PB&J

What does a creamed-nut, sugar-induced fruit paste, and puffed-wheat square have to do with this blog post? Everything. Well, almost.

This week I was given the opportunity to introduce the “How To” Speech. There are two sections of this course that I have been “co-teaching” with Mr. Menghini (my cooperating teacher.) He usually models instruction during the first section and then tosses the reigns on my shoulders for the second section. This method has been extremely helpful, encouraging, and successful for me. On this given Tuesday, Mr. Menghini was unable to be in the classroom due to proctoring the NESA writing assessment. Needless to say, I was lucky that I missed the “proctoring” opportunity….which consists of reading bold lettered instructions to a group of Juniors then allowing them to tackle a persuasive essay…for 90 minutes…four times in a day.

Anyways, the classroom….

The class began with a prompt addressing the school dress code and whether or not it should be kept, eliminated, or modified. The opinions and debate were bountiful but professional. The students have so much passion within their arguments and beliefs. Overall, they believe that the freedom of expression is allowed throughout their current dress code but they do not appreciate being “targeted.”

Anyways, the speech….

Students were given an instructional handout to guide their topic selection and preparation. The “How To” Speech encourages the students to demonstrate something they are interested in or proficient at. Students can arrange to present the speech in a conducive facility as well as provide materials for the purpose of the speech. The purpose of this speech is to emphasize the importance of step-by-step instructions.

Anyways, sandwiches….

I decided to demonstrate the importance of instructions. I gave the students three minutes to write down step-by-step instructions on “how to make a PB&J.” Three minutes later, I pulled out the ingredients for a PB&J and called upon a random student to read their instructions “WORD FOR WORD.” The demonstration went a little something like this:

Student: “Take out two pieces of bread.”

Miss Busch: Rips open bag (does not use zip tie) and takes out two pieces of bread.

Students: “NO NOT LIKE THAT!”

Miss Busch: “That’s not what  the instructions specified…next step?”

Student: “Open jar of peanut butter”

Miss Busch: “How?”

Student: “Twist the cap off the jar of peanut butter to open it.”

Miss Busch: “Oh, okay, now I understand…”

Student: “Put peanut butter on one slice of bread.”

Miss Busch: Places peanut butter jar on piece of bread.

Students: “NOOOOOO, use the butter knife!”

Miss Busch: “Oh, the knife? You didn’t say the knife…”

A few steps later….

Student: “Use the butter knife to get the jelly out of the jar and put on bread.”

Miss Busch: “Okay…”

Student: “Now spread the jelly on the other piece of bread.”

Miss Busch: Uses jelly jar as a rolling pin to spread jelly on bread.

Students: “NOOO! WITH THE KNIFE!”

Instructional demonstration = successful…and entertaining…to Miss Busch at least.

After this messy and marvelous demonstration, the students began brainstorming topic ideas for their speeches. They used the remainder of class time to practice writing step-by-step instructions demonstrating their activity.

I used the remainder of class time to prompt and help the students….and also relish in my personal enjoyment from the flawed PB&J that occupied a desk in the front of the room.

A lesson “in love”

The old saying goes “you know when you know,” but until about two weeks ago…I did not “know.” I did not know that it was possible to become completely engulfed in something, to drown in passion with no worries of breathing again, to devote every ounce of joy and motivation into one thing…teaching.

For the past five years, I have spent my life reading and writing and jumping through the hoops of the college circus show. It was not until I began my student-teaching at Scottsbluff High School that I realized all those acrobatic feats were a mere pregame to my big-time show; the classroom. I have learned more the past two weeks than I could have ever fathomed, I have grown more in the past two weeks than I could have ever measured, and I fallen in love the past two weeks harder and faster than Romeo for Juliet. I have found my life-long “lesson” in love; to educate, to develop, to guide.

My main goal when I began student-teaching was to survive. I now realize that this was a mistake, and that realization put “mistake” into perspective for me…I have always lived for mistakes; making them, learning from them, and fixing them. I am not a perfect human being. I accept this and I share this; the first thing I let my students know was “Miss Busch makes mistakes…” and that I do well. What else do I do well? I learn, I develop, I fix, and I persevere until that mistake is a vague memory. I encourage my students to make a mess of mistakes, to live vicariously through stumbles and falls, but to always reflect and re-frame.

Teaching is a profession not many can say rattles their bones with excitement and reward. It is a profession in which the work doesn’t begin and end between 7-4. It is a profession in which you have children that aren’t yours. It is a profession in which learning is never-ending. It is a profession in which you fall; you fall into love, you fall into mistakes, you fall into growth, but most all you fall into lessons.

I have always believed in fate, I have always believed in “everything happens for a reason,” but I never believed in “you know when you know”…until now; another lesson in life.

 

Book on the Beach

For three years now, my family has been celebrating Christmas morning not in gifts but in a week long vacation. As my brother and I have reached our early twenties, and our parents have become more of “friends” rather than “parents, we enjoy time spend together overseas more than destroying wrapping paper and cardboard boxes to reveal a cleverly picked gift.

This year our family traveled to Cancun, Mexico. The destination selection was quite the process. My  mother and I battled; I was for Punta Cana and she for Cancun. It’s clear who won. However, I don’t think this battle was exactly one to mourn over losing. So Sunday afternoon after a grueling finals week, our family made the drive to Denver so we could fly out early Monday morning. The morning of our flight, we were met by my best friend, Arielle “Air” Boone . Everything was going according to plan, until Air’s stomach began growling. About 30 minutes before our boarding time we decided to grab something to eat for the plane. We casually made our way to the delectable and diabetes filled food court to satisfy our hunger pains. The next thing I recall is hearing “Arielle Boone and Mariah Busch please report to gate A48, your flight is ready for departure.” Instant panic. I check the time on my phone and see that I have 8 missed calls and 4 text messages, all from my family. Panic increasing. I look at “Air” and immediately take off into a dead sprint through the food court, past the escalators, and down the gate runway. Side by side we sprinted in desperation-WE CAN’T MISS THIS FLIGHT!!! Breathless but with food in hand, we arrived at the gate just in time to gather our belongings and take our seats on the plane. Cancun here we come….barely.

We arrived to Cancun around 3:00 in the afternoon. We made our way through baggage claim, where I discovered the “pull handle” on my luggage was now jammed (if you’ve ever carried a  35 lb bag without a “pull handle” you must know the struggle I endured), and finally to the zoo-like transportation station. With the morning I had, I was flustered to say the least….and thirsty. My father, being the innovator that he is, used his “booze” radar to find the “Welcome Bar” right outside the airport. An order of margaritas later we climbed into a seat belt-less van and headed to our resort.

The resort was gorgeous; modern decor, winding pools, silky beaches, pool bars, unlimited buffet and drinks (I know some of what I listed has nothing to do with appearance, just go with it.) Unfortunately, Mother Nature poured on us that night and the next day. With no sun-bathing option, we took a trip into downtown Cancun to barter with the locals. As angry as I was with Mother Nature, I am very grateful for the opportunity she gave us to experience the culture and environment of downtown Cancun. To top off our day at the market, we decided to book a night at Coco Bongo. I won’t say much about this place, besides: AMAZING.

I also will keep most the details of my vacation to a minimum as I feel I have dragged on enough. Basically there were large amounts of eating, partaking in adult beverages, meeting new faces, and sun-bathing.

The purpose of this blog, which has turned into a documentary of a “vaca,” was to promote a “tradition” that I began last year. I got the idea from a review of a fellow vacationer. Basically, when I travel, I choose one book that I can muster up the ability to depart with (or buy a copy) and leave it on the beach for someone else to read. I also leave a small note inside the book asking the next reader to “return the favor of imagination.” My hope in this is that they will leave a book somewhere on their travel for someone else to read and that someone will leave a book somewhere for yet another person…and so on…and so on.

This year was a little unique. The book that I came to terms of choosing, “The Great Gatsby,” found its way back to me, not once,  but twice. I had “accidentally” left the book on a recliner near the pool and deserted the area. Not twenty minutes later, a small Canadian boy approached me in the lobby. In his hand, “The Great Gatsby.” He told me he saw me “accidentally” leave it and wanted to return it. My heart literally had butterflies from this child’s thoughtfulness. I told him I wanted him to keep the book but he denied me. He said “I’ve seen the movie, I didn’t understand it so I won’t understand the words.” My heart broke. I couldn’t do anything but smile and say “Maybe one day you’ll change your mind, but thank you sweetie” and he ran off.

I was determined that my second attempt would be successful. I chose a desolate spot on the beach. I found an empty end table, laid the book down, and walked off (or rather stumbled through the sand). Immediately I heard a “Miss, Miss! Miss, you left this book!” It was a resort entertainment member. I thankfully took the book and proceeded my awkward trek down the beach. Now what. Discouraged, I hung my head. I thought of “Gatsby” and how I was failing in delivering its story. Then it hit me. The pier.

Our resort had a lovely pier that stretched out into the ocean. It reminded me of that in the novel, only there was no green light to be seen, only endless blue waves that stretched until they met the sky. I walked down the pier, taking in the smell of the ocean, the touch of the breeze. When I reached the edge, I took a moment to say goodbye to “Gatsby,” made sure no one was watching, and left the book.

My “Book on the Beach” ended up being a “Book on the Pier,” but the tradition (at least for me) lives on….beating ceaselessly with the current into the future.

My Letter, or List.

Pre-note: Good luck to all my lovely Methods ladies on their finals and those going to student-teach. I will miss you all dearly.

Since I’m such a fan of lists I thought a list may be appropriate for my justification blog. Then I asked myself why I was such a big fan of lists and I realized it’s because I have control. I then realized that having control is the one thing I learned to give up this semester. Not only control in the classroom but also in my life. To stop monitoring every action of every day and of every person. My number one thing I have learned: It is OK to not be in complete control.

(but I’m going to make a list anyways…to stay organized)

1. Failure is not to be feared, it’s to be embraced and challenged. Failure is to be expected. We are all human and we all make mistakes. Show your students you are a “mistake maker” but show them how you can overcome mistakes and succeed.

2. Learning is infinite. To be successful as a teacher you have to always be a learner. The learning experience keeps you fresh and creative. It keeps your mind running rather than walking. Learn from colleagues, learn from reading, learn from mistakes, and learn from your students. Learn until you can’t learn anymore…and then learn some more!

3. Writing is fun, yes fun. I hate to admit this, but I was a terrible writer before Methods; I had lost my spunk. I lost any reason to write for fun, to write for me, to write just because I could. I feel like this realization of WRITING BECAUSE IT’S FUN is one that I have to revive in my students. We become to accustom to writing for a purpose that writing becomes a task rather than an enjoyment. I want to engage my students in authentic writing and personal writing. I want them to feel encouraged to write about their lives as well as their learning experiences because they can, not because they “have to.”

4. Social Justice rocks. Laura Christensen’s “Teaching for Joys and Justice” is one of the most influential professional development books I have been blessed to read. I’ve always known that there was more to being an “English” teacher than just the subject. Social Justice helps students connect their learning experiences to “real-life” experiences. It also helps to create a “classroom community” as well as a community of learners outside the classroom.

5. Grades don’t have to be a letter…and thank goodness. This was one of the most difficult topics for me this semester. How do you handle grades? How do you justify a student’s work to the “authorities” or even their parents? How will a student know how he/she is doing? How will I stay sane? I don’t want to be the “letter grade” teacher and I don’t want my students to rely on the grade as a symbol of their learning. I’m so thankful that Portfolios, Project Based Learning, and Inquiry Based Learning were introduced to my life. I can’t wait to actually USE these in a classroom and let my students experiment.

6. Be bold and be resilient. Classroom management requires respect and boundaries. I still can’t get over how much I enjoyed Dr. Ellington’s “hunt down” of her students. I fully plan to adapt this method for my first years of teaching. I’ve got to let the kids know I’m serious about their learning and they need to be serious about it too.

7. Have faith. I’ve learned that you can have all the materials, all the tools, and all the planning but sometimes that just isn’t enough. You never know how a lesson is going to work or how it will work with different students. I’ve learned that I have to have faith in myself and I have to believe in my students. I have to know when something isn’t working, breathe, and adapt.

8. Thuggin’ hard is not a lost cause. One of the most important things I’ve learned is that no matter how much a student may test my patience, misbehave, or refuse to do their work, I have to keep pushing them. I also have to be aware of situations that don’t occur in my classroom. I have to not only teach but also care and be a supporter for my students.

9. Change takes time. I’ve learned that I am going to be one of the “new radicals” heading into teaching. I am going to have all these big bright ideas contrasting with the old “system.” I have to be willing to accept that I may be an outcast but never allow my ideas to become dormant. NCTE restored my faith in the “virus” of change. So many people came together to share a love for teaching, a love for learning, and a desire for change. I may not be able to transform an entire curriculum but I can transform my classroom and my strategies. I have to be at peace with making small change and infecting others one person at a time.

10. I’m ready. The final thing that I’ve learned is that I am SO ready to be in a classroom. Before this course I was scared to death of the multiple metal desks filled with adolescent bodies. I feared that I wasn’t going to be able to perform my duties as a teacher; that I didn’t have the tools I needed. However, I’ve learned that I have always had everything I need BUT I need to continue developing and learning. I’ve learned that people, blogs, and books are here to patch up any lost or missing pieces. And I’ve learned that mini-lessons and workshops go together like peanut butter and jelly. Delicious learning.

I honestly just want to end this blog thanking all my wonderful, adorable, cat-loving, intelligent classmates. I have never had a class that I actually MISSED not having or desired to have it more. You all have challenged me to become not only a better teacher but also a better learner. I love that we all share the same passion for teaching and compassion for helping others. I have unbreakable faith in every single one of you; you are all going to be fantastic teachers.

Dr. Ellington, I feel like you deserve the biggest thank you. You have inspired me like no other professor to challenge the system and to “be you.” You have the perfect answers to every question as well as comfort to every fear. You have enabled me to accept failure and mistakes. But most of all, you have shown me just how much a student will learn and understand when they have control over their own learning. You didn’t ‘require’ much of us this semester yet I’ve learned more in this class than I have my whole 3.5 years of being at CSC. You gave us the control and now I am comfortable giving control to my students. Seriously, thank you so much; for the learning, for the experiences, for the opportunities, for the wonderful snacks, and for providing us with faith.

Infected by the Virus

What do you call a thriving and blooming educational system on the verge of breaking out and impacting others? Well, according to Fairview High School in Boulder, Co; a virus. A panel of their English teachers as well as their Vice Principal spoke at the NCTE 2013 conference about a change that has happened within their school. They used to be a department of enemies-fighting for books, materials, office space-you name it and they fought over it. And one day, they realized it was time for a change.

The Virus: a small, positive, relational change. This virus focuses on giving students control, breaking the “structure” of the classroom, and allowing students to construct their learning. This virus also encourages TEAMWORK, COLLABORATION, and COMMUNICATION among the staff and “big dogs” aka the principals.

The panel discussed the importance of support. Having your Vice Principal “on your side” helps to spread this virus to other departments as well as give you credibility. However, they also stressed that what works in your department might not work in others; so don’t force something that won’t budge. But even if the budge isn’t ready to move, show them your ideas, show them how your ideas work with your students. Showing is contact and contact is where the virus is spread.

Relationships. Relationships. Relationships. The virus spreads through relationships. Don’t be afraid to contact fellow colleagues, talk with them about your ideas, contrast teaching styles, compare what works for students and what doesn’t, create. Fairview shared with us their “Salad” days; days set aside where everyone brings a side dish, dessert, and their ideas. What’s better than food and discussion? Food, discussion, and cats? Could get interesting. But it’s the collaboration and communication that strengthens the virus.

“It’s not ALL unicorns and rainbows”

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The virus takes time just as any change takes time. The students, fellow faculty, and the parents are not used to this “structure-less structure.” We have to be the TEACHERS and teach them how allowing the students to control their learning actually engages them rather than allowing them to “go through the motions.” We are teaching our students HOW to learn not WHAT to learn. They are learning life-long processing, discovery, and development rather than 20 vocab words and a scripted essay. We are giving them the power to control their future.

“Some students don’t know how to handle that type of control” So show them. Scaffold a project. Scaffold contract learning. Work alongside the student-always. Struggle with your students, fail with your students, and SUCCEED with your students. The classroom community that you create will infect other classrooms and other teachers. It may not happen all at once, but a virus infects slowly; slowly, but surely.

My infection grows by the day.

For my Poppa

As some of you may know, my Poppa has been battling lung cancer for the past 6 months. On Thanksgiving Eve, after all of his grandkids had made it home to say their goodbyes, he released himself to the Lord. In honor of my Pop, I wrote a short piece that I thought I’d share.

I promise these eyes aren’t crying from sadness.

They’re full of memories, of life, of lessons.

They stream as the pools in which we fished and they tear as the dew from those dreaded rhubarb plants.

I will not cry for mourning but for memory.

I will cry for the strength, confidence, and inspiration you provided.

I will cry for the fried eggs, minced ham, and many nights spent in the “magical bed.”

I will cry for the numerous tums I consumed thinking were “poppa’s special mints.”

I will cry for your knowledge; your impeccable ability to know more than t Maury, Judge Judy, and the ESPN sports officials.

I will cry for trade-e-o radio, the oldies, and that blue suede Cadillac.

I will cry for the precision you taught; the tomato rows, blackberry pants, and fresh cut grass.

And I will cry for happy birthday song and the warm  “hello beautiful” I will never hear you speak again.

But I won’t cry for the times we had for they made me who I am.

I love you forever and always, poppa….until we meet again.

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New Generation

“What happens when you take the ‘say’ out of essay?”

“What happens when you take the ‘art’ out of article?”

These two quotes have stuck with me since the first general session at the NCTE ’13 convention. I couldn’t think of a better way to jump start “Re-inventing” than putting into perspective the flaw of our educational system. The flaw: taking the voice away from our students; taking away their control.

No one wins when we dictate our students learning, “teachers and students win AND lose together.” We write and read together. We speak and create together. We are one unit together in learning moving towards a future of knowledge.

Letting go of control is easier than it sounds. My number one “go to” is Inquiry Based Learning. I have to admit, if it wasn’t for our Methods course and Dr. Ellington, I’m not sure if I would have “clung” to this concept as I have. It completely breaks the “system” that I grew up in as a student…but let me tell you something; I LOVE IT. It creates the trust, communication, and freedom needed to have a successful classroom community. Students are in charge of their learning, and what student doesn’t love to be in control? Well, actually, quite a few; so how do we deal with the reluctant controllers? We scaffold, facilitate, and provide feedback.

In the session “Letting Go: How to Give Your Kids Control” there were many teachers who questioned this method of instruction. But no question went unanswered and without justification. Information and evidence of your teaching technique is all you need to be successful (minus the students LOVING what they’re doing). The speakers suggested keeping records of student reaction to this method of learning as well as collaborating with your department, librarian, and parents to gain accreditation.

It’s a simple process that produces complex learning.

And the best part? You actually get to SEE your students learning and they actually UNDERSTAND what they’re learning and HOW to learn.

I’m sold.