The “HUNT DOWN” Method

After Wednesday’s class, I was left wondering what would be the best decision for me as a teacher in assigning “deadlines.” I literally lost sleep over this, not in a bad way of course, but because my mind mostly looks like this while trying to sleep.

sleepless

I finally decided to solve this issue like I do with every other stressful futuristic goal. Stop worrying.

And….
success

Dr. Ellington provided her example of how she addressed students who didn’t turn in their work on time. HUNT THEM DOWN. Which, I whole-heartedly agree with. It’s 1) Funny as hell 2) Intimidating 3) Clearly effective.

I understand that there is going to be different methods for everyone. Let’s be honest, not one single classroom is just like another. And how do we know this? From experience as students. Which is why I think Dr. Ellington’s “hunt down” method worked so well. I know as a student I would have DIED if my teacher met me outside of another classroom, joined me at lunch time, or strolled out on the golf course to request my missing work. (And my died I mean socially abandon all hope of Lindsey’s quote on quote “coolness”-great story by the way!) My personal experience gives me feedback as to how my students would react. In a sense, we are teaching the students we once were…minus a few cosmetic and technological changes.

I know that I have preached this before, but I do believe it is our experience that is going to shape our methods. The best we can do is have some “preconceived” notions about how we would “like” our classroom to be and what methods we would “like” to adapt…but, I have a feeling those will all change (in either a mild or explosive format).

So as for deadlines, Dr. Ellington, I am going to embrace your eclectic and energetic method of hunting my students down…”or else.”

drastic

Okay, maybe not this drastic….I’ll rephrase it a little.

Senior I to Senior Me

In attempt to create my “Letter to Me” I played around with crucial times in my life in which I thought I needed the most advice. My childhood first came to mind, but my letter didn’t go farther than “stop injuring your brother and eating all of grandpa’s M&M’s.” That can be a work in progress.

However, I did come up with a piece that I would like to share with you all. It is a letter from my current College Senior “I” to a High School Senior “me.” I haven’t decided if it will be my “draft” I am bringing to class yet. My “Letter to Me” is in tough competition with my “Animal Perspective” piece. Both, though, would be entertaining writing exercises for students.

 

Dear Senior Me,

I know how you hate long paragraphs, so I wrote this as a series of smaller sentences as critical points of advice. I know you also hate advice right now. Deal with it, and listen.

I don’t want to sound like your mom, well, because, we all know how much you listen to her; but show her some love. She needs it, and deserves it, after all the stress you are going to put her through.

All your hard work in school will pay off. Stay focused. DO NOT let that boy determine where you will go to college. Hear me? DO NOT. Good. That’s the first step to maturing.

You’re going to experience many heart aches-but you get through them-and come out as a person you never imagined. All for the better.

Go see Grandma Pieper. Do it as much as possible. Go talk to her, play cards with her, watch TV with her…even if she can’t remember who you are anymore.

Learn to put down your damn cell phone, especially when driving. Live in the moment.

Be respectful and grateful.

Stop worrying about how you look and start living. Eat a cookie (or two), drink that whiskey (in moderation), and take every opportunity to travel. You don’t want to miss out on this, I swear.

Don’t take everything so personally; friends will come and go…and come again. Relax. Breathe. Apologize when needed; apologize when you aren’t the one in the wrong. Stand up for what you believe in and CONSTRUCTIVELY voice your opinion. Construct not complain.

Don’t be so judgemental of others, you may be in their position one day (yes, I am foreshadowing…remember this term, you will need it for a test).

Stay blonde! I promise as much as you want to change, you don’t make a good brunette, it’s just not “us”-plus you will save some money. Stay strong. School is going to get stressful. Focus on the future doing what you LOVE. Do not take the easy way out (Massage Therapy School). You WILL make it through, keep your expectations.

Try new things. Talk to strangers. Call your mom and dad.

Exercise is  privilege. That’s right: privilege. And you learn to love it….and vegetables. Yes, I’m serious.

Smile.

You may not see it now, but you are growing into an intelligent and motivated young lady. You will surprise yourself in many ways, even through the “let-downs.”

Yes, I’m almost finished, stop whining. Seriously, it’s a bad habit. Build some stamina!

Keep your “countdowns” but live day by day. Take lots of photos. Stay weird. Accept responsiblity for your actions. Move on.

Now, go walk that stage, “Miss Graduate.”

Love yourself (you’ll learn), Senior I.

Why So Serious?

Everyone experiences times in their lives when things just explode in chaos. You lose your keys, put your underwear on backwards, catch a wretched cold, wake up to your air conditioner smoking, get dropped from 10 feet in the air, find out your grandfather is in the hospital, stub your toe. Yes. This was my week. All things that seemed to affect my daily motivations and emotions.

You may ask why I am bragging about the wonderful week I had. It’s mostly to make you all jealous. But actually, it’s to demonstrate that “shit is going to happen” and you have to move through it. As teacher’s we are going to have crazy days, bad days, good days, and “oh my god I might strangle a squirrel” days. However, we CANNOT let our students know exactly what kind of a day we are having. We cannot take our outside emotions and stresses into the classroom. Emotions are distractions not only for us but for our students.

I’m still working on how I am going to deal with these emotions. I have come up with a few solutions, all that have brightened my Friday into an actual “THANK GOD IT’S FRIDAY”

1)Write/complain/rant in my writer’s notebook
2)Run
3)Smile at myself in a mirror until I laugh (this may include distorting my face)
4)Watch cat videos (I believe all us female English majors may have a problem…I’m okay with it)

Here are two of my all time favorite. Watch and be happy. TGIF.

Porn versus Literature: “Dreaming in Cuban”

I was notified today by NCTE that the September Newsletter was in. Among varies topics, this one struck my eye “Critically-Acclaimed Novel Is Banned in Arizona after Parent Complains about Sexually Explicit Passage.” Beyond the title of this article though is an even more controversial issue over the content within Cristina Garcia’s novel, “Dreaming in Cuban.”

Garcia’s novel was recommended by the Common Core Standards yet it is being ridiculed for its scandalous content. Please take a minute to read the article below to understand the content in which I am commenting on.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/13/dreaming-in-cuban-banned_n_3922846.html

My concern is how this type of novel was approved and RECOMMENDED by the Common Core Standards yet is receiving so much criticism. Does the content of this novel “break the boundaries” of what is acceptable in a classroom? I personally don’t believe I would be comfortable having my students read this, let alone read it out loud, in my classroom. However, I do see how this novel represents a new genre of literature and how students can relate to be; let’s be honest…our students are sexual beings. Although the content is so graphic, it has the potential to interest students and to get them to enjoy reading. This is a positive in motivating students to read, especially outside of the classroom.

I don’t believe I am ready to teach this type of content but I highly respect any teacher who does. It takes a risky but confident person to be able to present and discuss such risqué content with adolescents. This is definitely content I would suggest be read outside the classroom for pleasure (no pun intended) but not read out loud as a class.

The Big “G” Word

Grades.
The most crippling word to hear as a student. Whether it be for self-fulfillment, parental reward, or eligibility, grades shape your life as a student. Grades defy your intelligence, your abilities, and your successes…or do they?

I have always struggled to appreciate the grading system. Part of this is there is no consistency. For example, I went to school in Gering, NE, our grading scale was A:100-94, B:93-87, C:86-80, D:79-74, F:74-0 but the school just across the river, Scottsbluff, practiced the grading scale of A:100-90, B:90-80, and so on. So this means that an “A” student at Scottsbluff could actually be a “B” student according to Gering’s grading system. Is that really fair to the student? What do you think I thought?

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Exactly.

I wouldn’t say I am against grades, but I am definitely against categorizing students by grades. I don’t feel that a letter should define a student and their intelligence, ability, and skill. I also don’t feel that the letter justifies “learning.” As an “A” student in High School, I can hardly recall anything that I really “learned” based on the grade. The grade was my motivation, not learning.

I don’t know about you, but that is NOT what I want for my students. I don’t want them to feel the pressure of the grade or the disappointment of not receiving a grade they thought they deserved. I want my students to determine their achievement; I just don’t know how to do that, or if I can without “breaking” a school rule. But then again, what’s the harm in breaking the rules in a system that clearly didn’t work for me?
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If the rest of the schooling system is in need of a change, I definitely believe the grading system is in need of some desperate housekeeping. Not only has the grading system labeled our students it has labeled our abilities as a teacher. If a student isn’t doing well in school, the teacher is the first to be blamed, especially by the parents.
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This isn’t what teaching is about. Grades are not what “schooling” should be about. I fully believe in learning and teaching learning to be fun, to be a habit, and to be a life-long committment.

Here’s to change.
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Creationist to Evolutionist

Well I would like to start off this blog declaring my absolute admiration for Nancy Atwell. Not only have I been inspired by her famous “In the Middle” work but now I’m gitty over her workshop reflections. There’s just something about how Atwell is able to convey her struggles, successes, and strategies that makes her so relatable. She is a revolutionist in teaching reading and writing; she is my inspiration.

Okay, enough glorifying, but seriously, this woman is awesome.
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Swag.

I was really taken in by Atwell’s expression of “creationist to evolutionist.” Her experiences in teaching led her to realize that she not only teaches but she learns-most importantly from her students. Jeff was a great example of this. He stood his ground and let Atwell know that his drawings were how he knew how to “write” and express himself, which later revealed itself as a learning tactic practiced by seven year olds. Although Jeff was behind with his writing skills, he was still progressing-at his pace, but with support.

Support: key word.
If we as teacher’s expect our students to succeed, we have to be their number one support in the classroom (which may be their number one support in general). We have to support their ideas, creativity, and personal interests. We have to support their freedom in writing. This is what “gets” students to write: freedom.

“Am I doing it right?” Key question.
I’ve come to the conclusion that the direct answer will always be “maybe not so much.” But that’s okay. I know that I cannot seek the direct answer in “Am I doing it right?” but more so see the answer in “are they enjoying it?” and “are they understanding how they’re doing it?” There is no “right” way, there are “many” ways. There are strategies galore in helping students, and each will change based on the individual.

Teaching is a constant evolution of change, just as writing is. The change is what keeps us and our students engaged and entertained. In ending this brief reflection, I would like to praise the letter “E” in realizing how many encouraging words I have used with it.
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“Experience” “Example” “Express” “Enjoyment” “Engaged” “Entertained” “Encouraging” “Evolution”

Facts of Life

I’ve really been struggling this week, and I’m okay to admit that. Someday I will be admitting this to my students who I hope in return will admit to me when they are “struggling.”

Lately I have been stuck on “what I want my students to learn.” Do I want them to be educated in British literature? Do I want them to effectively write haikus and sonnets? Do I want them to write research papers over a dead author’s work? Stop.

I’m asking all the wrong questions. Of course these topics are common in the classroom, almost essential in meeting in the standards. But what I really should be asking is “what do my students want to learn?” Well, since I am not yet a teacher, I had to pretend I was the student (except I am still a student).

“Learning is hard to measure. The best
kind of learning—the kind that stays
with you the rest of your life—is
maybe impossible to measure. This is
a source of great frustration to small
minds that are compelled to measure
all and discard all they cannot measure.
But, for teachers it is a fact of life.”
(1992, 114) “Potato Barrels, Animals Traps, Birth Control, and Unicorns”-Janet S Allen.

This quote really struck me. As a learner myself, I do not recall the details of what book I read when and what I learned from a project I did so many years ago. What I mean by this is, the work that I did in High School, was not anything of value to my life. I found no correlation between the material and my life other than “the grade.” I do not want this for my students. I want their work to last, a.k.a “learning.”

I know that the topics my students are interested in are not quote on quote “appropriate” for the classroom. But I have a hard time understanding what is “appropriate” anymore, besides Miley Cyrus…that is inappropriate to the max.
MILEY-VMA4

Yet, however inappropriate Miley may be, I guarantee my students would rather write about her than Emerson. It’s a fact of life. But writing about her helps student reflect on their own being, their own behavior, their own identity. If my students are doing this, they are learning. They are developing a sense of being and a habit they will carry with them for the rest of their life. If I can provide this lifelong learning skill to my students, I will have succeeded. And I can struggle with meeting the standards along the way.