Teacher Spotlight: Kia Turner
For Kia Turner, who teaches middle school English, teaching is about more than educating the mind. It’s also about nurturing the soul.
Why is Harlem Academy the right place for you?
What I love most about Harlem Academy are the kids. My students push me to be a better teacher and person every day that I step into our classroom. Small class sizes – which are hard to find in today’s education landscape – mean my students and I can grow deep relationships. It also allows them to exercise their voices boldly and often.
Does that come through in their writing?
Yes, their writing is so strong and insightful. I think that insightfulness is a direct result of Harlem Academy’s approach to education. The high level of preparation our students receive starting at age six is a testament to the work that my colleagues are doing in our lower school. It’s a game-changer in terms of what children are capable of by the time they become my students in sixth grade.
What is your approach to teaching literary analysis?
I take a student-centered approach. I ask them, “What are you going to add to the existing scholarship?” That’s what you do in college: find a topic you care about, research what other people have said about it, then make your own unique contribution. Our kids are ready to do this level of work.
You don’t prompt your students when it comes to finding topics for their papers. Why not?
To me, it’s inauthentic writing if you’re analyzing something you don’t care about. So rather than prompt my students, I push them to develop a relationship with the texts. I give them the tools to find what interests them about the book. I call it finding their “sticky.” What’s interesting to you? What can you not figure out? What is the thing that you keep going back to? That’s your topic.
How do you view your role as an educator?
My job doesn’t begin and end in English class. Teaching is a human endeavor. It’s unlike any other profession. In order for students to learn as much as they can, they need to know that we’re invested in them, that we believe in them, and that we are here to support them.