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!

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!

Issues on student abuse/neglect: a small reflection

Today I participated in a workshop on identifying and reporting neglect/issues of abuse in our students. I came into class this morning with an attitude of “I already know how to identify these concerns”, this is mostly due to my background of working in health care. However, I quickly realized that I did not in fact, “know everything” in terms of what constitutes abuse/neglect and reporting from a teachers perspective. I found that issues of neglect and abuse are not so black and white. For example, what will I do as an educator when a student’s parent simply cannot afford to buy them prescriptions glasses? Is that a form of neglect? This is the type of question that brings into play the idea of how we view poverty and its effects on the student and their families. I was reminded to not be quick, in some scenarios, to judge the parents ability of caring for their child when facing other challenges such as poverty. Rather then labeling them as neglectful, I could guide them to other resources to help, in this case, get proper glasses for said student. I realize this is just one minor facet of a heavy issue for an educator, but I feel satisfied, thus far, with some new revelations on the matter.

Creative Curriculum

7 days, 7 ways to be more creative is a short and sweet article on unlocking your creative self. Many think that being an artist; I have a bountiful well of creativity. But like everyone I get blocked, sometimes for weeks at a time! I am positive this will happen during my career as a teacher as well.

I never thought I could completely relate my painterly self to my teacher self, but now see the fluid connection: creativity. Teachers need creativity when dealing with students, co-workers and the most of all, curriculum.

“Curriculum is more than pieces of information, more than subject matter, more even than the disciplines…with each person and each situation …takes on different shadings and meanings” (William Ayers on curriculum from To Teach)

To look at curriculum in different spectrums and to unlock their various meanings, we must think creatively. Thinking more abstractly, will not only help us tackle the curriculum but help us teach it in a way so our students are engaged and inspired.  7 days, 7 ways to be more creative gives a great week long guide to sharpen your creative edge. My favorite quote from the article is about believing in yourself as a creative soul,

“Believe in yourself. Many people say they aren’t creative but a little self-affirmation goes a long way. If you want to be more creative, start believing you have the capacity to be creative in the first place”

I challenge all educators to feed their dormant artist, poet, or playwright by following this week long creative challenge. This is something that will not only unlock your creative soul (that has been within you all along) or reinvigorate inspiration within you, but make you look at the curriculum critically, and prompt you to teach it creativity. The end result can only be one of positive experiences between you and your students. I am taking this week to re-invigorate my painterly musings, below is the end result of today’s “aha” moment

Iphone 2012-2013 146