Final but not the last. Thoughts on this blogging thing…

Per usual at the end of each quarter I find myself reflecting, and then reflecting on those reflections. This post was a hard one to put together, mostly due to finals burnout and the intense excitement (but still lots to do) of being a quarter away from holding a teaching certificate. With this final thought in mind, I have thought about the major moments that have reshaped and molded my developing teaching practice. Months and months ago I would have spouted the various texts and articles that have opened my eyes to classroom communities and the diverse student body. Quotes from respected professors or mentor teachers could paint this post, a soft touch of how to care for the student and a high expectation of capabilities within the classroom. But what has helped me grow as a reflective teacher was the very medium I was using to post said reflections: The Blogosphere. Yes, I no longer begrudgingly admit that blogging, though many times frustrating, tedious and filled with exhaustive thinking, has proved to help me grow. The more poignant ways are though my own reflections and those of my peers. The most notable evidence of this is the post Back at it, but much to do. (Just keep swimming part one) it reaches my audience and deepens my perspectives on my practice by not only reveling my true thoughts on the uphill battles of student teaching, but shows space ( that I created) where I can be honest with myself and colleges about the feelings that are tied to working back and forth from main placements and the classroom. What’s more , the space I created where only a few paragraphs helped me clear my thinking an reflect developed into a space where my classmates could reflecting and comment. This back and fourth showed me that not only I am NOT alone in my thinking, but more importantly I have a place to help my own colleagues professional development. And that place is one not in any classroom.
This shows as a true testament that blogging can open all forms of communication between professionals, where we can comment, exchanges or ask for help. This is something that I would never have thought would be the outcome when initial assigned to blog every quarter. I truly have grown into a professional that will not only feel the need to reflect (mostly Sundays before midnight) every week , but to find a space that supports growth not matter the years I have been teaching . The most amazing thing about this thought is I created this space for growth. And for that, I thank the blogosphere. Here to another end of a beautifully messy and hard quarter, and to the many years and years of reflection.

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?

Project Learning Tree: Environmental education

Project Learning Tree
This week I was fortunate enough to listen and participate in a PLT workshop. I learned how to incorporate environmental education into my curriculum, what some of those lessons were like by way of doing them and why it is so important for our students. I really appreciated that starting out the discussion was the central idea that we cannot tell our students how to take care of the environment and the care won’t come from them unless they learn to love it. Starting off with the connection and love for the environment (which will eventually lead to action) is supported by the Pyramid Approach.
What I love about this approach it that the objective is not to tell our students how to take care of the environments but rather expose them to the beauty of our world, take them outside , open up conversations of where our food comes from or the type of energy they use in their daily life. This is more than just teaching them about environmental care, it modeling how to think critically about our world and environment we live in. To question if there are ways to improve our environment and how can we do that? More importantly this type of thinking leads the student to choose what and where they want to take action because it is something they specifically care about.
I am a huge proponent of not force feeding ideals or values to my students, so this is great for me as a teacher because this leads them to make their own decisions because they are in tune with what part of environmental education matters to them and what type of action they can take. Needless to say I am super excited to integrate PLT into my lessons next year.

Teaching with Urgency Part One

When I suggest that we need to “ teach with a sense of urgency” I’m not talking about teaching prompted by anxiety but rather about making every moment in the classroom count, about ensuring that our instruction engages students and moves them ahead…”(Routman, 2003, p. 41).

PART ONE

This quote makes me look back on my preliminary observations during the September experience this past fall. What Routman is shedding light on is the importance of making every minute of every school day matter. Routman talks of the idea that the stressed and tense teacher will produce students who are also stressed and tense. If this is the case, fluidly transitioning from lesson to lesson becomes a challenge. This reflects in her own teaching style, “ I am relaxed and happy when I am working with my students.”

The connections I am making between my own student-teacher observations and reading Routman are those of the urgency we must have in teaching is imperative, and that urgency is not the same as rushed or stressed. Sometimes I observe teachers feeling the pressure to complete a lesson to start another lesson on time. Sometimes it seems difficult to use the available time given per lesson , more specifically reading, and making that optimal learning time.

When this happens, I think, some teachers have a tendency to fill the time lost or try to make that up by adding a filler activity to the lesson. The outcome being a lesson that could have been an engaging, and achieve optimal student learning, turns into a haphazard cloud of what could have been.

I have been lucky enough to observe in my cooperating teacher is the way she uses every minute of the school day. When a lesson cuts into another lesson time she makes the best of it. By that I mean, she is quick to incorporate reading or writing into the two lessons. By integrating the reading and writing component it enriches student learning. It also models to students that we use reading and writing skills in all aspects of school. From science to time with an art docent, the students will find engaging reading and writing components in the lesson.

This seems like the most effective way to get the most out of the whole school day, by integrating subjects and being urgent with the teaching. As a future educator I foresee myself not waiting till I need to think on my feet to test our integrating subjects but rather utilize every minute of the school day by planning on integrations. This, paired with teaching with a sense of urgency will lead to optimal learning for myself and students.

Post Holiday Post

The holidays are finally over and the school year feels refreshed and renewed with the new year! I am writing this post from my new iPad and iPad app Boggsy : part of trying more technology with school – so far so good!

I remember as a student i always loved coming back to school after the holiday (totally normal), I was excited to see my friends and loved that the school year was almost over! However, as i view this post holiday as a teacher I see things a little different through the teacher lens. I am neither refreshed nor renewed in the wake of the aftermath of christmas cookie and new year resolution devastation. I am exhausted and woke up monday morning wishing it was really sunday morning . My New Years resolution of starting off the new year incredible organized has been rough. needless to say that though it is indeed new year with bright educational beginnings my revised NY resolution is to be more fogiving to myself and students as we wrap our minds around being back in school. Happy New Year everyone.

Note: there is a picture of a great ideaof incorporating student voice in reading discussions but the students can write out their thoughts on paper and support those ideas while going around to different posters. more on that later 🙂

 

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!

Students Helping the Teacher

This has been a tough week for finding time to reflect. We all have busy lives, and life always finds a way to force creative solutions out of one. Yet, for some reason to tasks of school work, field work, and my family life seemed daunting and sometimes incorrigible. This feeling affected my mood, and my attitude. However, it did not impact my one-on-one and group interactions with my students.
I found myself reveling in their energy, and when faced with a sleepy unenthusiastic eighth grader – I found energy buried within to rally them the best I could! At the time, this observation or self –reflection went on unnoticed. But this weekend, during a peaceful ten minutes, I made this discovery: children, young and old, can bring out our best selves. Yes, I am speaking of all our students. The ones who show up on time ready to learn, those who show up late (for whatever reason ) , those ready to do anything but listen to you, and the many in between coming into the classroom with dreams, nightmares , bold questions and quick retorts.
It amazed me how quickly my own troubles faded into the back of my mind – and how sharp my focus went to the student or students in front of me. It was a good reminder, to me, that no matter the stress level in my own life I am able to focus on the students when in the classroom. This is an encouraging thought while embarking on this journey that is becoming an educator.