Toolkit: English Teacher Julian Scrivens

Julian Scrivens is an English teacher at North Point High School in Charles County, chair of the Education Association of Charles County Minority Affairs & Human/Civil Rights Committee, and a member of MSEA’s President’s Council on Safe, Healthy, and Supportive Teaching and Learning Environments.

AUTHENTIC CONNECTIONS I try to keep everything grounded in relation to my students’ experiences, which involves integrating those experiences into instruction. Essays are excellent opportunities for students to hone their authorial voice and practice effective communication, but so is scripting and recording a podcast or even a series of social media videos. I form authentic connections with students by prioritizing the fact that I am a person who designs learning experiences and my students are people who wish to be challenged by and gain from those experiences.

CLEAR PARAMETERS OF RESPECT I make it clear to students that there are several dynamics at play when it comes to respect in the classroom: the professional respect we owe each other for our respective statuses as student and teacher; the base respect we all owe each other as human beings; and the social respect I expect to be shown as an adult. Keeping these boundaries and expectations in focus really helps to sustain a learning community and encourage students to take intellectual risks.

TRANSPARENCY A simple but effective way to build trust is being honest about mistakes made in either the present or past. My students don’t need to know every detail of my life, but I’ve found that showing that I am both fallible and perseverant sets a good tone for how I’d like my students to approach learning.

SHARING POWER When circumstances allow, I like to give students some say in the lessons I plan. Multiple book choices for novel studies and choice boards for projects can be intensive to set up, but rewarding to evaluate. Through reflective surveys, closing discussions, and other informal means, I have collected student input on the content and delivery of upcoming units with success. I’ve found that students generally know themselves enough to at least give you clues as to how to accommodate them in ways you may not have considered, leading to richer learning outcomes.

REFLECTIVE SURVEYS AND ONENOTE I like my students to reflect using a Microsoft Form. They can practice metacognition and I get feedback to finetune future plans. I like using OneNote notebooks for their versatility; I can upload student resources and the collaboration space is helpful for group work.

Photo: Stephen Cherry Photography ©2021