Back at it, but much to do. ( Just keep swimming part one)

This week at my main placement had really helped me realize that i am picking the right profession. With taking on more reasonability, taking over lessons etc. I can feel the confidence building. With comments coming from peers,” wow you look great!” and from my field instructor, ” I love how happy you are while teaching- it made your students excited to learn and feel cared for” I can wholeheartedly say that i am in the right place and field placement. This feeling of peace, and excitement (though still very much hard at work) is such a brash comparison to my last couple of weeks on campus. With all the high stakes assignments and certificate requirements many feel bogged down with stress. And though we all are experience the same demands, it seems more difficult to carry all that joy and grit we have at our placements in our own training classrooms. With reflecting on this the entire week ” how come I am so happy at my placement school- even though we have the same if not more demands as we do on campus?” I still don’t have an answer; I know that I do not want to leave my placement next week with these fabulous feelings to have them dissipate the following week. Some ideas I have come up with is carrying a notebook filled only with reminders of all the learning and care (and funny moments) that come up in my classroom. When I feel the stress building or frustration with a assignment this, I am hoping, will keep me smiling. Fingers crossed- I will know if it works in a week! Coming up with these things will help with my teacher training in the long run. What do you do to keep moral up and a happy attitude?

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.

Keep It Cool and They Just Might Take Reading Seriously…

Last week I did a read aloud with my eight graders on Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. The students enjoyed the book and handled the tough concepts of internal struggle and duel identity well. And though my exit activity proved to me that they were engaged in the reading, and they were thinking critically the real results of the reading reveled themselves this week. Three students asked where they could get the book to read on their own time. I will repeat this, three students asked to read the book outside of school, a book not assigned or to be graded, and something that will be devoured with pleasure not in the troughs of homework agony. When this was asked of me “where can I get this book to read?” I had to “check myself” not to respond with a loud three cheers for reading and above all resist high fiving them! Least I deter them with my teacher “un-coolness” , but rather I helped them track down the book and gave them a hearty , “ I am so excited for you read this- let me know what you think when you are finished .”
No, this was not the entire 89 8th grade English lit student body begging for the book, and yes, I am aware that the goal is the get them all reading, reading and more reading. But, this felt like such a victory! And you know why, because they reached out to me, asking for the book and it was a book they heard in class. Though a small amount this has huge success written (or should I say read) all over it. This is a perfect reminder that all those hours we pour into lessons and units and scaffolding or teacher tricks that feel lost on glazed eyes and foggy brains focusing on homecoming or food or anything else rather than class – that we can still reach out to the students. We can get them perked up in class to learn and discover on their own outside the classroom. Because isn’t that the point of why we teach? I want my students to become lifelong learners! I do not want a former student to come up to me and say “I just loved that very specific but random thing you said about Shakespeare that one day a long time ago…” that would just be unrealistic, and a little surprising at such a fabulous memory. But rather I want to hear “hey that book you read really got me into reading that authors work..”. This week as the perfect reminder of why I want to teach and why I think reading is such a magical experience!

Food Journal Reflection

Over the course of this summer B term – the most challenging assignment for me was keeping an active food journal. It was a surprising struggle to be mindful in tracking my eating, exercise and sleeping patterns. Initially I perceived my eating habits as very healthy; I exercised regularly and sleep well most nights. And though at the end of this experience I am still as healthy as an eater I assumed I learned that I have few habits I could work to eliminate from my lifestyle. Those habits were stress snacking, and drinking too much coffee and mindless eating at social events. The stress being the biggest proponent of these concerns, and this crossed over into my sleeping pattern and regular exercise.
Looking back at what I logged the first week I noticed some positive trends in my diet/lifestyle. With the exceptions of Sundays, I have the same breakfast, lunch and mid- day snack: a fruit smoothie in the morning, for lunch a veggie salad and lean protein (one teaspoon of olive oil) and for a mid-day snack some mixed fruit or veggies with hummus. I exercised at least four days a week and was active when possible (i.e. walking instead of driving, planning active activities with friends like beach volleyball etc.) and every Sunday I go on a long distance run with a close friend.
However, I noticed a trend that in the evening I tend to not be as mindful of what I eat or the portion size. I also noted that I snack (more than needed) after dinner as well. When looking at my water intake I was not drinking enough and seemed to compensate with too much coffee. I reflected that this over eating or “mindless snacking” occurs at night because my brain is off “school/work” mode and I tend to mull over the various stressors in my life. This is, I am assuming, what is causing me to not sleep as well. I thought I could function on five-six hours of sleep but know we all need seven –eight hours. I saw the trend clearly: stress leads to over- eating/high caffeine intake which effects sleep that curbs energy to exercise. The following week I tried really hard to maintaining my eating habits (which sometimes was derailed due to birthday in class treats!) and not over snack. I started drinking more water and forced myself to go to bed early to get more sleep. I am already seeing the results from it but am still in progress to fully eliminate and improve these tendencies.
I can see how this would be a great tool for students. It could help them and their family track positive and negative eating/lifestyle patterns and become motivated to improve on their diet and lifestyle. Students tracking what they are putting into their body in relations to its effects on their sleep, activity ,health and school work will make them see food as fuel and not just “stuff” they crave or mindlessly eat. This will make them care about what they eat and care about their lifestyle, giving them the tools to carry this mentality into adulthood successfully.
This could also be put into the classroom by integrating it into various subjects such as math, science or writing. Like measuring their food properly, learning what makes up their favorite foods, and keeping a journal that tracks their reflections on the matter. It might seem daunting to my future students to keep a food journal, and I will fully anticipate their resistance (since I had many reservations and struggles with it myself) but once they make it a part of their daily life , the positive effect it will have is sure to leave a lasting impression on their lifestyle. Which, I believe, it paramount in the learning experience for children.

Teaching Through the Fear

Today was a day filled with microteaching presentations. Watching my peers put themselves in the “teacher shoes” made me feel very proud of them. It is nerve racking as a student teacher to present and teach a lesson to their peers, all the while knowing they will be assessed afterwards. I reflected later today that there is no need for us, as a group, to feel intimated or nervous to practice teaching. What is a better environment to take risks, try new techniques or lessons then one filled with teachers? We are being trained to effectively assess one another, with professional respect of course. And we also are inherently wired to be active participants in an activity and engage in the learning process. Which is why, I wonder, so many fear their first year of teaching? Or, presenting new lesson plans/curriculum to their students? I think we forget, with all the busy thoughts grasping at professional perfection, that part of the learning experience is the process. It is with the release of nerves, or the “what ifs”, that we can reveal our ever evolving teaching style, learn from our mistakes, reflect on constructive critique and rejoice in success!

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.