This week I profile the inspiring, invigorating and incredibly inter-connected Meenoo Rami. Meenoo has been teaching in the School District of Philadelphia since 2006. At SLA, she teaches English to 11th and 12th grade students. Mixing moments of joy, laughter, risk and encouragement Meenoo pushes her students to think critically about their connection to the word and the world. Meenoo did her undergraduate work at Bradley University in IL in areas of Philosophy and English and completed her Master’s degree in Secondary Education at Temple University. Meenoo also contributes to SLA by serving as co-chair of EduCon. Meenoo works as a teacher-consultant for the Philadelphia Writing Project. She has shared her classroom practice at various conferences such as: NCTE, ISTE, ASCD, EduCon, Urban Sites Conference for National Writing Project, and #140edu. Meenoo also runs a weekly twitter chat for English teachers called #engchat. You can learn more about #engchat here (www.engchat.org) and follow her adventures in teaching via twitter here (www.twitter.com/meenoorami). Meenoo’s first book Thrive: 5 Ways to (Re)Invigorate Your Teaching will be out on March 13, 2014 from Heinemann.
I have gotten to know Meenoo through our collaborations on developing a 4- course certificate in Connected Learning at Arcadia University’s School of Education. I have learned so much from her already. I am excited to announce that she will be teaching a graduate course called “Teacher Practice in a Connected World” (ED676) this May, as the first course in the new certificate program. If you would like more information about the course, let me know! Now, without further ado, here is Meenoo’s Profile:
1. Can you share a little background with us about your teaching career? For example, what brought you into teaching? What do you teach?
After college, I thought I wanted to go to law school, but after learning about the challenges urban schools face through my work with City Year, I decided that I wanted to do more than complain about the state of schools over beers with my friends. As cliché as it might sound, I wanted to make a difference, I wanted to be part of something bigger than myself, I figured if I didn’t like teaching, I can go back to school to pursue a law degree.
2 What motivates and sustains you as a teacher?
I think I draw a lot of energy from my students, they are curious, sharp thinkers, and they want to do good work together. Like me, they want meaningful experiences of learning in our community so that keeps me going. They also challenge me to bring my best ideas to them, to figure out how to do work that are worthy of their intelligence and effort.
3. What do you think needs to change or happen in education/schools?
Look, I think every sector of society is grappling with changes in our shifting world, we are no different. I do think we can do a better job of sharing best practices across classrooms, schools, communities. We need to reduce the isolation that teachers often feel in our profession. If we continue to grow and be the life-long learners we want our students to be, I think we’ll continue to make progress.
4. You have done a lot of work to engage your students in authentic reading practices – can you tell us a little about what this looks like in your classroom, and how your students have transformed as readers and writers through these practices?
Crossing over the artificial boundary between reading for school versus reading for life was an important turning point for me as a teacher. I have to thank my mentors like Donalyn Miller and Penny Kittle for their work in this area. I want my students to have authentic reading lives so I start with empowering them to choose the books they would like to read. You’ll be surprised by how many of my accomplished students have done ‘fake reading’ to get through school. Getting to know my kids, and helping them find the right book at the right time in their lives has made reading – something we have to do — to something we all look forward to doing in our classroom community. I have written more about this here.
5. You are also a part of a lot of teacher networks. Can you describe a few and the roles you have played? Also, tell us how your work with these groups has shaped you as a teacher, and/or how these groups have effected change in the district?
Before I came to SLA, I felt very isolated as a teacher and by joining communities such the National Writing Project via the Philadelphia Writing Project and National Council for Teachers of English, I came to know the power of learning in a community. I also started #engchat to help me connect with teachers who were doing amazing work with their students so I could learn from them. Slowly, this community has grown and the ethic of openness and generosity in it continues to humble me.
6. What advice can you share with new teachers just entering the field?
Find a mentor, ask for help when you need it, be the life-long learner you want your students to be and most importantly, be willing to learn from them. Our students have much to say about teaching and learning; we should be listening to them.
Transformative Teacher Profile posts are meant to “flip the script” and offer a counter-narrative to negative and dehumanizing stereotypes about public school teachers. Here you’ll read about truly transformative teaching, leadership, and inspiring work. The format is simple: I ask six questions of each teacher that I profile about their teaching and learning. If you know of amazing public school teachers that I should profile, please write me a comment below or send me a tweet about them!