Sunday, August 14, 2011

a new beginning

Perplexity is the beginning of knowledge. ---Khalil Gibran

In one week, it all begins. Here I sit, at my kitchen table, in a power-productive mood (yes, I just downloaded some new music to get me going). I was up at classroom working on stuff for the first week of school, and I found myself staring at my empty desks. In one week's time, they will be filled with chattering 7th and 8th graders. Am I really prepared? My college diploma (a very expensive piece of paper) tells me that I am credited, certified, and capable. My classroom is pretty much ready, aesthetically speaking. My stomach tells me that I'll be the only adult in my room. My spinning head tells me that 29 adolescents in my homeroom will be overstimulating at times. And my heart tells me that I am in the right place.

I always loved the back-to-school time of the year. New clothes, new school supplies, new teachers, and a fresh start. It's finally hitting me that I will get this experience every year, and hopefully it will get easier as time goes on. I feel like I've already done two months' work for no pay, but the real work is still yet to be done, probably within the next two days. I report on Tuesday, but I'll be at school far more than the in-service days. I have so many goals, so many ideas...and no patience. I want to start it all right away. I know that it won't be possible to do everything I want in one year, but I feel like if I execute this properly, I can get maximum results. It just takes an insane amount of planning, something I LOVE to do anyway!

One thing I am looking forward to the most is the fact that I will get to teach these kids (especially the 7th graders, who will be new to this) how to organize and plan their days. We're going to spend extensive time learning how to use their planners provided by the school, how to set and reach goals, and how to make mental (or physical) lists that ensure they are ready for each day. It's not meant to prepare them just for high school, but life.

It's going to be a great year. I can feel it. But for now, I should probably get back to planning. Thanks for reading. Look for more soon!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Decisions, decisions...

Using the power of decision gives you the capacity to get past any excuse to change any and every part of your life in an instant. ---Anthony Robbins

So, kind of a dramatic quote, right? You're probably thinking to yourself, "what sort of life-changing decision has she made today?" Actually, I'm talking about my classroom. And my curriculum. Somehow, carte blanche seemed like a good idea ages ago, but now it's very daunting and I fear I do not know where to begin. I was so anxious to get my keys, my curriculum and texts, ready for August. And now, I'm panicking every time I look at the calendar. "It's almost July? Whaaaaat?"

I suppose I'll get through it like I always do. :)

In other news... I've graduated. I'm waiting tables. Until August, and let me just say that I will not be working food service ever again. Every person should wait tables for a day for all people to understand the crap that servers go through on a daily basis. I'm attending a Holocaust Educator's Seminar this coming week. It's gonna be AWESOME, and a chance to reunite with some amazing educators who have truly shaped me as both an educator and as a person. I feel nothing but overwhelming gratitude.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Bittersweet Symphony

There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered. ---Nelson Mandela

So, here I am. It is my last day of student teaching. Last block of the day, my cooperating teacher taking back over. It still hasn't quite hit me that tomorrow, I don't have to get up at 6AM and be somewhere. I won't have papers to grade, or lessons to plan; my Capstone project is complete. Each student got a letter from me, and I got a few from them.

The most striking moment for me today was that there was a line of students wanting to hug me after my most challenging class. I couldn't believe how, because it was my last day, they came to realize how much work I had done for them. Teaching is not a job for people expecting gratitude, but I was overwhelmed with their gratitude and my own.

Upon reflecting about the semester, at first I didn't think I had changed, but I have begun to realize that I have, even from just a few weeks ago. It's been an interesting ride, but to have the challenges that I have had are the reason why I feel so prepared for what I am about to tell you, reader.

I have a job :) I will be teaching junior high English and Literature. I am so fortunate, so very blessed. I've had it for a few weeks now, but wrapping up the term and finishing everything for college AND moving has consumed me. I have summer vacation starting tomorrow, graduation on Saturday, and then... I go to see my classroom/sign contracts on Monday. But I guess summer starts pretty quick here. I think the first month and a half will be devoted to reading every book I can get my grubby little hands on and doing things that I haven't had the opportunity to do in a long time. This includes a full night's rest.

I am planning to continue the blogging, especially because student teaching was just the beginning. Veni, Vidi, Vici

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Show Goes On

All right, already/the show goes on/all night til the morning/we dreamed so long/anybody ever wonder/when they would see the sun go/just remember when you come up/the show goes on... ---Lupe Fiasco, "The Show Goes On"

This entire week, I have been on my own. Thankfully, I have a sub license, so I'm getting paid to do what I've been doing all semester! At first it was weird, running the show on my own. But eventually I came around and it's been nice to have full autonomy. It's a nice preview for when I have my own classroom. There have been moments throughout the semester where I've been flailing, and my CT has let it happen. During those moments, I couldn't help but wonder WHY he was letting me struggle. Afterword, he would always say, "There's not going to be a CT to save you when you're on your own." Looking back, I am eternally grateful for those moments. The show must go on...

Monday, April 4, 2011

Playing Ketchup

Who of you by worrying can add a single moment to your lifespan? ---Matthew 6:27

That quote really spoke to me and compelled me to make a blog post after nearly a month of silence. It was not intentional silence, dear reader. Rather, it was a contemplative silence, I assure you.

One thing that student teaching has taught me (not only about myself, but generally, as a life lesson) is that I worry too much. Granted, I have forced a pretty full plate upon myself, doing things that weren't entirely necessary, but at the same time, I used to stress myself out to the point of shaking and crying if I didn't have something completely prepared down to the minute. I've learned that the classroom takes its own natural course, and there's nothing I can do to stop the inevitable.

Today I had my mid-term evaluation with my CT and supervisor. I was pretty shocked with their marks, apparently I do not give myself enough credit, as my evaluation of myself was significantly lower than theirs. One criticism they had for me was that I always judge my performance based on my "worst" days. They warned me that if I continue to do this, I will be burnt out in three years, definitely something I don't want to happen. So now, I am attempting to make a conscious effort to evaluate my strenghts rather than my weaknesses. Wish me luck, as this is an attempt to reverse a habit nearly 22 years in the making.

In other news, I'm loving my new group of Holocaust Lit. This is a group that I wish I had for MORE than 90 minutes a day, because I constantly have to say, "sorry guys, we need to keep going if you ever want to get to the Holocaust." Currently, we are studying Darfur. It's amazing how many of these kids had no idea it is such an issue. It's probably the only genocide that has occurred in their conscious lifetime, as Rwanda was occurring as they were being born. I love our daily conversations. :)

I was fortunate to keep most of the kids from Term 3 in American Lit. There are still challenges with many of them, but to see the progress I have made with them is really rewarding. And... we get to start Term 4 with a biographical criticism unit on one of my favorite authors EVER... Sherman Alexie. I jumped all over that unit, and so far I think the kids are really enjoying it.

Reading Ideas is a new group of kids-smaller class, with a mass ball of energy. I could do a lot of activities with last term's kids that I definitely can't do with this group, but I'm learning how to structure, so it's a great experience.

On top of all that, I leave for New York City and Washington, D.C. the day after tomorrow! I'll gain chaperoning experience AND I get to meet Elie Wiesel. Oh, AND newly added to that list is Jim Loewen, author of LIes My Teacher Told Me. I will be approaching him with my ridiculously annotated copy and sheepishly asking him to sign my copy as I explain to him how he changed my life. I suppose it would be like what meeting a rock star is like for normal people.

Well, I won't take up any more of your time, dear reader. I have job applications to finish, lesson and sub plans to write, laundry to do, and packing! I suppose I take from my CT the art of balancing multiple things at once. It's been a full semester, but worth every moment!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference. ---Elie Wiesel

Oh, how I am growing to love Elie Wiesel more and more each and every time I read something by him. I know he's famous for Night but I just started A Mad Desire to Dance and it's phenomenal.

Wiesel gets me fired up, about becoming an educator, a writer, a reader, and an activist. I don't understand how people read what he writes and not be inspired, engaged, and, possibly even a little outraged about what has happened to humanity. Holocaust Lit is wrapping up Night at the moment, and I have been hitting a wall with this class.

Maybe it's the fact that Holocaust Lit is first block, first class in the morning. Maybe it's the fact that I am not as confident as my CT in leading discussions. Maybe the content is just so shocking to these kids. Whatever the reason, I CANNOT get these kids to talk.

I don't want to take their silence as indifference to the subject at hand, but day in and day out, that is what it feels like. I have a handful of kids whom I know I can depend on when the others are not willing to contribute to discussion, but I feel terrible for calling on them when the awkward 45-second silence has taken hold and I feel trapped. I try to call on everyone, but many kids will just sit there and say, "um... I dunno."

How do I cultivate meaningful discussion on a subject that requires activism in a class that has been resistant for an entire term? One student gave a presentation on human trafficking ( and it was completely shocking. Did you know that I-80 is used for mass amounts of human trafficking? I did not. We sat for a full 60 seconds in silence and no one said anything. I called on someone who doesn't normally talk, saying, "what are you thinking about all of this?" and his response was, "I'm thinking about how nobody talks in this class."

Granted, this term is almost over, and a new group of kids will be shuffling in, but I'm wondering what to do if I encounter this again. When we discussed the difference between perpetrators, victims, and bystanders, I introduced the term indifference, asking what it was. And they sat there in silence. I wanted to say, "think about what you're doing right NOW."

I don't think these kids are indifferent. Many of them indicate their understanding through written reflection. Many are brilliant writers. However, trying to lead discussion on a heavy subject when your class won't talk can sometimes be a little nerve-wracking. I hope this is something I just gain with experience.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Multiple Hats

If you could do it, I suppose, it would be a good idea to live your life in a straight line... but that's not the way I have done it, so far. I am a pilgrim, but my pilgrimmage has been wandering and unmarked. Often what has looked like a straight line to me has been a circle or doubling back...I have known something of Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven, but not always in that order. The names of many snares and dangers have been made known to me, but I have seen them only in looking back. Often, I have not known where I was going until I was already there. I have had my share of desires and goals but my life has come to me or I have gone to it mainly by way of mistakes and surprises. Often, I have received better than I deserved...I am an ignorant pilgrim, crcossing a dark valley. And yet for a long time, looking back, I have been unable to shake off teh feeling that I have been led. ---Wendell Berry

Hello, dear reader. Did you miss me? I definitely missed you. My sincerest apologies for not keeping you updated. They told me I would be tired after long days of teaching, and I believed them, but I guess it didn't really hit me until about 5ish weeks in how tired I would be.

Let me also say that if you are student teaching in the next year, PLEASE do not work while you do so. Ten hours a week is ten hours too many.

SO much has happened since the last time I posted. I am now chaperoning a trip to NYC/DC where I will get to meet Elie Wiesel and have a reserved time in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum with no one else but our group. And that's just a small portion of the trip. I won't try to make you any more jealous than you already are.

I have three full preps now. It's exhausting. I think the hardest part is keeping up with the grading, out of anything. A part of it I brought on myself with Composition. But I love seeing what the kids produce each week.

I'm finding that with each passing minute, a have to wear a different hat. I have to be an authority figure one minute, and then an educator, and then I have to slow down and explain things. I have had the opportunity to speak with parents at Parent-Teacher Conferences, and I've gotten to say, "your kid is awesome." I love it, for as tired as I am.

I feel like there is something else I want to discuss, but I will save that for (hopefully tomorrow) another blog post. Look forward to reading about Indifference.