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?

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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.

Power of Language

The learning targets for the read aloud with my 8th grade Language Arts class address the battle of internal conflict. This target was addressed using the main character of the read aloud book. I wanted students to draw from what they have learned from the ongoing unit on heroes in literature to identify the constant struggle of internal conflict of the character as well to draw from their own internal conflict. The second target of this lesson was for students to understand what duel identity is, and how it relates to conflicting internal struggle of the main character. The book chosen for this lesson was The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.
This book was appropriate for the students because it fit within the unit of Hero’s in Literature that our cooperating teacher was teaching at this time. I choose this book not only because I believed it was a rich, thought provoking story but because our student body has already dealt with internal conflict of duel identity. Many, if not all behave differently at school then at home or with their peers than with siblings. However, the internal conflict, like that observed in reading the Odyssey or dissecting movie clips of Batman, is a challenge that not only superheroes or mythical men deal with. It is a challenge we all face and sometimes fail at.
I told the students why I opted not to ignore the languages because I felt it pertinent within the context of understanding our main character. These lead into a great whole group talk of the power behind language. Many of the students shared when someone makes fun of them or they make fun of others that its results in strong feelings. This response was amazing to me because we as teachers also forget the power behind language. We sometimes talk for many minutes at a time to our students and don’t stop to think about what meaning they are grasping behind our words. This reflection was powerful for me because I want to be mindful of the language I use towards my school and students.

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.

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.

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.