Post-Boston; Re-Invented

I can’t begin to express how thankful, blessed, and lucky I am to have attended such an inspirational, informational, and empowering event. Not to mention with some of the greatest company a girl could ask for. The experience I had in Boston is one that I will never forget. From the first general session I was hooked. Literally, I was fighting back tears from the joy I felt in seeing all these educators coming together for a cause; a cause for change.

I am going to refrain from reviewing my sessions in this blog because I would like to dedicate a personal blog to my favorite. This is just simply a thank you to everyone for making Boston and the NCTE convention absolutely AMAZING. I believe each and every one of us came out even more motivated and inspired to be a positive influence within the educational system not only for our students but also for our colleagues and the subject as well.

There is so much power behind reading and writing that goes unnoticed, un-praised, and unpracticed. It’s something I am definitely becoming more accustomed and adapted to.

There are also so many people in love with teaching and in love with promoting a change. I KNOW it is time for the change and I KNOW I will be doing my part in “spreading the virus.”

I hope everyone gets a great night rest in their own bed with no “street cleaners” at 3 AM. Thanks again, ladies. You all are the best.

Blog Before Boston

Oh, alliteration, how I love thee.

 

So, we leave for Boston today. Who’s excited?! THIS GIRL!!! Time to learn some amazing things, explore a new city, and share small spaces with each other! I have to tell you guys, the preparation for this trip has been an experience in itself. The easiest part has actually been organizing my calender for the events. The most difficult-packing and filling gas. I’m sure you can all relate to the packing part. What to wear: pants or dress or skirt or wait-which shirt goes with these pants, this looks silly with a skirt, I don’t even own a dress-oh hey, scarfs! but which scarf with what outfit?! OH MY GOD SHOES, WHAT SHOES.

Needless to say, I accomplished committing to 4 separate outfits and jammed them neatly into a small carry on. Next to the clothes, I had issues with this “3-1-1” bologna rule. How is a girl supposed to fit her shampoo, conditioner, body wash, face wash, hairspray, toothpaste, lotion, “smell good,” deodorant, and chapstick ALL IN ONE QUART SIZE BAG. I’m struggling. Hoping TSA doesn’t notice and/or throw any of my things out.

Next struggle, filling gas. I’m horribly embarrassed to share this, but I have to, the smell of gas on my pants is forcing me to. So approximately 45 minutes ago I was filling up at the lovely Commen Cents gas station. It was a typical fill up: card in machine, gas pump in car, lift handle, sit in car. Only this time as I was sitting in my car…the pump did not stop at full tank and proceeded to overflow all over my car. Frantically I tried to stop the waterfall de gasolina which resulted in gas on pants…and shoes….and hands. I seriously may be the clumsiest person alive.

Back to being excited for Boston, just look at this

boston

And this

boston2

And OMGOSH (shorthand) this

boston3

 

I can’t express how blessed I am to have the opportunity to explore not only a new town but also new knowledge. Pack your bags, ladies, T-minus 4 hours and 20 minutes till our journey begins!

Cheers!

 

Benefit-Risk Tension of Sexuality in the Classroom. What do you think?

 In the article, “Skirting the Issue: Teachers’ Experiences ‘Addressing Sexuality in Middle School Language Arts’,” sexuality in the classroom is described  as a “benefit-risk” tension. This means that although the teacher may be benefiting the students by educating them about sexuality, they may also be scrutinized for choosing to do so. The issue of sexuality is not required in the classroom setting but cannot be ignored. Middle School is the prime in which students undergo sexual changes and Language Arts is described as the subject that provides an “experienced-based pedagogy.” It is obvious that sexuality is of high interest to adolescents. If we are to teach our students material based on their interests then we must find a way to comfortable address sexuality in the classroom. A study was done among 14 teachers and proved that teaching sexuality in the classroom proved to be beneficial. However, the results also demonstrated that more than not the teachers practiced “avoidance strategies” due to anxiety of the subject matter.

Teaching sexuality in the classroom is very informative. Students can become aware of the risk of STD’s, pregnancy, domestic abuse, and sexual harassment. Teacher’s that were in the study done by this article discussed how any example of violence or fear can be connected to information about abuse and harassment. Sexuality is especially connect in the Language Arts classroom because literature is full of opportunities to address sexual issues.

To me, sexuality in the classroom is an unavoidable subject. Our students lives are consumed by the topic of sex. It would be ignorant for me as a teacher to try and avoid this part of their life. Instead, I want to embrace the subject matter into an educational process. I want my students to channel this interest into a productive and mature format. I also want my students to feel comfortable around me and confide in me with any issues they may have. This time in their life is full of changes and sometimes they do not have anyone available to help them through the process. Being open, honest, and informative with my students about sexuality is much more beneficial and rewarding to me than the risk of being ridiculed for addressing a subject matter our society thrives on.

I’ve given my opinion, what do you all think?

 

Puchner, L., & Klein, N. (2012). Skirting the Issue: Teachers’ Experiences “Addressing Sexuality in Middle School Language Arts”. Research In Middle Level Education Online, 36(1), 1-16.

Remembering the Reason

As everyone knows this is the season to remember, to celebrate, and to give. It’s a time where all that we have worked for since January 1st comes to its final moments….and when we gain our winter layer of joy.

Today is Veteran’s Day. Today I witnessed one of the most repulsive and selfish acts an American carelessly made.

I was in Dollar General picking up some dollar candy for my winter layer when I forced myself to stop fantasizing over chocolate and check out. I was the second person in line behind a middle aged woman. Dollar General was honoring our Veterans by offering an 11% discount to all those who have served or have family that have served. As this woman exited the store she turned and questioned “did I not receive my discount?” The cashier politely said, “Oh, I’m sorry ma’am, we ask that you tell us if you have served so we can apply the discount. I will gladly return the items for you and give you the discount.” The women snidely replied, “I didn’t serve, my grandfather did, and my nephew.” The cashier again apologized and promptly returned the items and began to ring them up again. However, since the transaction was a return she was unable to apply the 11% discount. The woman was furious. Despite the cashier’s sincere and constant apology, the woman refused to be understanding. She claimed that Dollar General was doing an injustice to veterans and she would no longer be returning to the store.

The woman left leaving the cashier an emotional disaster. She voluntarily expressed to me how heartbroken she was. My concern is, was this woman’s intentions of the discount in honor or her relatives or to save the $2 extra dollars?

Unfortunately, I believe it was the $2. And that sickens me. What sickens me more is that a fellow American was so rude to another who was clearly trying to correct a situation that wasn’t her fault in the first place.

So often we get caught up in our own lives, our own needs, our own concerns that we forget the reason for days like today, for holidays, or even just a “Monday.” I hope you all keep this in mind as the holiday season nears; remember the reason for the season.

Is this “real-life?”

First off, I’d like to let everyone know just how patriotic I am feeling today on account of my American flag cotton shorts.

I have been wearing them all day and even plan to sleep in them. Doing Poppa Washington proud. ‘Merica.

Secondly, I have had quite the strange day. I have discovered random quirks about myself I didn’t know I possessed. The first being that I cannot sing any Adele song other than “Rumor has it” without being SO off key that I force myself to stop-out of complete embarrassment-by myself.  The second being I discovered that I am an animal whisperer…except to the cats outside the PAC who shun me with every “kitty kitty” call I attempt. Just being honest here; getting rejected by a cat is about twice as bad as getting rejected by a human. So minus failing a chit-chat with the “PAC cats,” I will explain my epiphany of animal whispering (it’s not as weird as it sounds).

As I was coming home this late afternoon (which seems like evening because of the wretched time change) I was shocked (or should I say mortified) to find three deer just “chillin” in our backyard. They didn’t bother to budge as I pulled into our  make-shift driveway nor react when I opened and slammed my door (self-defense). It wasn’t until I was about 10 feet from dasher, dancer, and prancer that they decide to stand up. I was little intimidated…so I took out my phone….and took pictures (because ya know, when you feel threatened you whip out your phone and take pictures and what not). After my photo shoot with Santa’s reindeer was over, I proceeded to “kitty call” these deer…AND THEY CAME UP TO ME. I’m not kidding. I came an arm’s length from touching the little one. But then I got this twisted image in my head that the second I touched it the other two would come trample me. Don’t judge me, it’s happened…in movies.

The last thing I discovered about myself is that I am really resourceful. As I was emptying my scentsy, I managed to get hot wax all over my sweatpants (I discovered I’m clumsy too). The wax, after sinking through my pants and giving me quite the burn, dried. I pitifully tried to scrape off the wax and failed. I tried to use hot water and wash off the wax…and failed. Not wanting to do a load of laundry (lazy college student) I decided I would have to re-heat the wax, but how? The answer; a blow-dryer. So there I was sitting on my bedroom floor blow-drying wax off my sweatpants when I decided I was going to write this blog.

Bless you for reading this. The end.

Competing with Student’s Interests

This is another reflection from Jim Burke’s “Letters to a New Teacher.” I knew I had to post about this section the second I read the question Jim was addressing, “My students seem to be bored out of their minds. How can I compete with lunch, the weekend, and all their other interests? I feel like I am inflicting them with Chinese water torture or something. What can I do?”

Before I read Jim’s response I tried to answer this question myself. Of course, much of what we have learned from Methods came to mind: give them choice, provide them with material that interests them, apply material to their lives, don’t lecture. Which was also all addressed by Jim. However, I feel the most important part of his response was his resistance to allowing Joy to give up.

“You need to know that every great–and I mean greatteacher I know tried to quit at some point, felt they were a fraud or failure.” (48)

Immediately I became fearful. Am I going to want to quit too? To be honest, the answer is yes, I’m going to have my HORRIFIC days that I just don’t feel I am doing my job or getting through to my students. But it’s these days that Jim says we learn the most. We learn what doesn’t work and we learn from our students-what they want. Ever hear the saying, “You gotta hit rock bottom before you can hit rock star?” Yeah, really corny, but it applies. The point is not to give up. The great teachers are those who recognized themselves at their weakest and built their way to their strongest. They didn’t fail their students by giving into their temporary self-failure.

There is a solution for every problem (math taught me that….I think).

“Solutions lie not only inside yourself but in the books of the masters, which you must read, and the classrooms of the masters, which you must visit and observe as you figure out what kind of teacher you want to be, what your identity as a teacher is.” (50)

Does this sound familiar? It’s exactly what Dr. Ellington has preached. You cannot ever EVER stop learning. Learn from the masters, develop your professional life, learn from your colleagues, learn from you students. Learning is lifelong. And it also helps ease the pain of finding some of these difficult classroom solutions! I know it’s hard right now, because we are all drowning deep in our own schoolwork, but we have to learn to manage and make time to become better teachers as we are finishing our chapter as “students.”

“Give yourself time to learn, to be less than perfect, to make inevitable mistakes from which you will learn.” (52)

Jim ends his letter assuring Joy that she has already taken the first steps in becoming a great teacher; she hasn’t given up, she has consulted her colleagues, asked her students what helps them, and reached out to Jim (our master) for advice.

The resources are there. We just have to take advantage of them. We have to understand that being a great teacher requires revision and dedication. Most importantly, we have to have faith in ourselves.

 

Classroom Crisis

In honor of our recent class discussion on classroom management I decided to delve into the topic of crisis in the classroom. I also managed to luck out and have this be a question in Jim Burke’s “Letters to a New Teacher.”

It is never easy to deal with a crisis in the classroom. Whether it be a rowdy student, a sick student, a student dealing with emotional issues, or even a community crisis. The heartbreaking death of Trinity McDonald, a Southeast High School Senior, has struck me as one of these community crisis’s. You cannot predict any crisis or any behavior, but as we discussed, you can have a plan.

“You realize at such times that you must be the one to be strong, to convey faith that such things will be fine.” (Burke, 121)

“Will be fine” is such a hard concept to try and use as comfort to our students. But that’s what we have to do. We have to be the comfort our students need as well as the support they need to move on. There is no plan for a crisis such as this other than going beyond our “job description” and being there as a caring, loving human for our “kids.”

“The point that I am trying to make, but am not doing so well, is that our work involves so much more than the report cards I turned in yesterday or the scores on the state testes we discussed for two hours this morning.” (Burke, 122)

This statement is so compelling to me because this is why I want to teach. I don’t want to be the moderator who repeats what a student can learn from a textbook. I want to be their support. Their support to learn, to achieve, to move on, and to believe that in all the darkness there is light.

During my High School years we experienced several deaths that heavily impacted the community of our school. One of the girls was actually a role model in my life. Her death struck the student body and diminished our morale. It especially hit hard to the track team. As students and athletes we were at an all time low; there was no light in this moment of darkness. However, I specifically remember our teachers and coaches never letting our sorrow and mourning block the opportunity of a future. They recognized that this was a hometown tragedy. They mourned themselves. But they did not allow that mourning to control us and destroy us. They kept spirits alive for the sake of Whitney and encouraged us to smile for her rather than cry; to run harder rather than slump.

Out of all crisis comes an opportunity for hope. We have to be that hope for our students whether it be a hometown tragedy, emotional struggle, or simply disruptive antics.