So many things shock me about Donors choose. I am shocked that a stranger would donate hundreds of dollars to a classroom they have never been in. I am shocked how easy it is for teachers to apply. I am shocked that more teachers don’t take advantage of this amazing opportunity.
I was so moved by my experience with Donors choose that I wrote about it in my teaching memoir, Teaching to the Child. It all started when I asked my students what independent reading should look, feel, and sound like. Some students said it should look and feel like a library. One student said it should feel comfortable. That got me thinking. As I looked around the room, at my students sitting straight up at their desks, they didn’t look comfortable. This wasn’t how I liked to “curl up” with a book. That’s when I went to Donors choose.
I figured it was a long shot, but I wrote an essay about my students, and how reluctant they were to read. I wrote about my idea to make students comfortable while they enjoyed quiet time with their books. I then went to the Donors choose store and selected 4 large bean bag chairs and a rug with slogans about reading. With the total coming to about $500, I knew it would never be filled, but it didn’t take much of my time, didn’t cost me anything, and it was worth a shot.
A few months later, I received an email that my order had been filled. A single donor had funded my project! I couldn’t believe it, and decided not to tell my students until the items actually arrived. But they did arrive, and my students were thrilled! I now had an area in my room just for reading. I would select which students could sit in the area on a rotating basis, and they all looked forward to their time there. The students now looked forward to independent reading!
Not only did this experience help students enjoy reading, it taught them valuable life lessons. One requirement of the program is for a class to write thank you letters to the donor. This gave my students the opportunity to really think about what someone had done for them. This wasn’t just a freebie that had suddenly arrived. There was a person behind this gift, and my students got to write to him. That connection was very important. In their letters, some students even said they hoped to one day be able to repay this kindness.
Here is a link to my essay and project http://www.donorschoose.org/project/help-make-reading-fun-and-comfortable/306146/ to give you an idea of how this program works. Check it out for yourself! And if you are reading this post via twitter or another external source, here is more information about myself and my book:
Lori Fettner is an ESL teacher in New York, and author of a memoir entitled Teaching to the Child, written under the penname Ms. Frank. The memoir tells the stories of the students that meant the most to Lori, as well as lessons, class trips, and strategies that worked and didn’t work in her first three years of teaching. Lori is iPad certified for classroom use, and has participated in many programs regarding ESL and the arts. Visit Lori’s website and blog at teachingtothechild.com.