Reading interventionist Marshaye Lynn knows a few things about books, so this Thank-a-Book Tuesday, I’m excited to share her interview about the book that has had the biggest impact on her.
What is the book that changed your life?
Marva Collins’ Way: Returning to Excellence in Education
Tell me about the book.
Marva Collins’ Way recounts Marva Collins’ successful teaching strategies and offers inspirational advice on how to motivate children to fulfill their potential. This updated edition contains a new epilogue for parents and teachers. She convinced her students there is nothing they cannot achieve. This independent-minded teacher’s drive, courage, and dedication has helped her students reach high levels of accomplishment. Her story can be any parent’s or teacher’s model. It demonstrates a teacher’s technique that can be applied in every classroom and home.
Why did it impact you?
This book was confirmation of my career choice as an educator. My formal teacher training was wonderful. However, this book reignited my love of teaching that I have used with every class that I have ever taught. I became inspired by Marva and her tenacity as well as her ability to stretch students’ thinking, especially how they perceived themselves. Marva Collins made sacrifices, including her personal time and home, for the greater good. She not only cared about her students’ academics but she cared about them—as individuals.
As I read this book, I saw a lot of my teacher-self in her and some of the things she did for her students. I realized that what I had been doing with my students and their families was exactly what she would have done—built relationships and a community of learning. Marva Collins actually believed in her students—she ignored the naysayers and those who chose to focus on the negative. Her philosophy was simple: Students deserve a teacher who accept and love them and are willing to ensure they experience success.
I was inspired by her book for several reasons but the main one was that she believed in her students. She saw them and accepted them as individuals—not test scores. She was unafraid of thinking outside the box and made no apologies for doing so. I began to wonder what would happen in my classroom if I stepped out on faith and became even more passionate and creative about my teaching and interactions. Guess what? It was amazing! At the time, my third-grade class was just as eager as I was to try different things. We had a ‘family meeting’ one morning and I presented them with the option of learning poetry to recite and to discuss on a regular basis. Although some of my little ones were still developing readers, they were excited about it before we began. Perhaps they sensed my eagerness? Maybe they were bored to tears with the district’s textbook selection—I certainly was! My heart jumped and smiled at their enthusiasm. I thought to myself, If Marva Collins was bold and intentional in making sure our kids learn, what is stopping me?
I have always felt that there had to be more to teaching children beyond the pedagogical realms and her story validated my belief. My students began challenging each other and holding themselves accountable for what they read and shared with the class, simply from what we’d done with our poetry recitations. We not only read, discussed and shared our poetry, we began noticing authors’ works and other texts. It was so much fun—and hard work—to keep them inspired and challenged, but it was well worth it. My students began to read about and discuss topics in the news or other interests, whereas prior to this point in the year, they hardly read anything beyond the required textbook selections. I began to change how I planned my instruction by integrating activities and literature that was relevant to my students. And just like Marva Collins, I defied the in-the-box-thinking of the curriculum, became more creative and still incorporated the social skills my students needed beyond elementary school. My ultimate goal was to prepare them for life, not just for standardized tests.
I began to see the value in building and nurturing relationships with my students. Yes, I was their teacher but they were my inspiration to continue to seek creative ways to encourage them to dream big or to just dream at all. These were students who society had written off as ‘lost, unteachable, unable to learn’; and, just like Marva Collins did, I ignored all of that negativity and I saw possibilities, potential and positivity. So many of them longed for someone to believe in them, listen to, and spend time with them, and that’s just what I did. I made time for all of my kids as much as possible by creating activities that required us working together, as a classroom family.
I truly believe that it is my responsibility to teach students to believe in themselves, while believing in them. It is also my responsibility to challenge students to think beyond the textbooks, to dispel stereotypes, build relationships with students and families, and most importantly, do what is required to ensure that all of my students experience some level of success.
I felt a connection to Marva Collins while reading her book. She went above and beyond what was expected as a teacher who cared about her students’ education. It is my hope that I have made a positive impact on the lives of my students in the same manner that she was able to do so with hers. Just like Marva, I believe in my students and pray that they aspire to reach their dreams.