Fishtank Teacher Spotlight: Jasmine Lane

March 10, 2020

 

The Fishtank Teacher Spotlight series shares interviews with teachers who use Fishtank curriculum in their classrooms. Jasmine Lane teaches 10th and 12th grade English in the Columbia Heights Public Schools in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

 

Fishtank: This is your first year as a full time teacher, right? Tell us about your path into teaching.

Jasmine: A lot of teachers you meet will tell you that they always knew they wanted to be a teacher, but it was actually the opposite for me. Growing up I had some of my teachers tell me I would be good at it, but never in a million years did I think I would become one. When I got to college, I studied chemistry for a while, but I missed reading books, so I started taking literature classes for fun. When I did that, I thought what the heck can I do with this degree? Maybe I’ll try teaching. Once I started doing teacher-related things, like tutoring and helping a mom homeschool her children, I finally felt like this was for me.

F: How did you first hear about the Fishtank curriculum?

J: When I was in my teacher prep program last spring, one of our projects was to create a curriculum for the book that we were supposed to teach in our student teaching. But I wasn’t going to write something from scratch, so I just typed in “To Kill a Mockingbird curriculum.” Match popped up, and I saw it had units for a bunch of other books, too. It was just through a Google search, which is where teachers go when you don’t have curriculum, right? But I found something good.

 

 

F: Has the curriculum been helpful for your first full year in the classroom?

J: I find Match helps as a guide for how to space out a novel, in terms of how much you should read per day, and just having a specific thing to teach every day. I know books, but the challenge is how do I put things in a way that new learners will understand. So instead of me trying to figure out what to teach, I can figure out how to teach it so that the students understand it best. The key questions help me focus on what I need to do and it gives me ideas for how to use them in discussions or for close reading questions.

I used Macbeth last quarter and this upcoming quarter I’m using Things Fall Apart. For my 12th grade course, we use newer books so there isn't a curriculum written for them. I’m spending most of my time figuring out what to teach, how to narrow it, how to have some kind of focus. I didn’t have time to plan everything over the summer, so I’m going day by day and I know that I’m not always communicating in the most streamlined way. It’s a lot more stressful when you don’t have some kind of resource.

F: Are there any lessons that stand out from this year?

J: There was one lesson when I taught To Kill a Mockingbird with a question about the juxtaposition between the two communities during the courtroom scene. I hadn’t even thought about that when I was reading it myself, so I had the students think about that and we talked through it. And I just remember the kids were like “Oh my god, I never even noticed that.” So I thought that lesson was really good. 

And then honestly everything from Macbeth. The lessons where we had to focus on characterizing the characters really helped prepare the students for our final essay, which was a characterization essay. Every lesson was really focused on the content of the play, not just a skill like, “know the main idea of scene 1.”

F: Do you feel like the Macbeth unit was engaging for your students?

J: Students say to me, I like the way that you teach. The way that I teach is that we read a little bit, and I use questions from Match to start the lesson. Then I have the students do some of the questions alone, we discuss what we’re reading, and we’ll do some writing work. The Match lessons have a high level of rigor, but they’re also very simple. The students know exactly what is going to come, because I know what’s coming too. 

F: Are any of your colleagues using any Fishtank materials?

J: Yes! One of my colleagues was like, I just have so much to plan for, because she has three preps. I asked what books she was doing and they’re all on Match! She’s planning with me for Things Fall Apart, so I shared my reading routines and my writing routines. She said, if I could just do what you’re doing for this and use the lesson plans, it would be so much simpler! Welcome to the world of curriculum!

 

Many thanks to Jasmine for sharing her experience with us. You can read more of Jasmine’s insights from the classroom on her blog.

If you would like to be featured in a future Fishtank Teacher Spotlight, send us a note at [email protected]