Lightbulb!

We talked  about filling one another's buckets this week..great lead into community building discussion.

We talked about filling one another’s buckets this week..great lead into community building discussion.

What a great week to be back in my main placement. I was able to teach some lessons and have officially taken on all other classroom responsibilities to start preparing for taking over in the spring. I have also planned out with myCT what lessons etc i will be in charge of doing while she has a substitute that day. I am really starting to feel that confidence building , the ” this I can do next year ” is staring to be paired with almost all daily tasks. I am realizing that this growth is coming from superb conversations i am having with my CT, placement staff and outside educators and admin. I have learned really revel in constructive feedback and turn things i can work on into teaching goals. This has made me look at the intern experience as a really positive one. adding to this new mind set is that with all that my cohort mates and self are learning i am beginning to really connect the “academic ” dots during staff meetings and instructional meetings,PLC etc..this has left me looking forward to those extra intern hours because i am really able to participate and think about what they are discussing.
I am aware that this is really a polly
Part of a mini lesson I taught  this week!

Part of a mini lesson I taught this week!

positive post today , but it cant be helped. Through the piles of school work and exhaustive reflection and grueling schedules the surmounting excitement is breaking free! Soon this program will be done, and soon i will be interviewing at schools and for districts leading to a new wave of hard work and stress ( that i will LOVE to take on). The new voice in my head is deleting the old ” ….am i getting it? Can i do this ?” to ” I can do this!”.
As the end is in sight i am sure there will be more meltdowns and low days but if i can remember this week I have had i will get through them.

Star of the Week

“…structure begins to be revealed and will soon be carved in stone…a ruling class will notify others of their acceptance, and the outsiders learn to anticipate the sting of rejection.” –V.G.Paley
The quote above caught my attention immediately. Feeling a painful thirst for the meaning behind this phrase, I drank in the opening passage, honing in on the words sting and rejection. They play so well together I thought; I also noted the knot in my stomach while reading them. This guttural reaction surprised me, and then it didn’t. Vivian G. Paley speaks of the very present and worrisome part of life: rejection. I want to address the issue of rejection to my students. I will ask them what should the rule be when we play? I hope they will come up with something clear and bright like Paley’s, You Can’t Say You Can’t Play.
This understanding can come from classroom norms, like doing a Star of the Week. A star of the week will share about them once a day all week. Monday is interview day (the class interviews the star), Tuesday is favorite book day and so on and so forth. The whole week students will write a letter to the star (incorporating letter writing and reading) and on Friday the star will pick a favorite letter to read aloud to the class and draw the next star of the week out of a jar.
This helps stave of rejection because the students will be learning about one another and contributing to the classroom community. Part of student rejection stems from misunderstanding and not knowing one another. Star of the Week not only incorporates reading writing standards for students but opens them up to their classmates and classroom community, bridging the gap between acceptance and rejection.

Making Connections

I recently watched a magnificent TED Talk by the ever engaging Rita Pierson in her presentation Every Kid Needs a Champaign one of her points is that teachers need to connect with students. To champignon students we must respect them, listen and most of all understand them. This, to me, has been the anchor that sets the tone of what kind of teacher I want to be. Working with children as a new teacher with be stormy at times and choppy at best with rare bluebird sky moments. I am not being negative, quite the contrary, I am setting myself up to not burn out like so many do their first couple of years as a new teacher. I am beginning to realize that my love of children, the joy of learning new things with them, and relishing in the “cute” things they say will not be enough to fuel me in my career quest. I will have to dig deep within myself and hold back what I want my students to understand and focus on understanding my students as individuals first.
This seems easy to any right minded adult – respecting another human being through conversation and understanding. But for whatever reason it is hard to think this way with children. Yes, they are immature compared to their teacher in terms of physiology, and psychologically. But does this mean we cannot connect with them from a place of understanding and respect? If all children felt this from teachers, I am more than sure they will be open to what the teacher wants them to understand in the classroom. Connection is a vital concept for teachers, and the root of creating connection grows from the simplest of seeds: kindness.
Vivian Gussin Paley, speaking at the 92Y Wonderplay Conference 2008, reminds us that the most important aspect for a new teacher is not the curriculum, but that we must be kind to each child. We must connect with them, and let them know we respect them through conversation and the kind of play and talk they want to have. Paley stresses that this (above her infamous “Play” practice) is the most precious lesson new, and experienced teachers can share in the professional education world. If educators (new and experienced) focus on being kind to their students, the connection will follow.

Left in the Shadows: popularity divide in the classroom

Cover of "You Can't Say You Can't Play"

Cover of You Can’t Say You Can’t Play

“…structure begins to be revealed and will soon be carved in stone…a ruling class will notify others of their acceptance, and the outsiders learn to anticipate the sting of rejection.” –V.G.Paley

I recently started reading Vivian Gussin Paley’s You Can’t Say You Can’t Play, the colorful cover and magical title singed to me. What does she mean with this almighty classroom rule? The quote above caught my attention immediately. Feeling a painful thirst for her meaning behind this phrase, I drank in the opening passage, honing in on the words sting and rejection. They play so well together I thought; I also noted the knot in my stomach while reading them. This guttural reaction surprised me, and then it didn’t. Paley speaks of the very present and worrisome part of life: rejection. Paley sheds light on the first experience of rejection within beginning stages of a ruling class in her kindergarten students.

““Popular” was good, “unpopular” was bad, and the unlikable ones were blamed for their faults” –V.G. Paley

We all can recall the first time we tasted rejection or served it (all too easily) to others, and chalked that up to to be an unfortunate staple in our school experience. Paley brings forth raw insight to the immediate division of students: the popular vs. the unpopular. All educators have experienced being “popular” and “unpopular, and yet it seems, most do nothing to discourage this division in their classrooms. Our classroom is a community, and a community divided is one in peril. If we where to adhere to classroom rules like Paley’s You Can’t Say You Can’t Play, then I think, the results would be those of a caring community among students. Students all want to belong, be heard and feel safe among their peers. But, the popularity divide keeps that from happening. By eliminating the division that is popularity, students will all play together, and take this outside their classroom community. Learning that exclusion and rejection are unacceptable in a community is something students can carry with them outside the classroom.Breaking the social divide, and carrying this sense of belongingness throughout their lives is a lesson students can pass on to others. As educators, we should strive to bridge this popularity gap, not only for our classroom community, but for the better of our communities outside the classroom.

 

 

Take a Hike

Got a Meeting?: take a walk

I came across this Ted Talk “Got a meeting? Take a walk”by Nilofer Merchant at the most amazing moment right after a hike with a friend (let’s call her sunny). I came home reflecting what a wonderful time I had on the hike and what great conversation I had with Sunny. Some if the best conversations, ideas and realizations have come to me during a hike, bringing me to my thought “why not take a hike in the classroom?” What I mean is, if there is a connection to fresh air, walking and thinking, why shouldn’t learning in the classroom take a hike?
Though I think this is a great idea, and most likely not the first of its kind, I am pondering how to make it effective for students. Obviously taking a group of 20-38 students on a hike would create all sorts of distractions from the topic of discussion, but what about small group conversations? And for that matter, it doesn’t need to be in the wilderness, this could happen in city and suburban areas. The fresh air and physical activity will stimulate critical thinking of the discussion, and the students could draw from their surroundings as well.
This could be an effective tool not just for student learning but for teacher- to -teacher conversations. One-on-one meetings could happen during a walk, and staff meetings could happen on an actual hike. Imagine the creative energy that would flow during this kind of meeting, and how it would strengthen the community of the school and staff. How to make this a reality in the school community I will be a part of as a future educator will be on my “to do” list.

Love to Hate , Hate to Love Middle School

TALThis American Life

This American Life had a great episode on what it’s like being in Middle School (6-8 grade)
It’s a great listen and gives you raw insight to what goes on in the mind of a young adolescent. Some is a good laugh, some heartbreaking and some cringe worthy moments (“no heavy petting at dances-what it that?”) that fill the tumultuous time that is Middle School.

IN Act 4 – they cover the issue of what student newscasters would like to report in school announcements vs. what they have to(Birthdays, pledge of allegiance, lunch, and school clubs news). But what happens when they get to report on their own observations of the on goings in their school? “Drama occurring with my best friends being gone-duces” or “trick-or-treating is for babies” and “my friend is depressed and always angry with me”. Some reporting falls into the “drama of middle school” category, but underneath their seemingly immature or superficial reports lies real issues that are easy to gloss over. These flash moments of the inner workings of the middle school mind are easy to miss – and I wonder how much we really misunderstand what they are “reporting” to us as educators, parents and peers.

It flooded me with vivid memories of my own experiences -reminding me that though changes in technology, fashion and media are ongoing year by year, middle school seemingly stays the same. A place we love to hate, and hate to love.