

What my students write can persuade and pause...

Even if we are still a bit confused on what, in fact, is a clause.


I teach for the way a book can make us cry,

when Auggie earns his applause and my students ask why

a person could be cruel, tearing feelings apart,

I reply, "That is when we fail to communicate with our heart."


I teach for the way a book can make us beam and laugh,

like when the nasty Trunchbull is soaked by the newt at last.

For when a classroom of students who shout for Matlida's feat.

For when a read-aloud turns from task to a treat.


When the beginning of my day begins at dawn

and I leave school droopy-eyed, suppressing a yawn,

I think of what led me here to teaching with ACE,

and a smile starts appearing on my face. 


I teach because I was transported by books long ago,

when my eyes first saw those inky blots and read, "Go, Dog, Go!"

I teach because Ms. Mary Jo at the Lincoln Park Library helped me to see

that each shelf was full of opportunities to be

a bit farther than where we stood, to learn of others and find

that we very well could hold the same wonder, hope, and peace of mind.


I teach with laughter, with joy, and with love

I teach for my class to learn more about ourselves, and above

all else I teach to see

to reimagine and perceive

Christ in each student that I receive.


Happy Reading,