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.

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Early to Rise on a Sunday

I was lucky enough to have a fantastic weekend. One of the reasons was participating in a race that had me running though an empty city at 6:45 in the morning. I know, my fellow classmates and teachers are giving me the harry eyeball, “you got up how early on a Sunday?” I admit that the night before the race I thought the same thing…”I have to get up early for school why am I doing this to myself on a SUNDAY?”
As I hit the off button on my alarm, reading 4:30AM, going through the motions of preparation and hitting the road on this chilly and rainy morning, I began to feel that sleepy excitement that builds at a rumbling pace. That excitement built as I hit the starting line, and continued as I raced with the masses. As I ran though the usually crowded and bustling city streets, the calm that encompassed all of us runners left me feeling entranced. I realized that we all get caught up with the motions of hitting the alarm, getting dressed and heading to school-all to start over day after day until the weekend. I know normally I post about academics, the classroom etc..Tonight I want this to leave people with the idea that we can wake up on Monday (early for most) and feel that slow excitement as we drive to school. I want us to feel invigorated during the day and come home with a sense of accomplishment. Running this morning, pushing past the sleep deprivation and feeling at peace among strangers- but not strangers is a feeling that we can have every day. if we set our mind to it. So I wish everyone a happy Monday, and Tuesday and so on. May your work week feel like your weekend.

Reflections : First Observation

This week i had my first official student teacher observation. This had me prepping for three days, reviewing teaching strategies , going over the lesson multiple time with my field teacher and of course occasional flash of “what if’s”. Of course i over prepared, and underestimated my self and ended the week feeling like hard work paid off. With reviewing and reflecting what i can do to fine tune my teaching strategies, I went over the whole process of the week in my head. I spent a week thinking about, planning and over preparing for one lesson. A forty-five minute lesson, that though ended in student successes and an accomplished feeling on my part , the fact doesn’t escape me that it was one lesson.
I know that I am a student teacher , still learning and always will be . But i am wondering how prepared i am becoming if all this preparation is an accurate depiction of what my life will be like next year in my own classroom. On one hand I am tempted to set a goal of shorter preparation for the next observation, but than what of all the thoughtfulness that went into this lesson? Yes, there is a way to balance time management with developing and implementing lessons ( notice the S at the end) for entire school days. But how do I keep the reflection and thoughtful preparation of knowing my student context, differentiation , testing new teaching strategies and curating engagement? The answer may lie within this post , and the challenge may be to find a time management style to accommodate this thinking. But until this shines brightly in my over head student lightbulb, I will continue to search through my reflections.

Half way to Full Circle

The beginning of my blogging began with the beginning of my teaching program. I was incredibly hesitant, dare I say frustrated with the prospect of “having to blog” (insert heavy sigh and eye roll). The first quarter was rough. I struggled to blog, the idea of having to blog on top of everything else required in my life only added to my developing discontent for it.
With two more quarters passing me by I surprised, however, to find blogging an effective tool for reflection. Blogging has become an outlet for my deeper thinking on some heavy educational topics. It has pushed me as a writer- something I normally feared in my coursework. The Blogs I look back on that show this growth is my first blog and my most recent. I can clearly see the style which I write change from a stiff formal platform to more relaxed and reflective. I am no longer concerned with length or if “I sound deep”.
This past quarter has been one of growth in terms of my commenting on my classmates blogs. The number has gone up and the questions and ponderings have strengthened. I love that I feel more confident to respond to a classmates blog, and relish when we actually communicate back in forth! I also find it incredibly helpful to read their responses and find myself thinking deeper on the questions I bring up.
As we have reached our half way mark for the program, I am excited to see where my blogging takes me in the next few quarters and beyond the program.
Happy Holidays everyone!

Reflections : round two

Reflective thinking is exhausting as a student teacher. There are so many outlets for it, blogs, tweets, social media, journals and of course coffee meetings with friends and co-workers. With the end of this quarter nearing, and the pile of coursework getting higher and higher, it makes me think how our students handle this reflection. It saddens and angers me some when I overhear a teacher saying “ they just don’t get it” or “ in one ear out the other”, or worst “ my students are just unmotivated to think about this stuff”. This is simply not true. Student has just as much as reflection as we do, It just doesn’t look the same as ours. What makes this idea terrifying is that their reflections may include thoughts of “ I don’t understand this..” or “ Miss. So-and-so is really hard on me..I don’t get it..”. I think it is up to us to give them some more reflective tools and outlets so we can see where they are at in learning and what is weighing heavy on them. Besides journaling or blogging I am still mulling the ideas over, so any help or ideas will be greatly appreciated below!

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.

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!