Thursday, December 30, 2010

Writing with Purpose

A story is a way to say something that can't be said any other way, and it takes every word in that story to say what the meaning is. You tell a story because a statement would be inadequate. ---Flannery O'Connor

I'll admit it. I've had a few literary crushes in my lifetime. However, my girl Flannery is probably pretty high up on the list. She's just really awesome, and if you've never read her, you probably should. Start with A Good Man Is Hard To Find.

I chose this quote because I've had a lot of time to think over the past few days, mainly due to a nasty bout of the stomach flu. (We're talking projectile-vomiting proportions). When I wasn't sleeping, I was revisiting some wonderful works of literature that were dear old friends during dark times. I re-read O'Connor's short story mentioned above, as well as The Great Gatsby, The Sunflower, and Of Mice and Men. I was reminded of what called me to these books over and over again-the authors' precise choice of words, melting together to form this amazing story that fulfilled many afternoons, car rides, and evenings of adolesence. These authors wrote with purpose, which is something that I sometimes feel I lack. Am I telling a story? Am I just jotting down thoughts? Does this word I chose belong here? Crap, this is all just chicken scratch.

I know I probably won't ever write something that is truly worth someone's time. However, I know I need to be able to teach my students how to write with purpose. I have all of these amazing examples of authors who were able to write with purpose and half the time I can't demonstrate myself what the purpose of my writing is. Guess I'll have to add it to my ever-growing to-do list.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

cheery holidays?

Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.---Aldous Huxley

Well, it's official. I'm on winter break. (I'm so used to saying "Christmas vacation" from my 12 years of Catholic schooling, but now I'm in the public school system, so I have to be politically correct). I kind of started to feel it this morning as I slept in until almost 11 am... something I haven't done since this summer. I would like to think that I could enjoy myself and eat bon bons on the couch while catching up on all the tv shows I've neglected, but sadly that is not the case for me this winter break.

Financially, it's time to kick it up a notch, mainly to make sure I have enough money saved so I don't have to work as much during student teaching. That means spending long days waiting tables and kissing butt for money. Oh, how I wish this weren't so. I love that people automatically assume I'm doing nothing with my life since I'm serving them their spaghetti and meat sauce.

SO... I will be spending my break working a lot. And then on top of that, the mountain of books keep on piling up. The CT is great. He wanted me to enjoy my break but did give me a few books to peruse, mostly about the Holocaust. It's a little weird, trying to be full of Christmas (holiday) cheer and read about death and starvation and torture and modern-day Holocausts. Here I am, sipping on some wine and thinking about all the Christmas shopping I have left, and I'm reading about people dying halfway around the world.

It's easy for people to fall into the trap of thinking there's nothing that they can do, but they can. Maybe if they ignore the problem, it will go away. But it won't. I'm hoping to educate myself enough so that one day I can be more active in this cause. That's the beauty of education.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

(insert witty title here).

dum spiro, spero. (when i breathe, i hope)---Latin proverb

Sigh. Still not quite finished with the massive portfolio due on Friday, but getting closer.

I meet my cooperating teacher tomorrow! I know I'm not the only one who is excited to start working with their CT but I think I'm a little giddy. I creeped on his webpage at the high school, and I'm just ecstatic at what I am finding. I have so much to learn from him, I just can't wait to get started! We're meeting at the school so I can see the classroom and the general layout, even though I've been there before. He's never had a student teacher so I think this will be a learning experience for both of us.

I'm totally overbooking myself over break with work, getting ready for next semester and trying to catch up with family and friends, but I think if I just have one day where I can sleep in, watch movies all day in my PJs and eat junk food I will be rejuvenated for everything to begin.

Ah, probably should get back to doing the dedicated student thing. Only a small (but time-consuming) amount left to do!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Day of Lasts

I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I ended up where I needed to be. ---Douglas Adams

Oh, gosh. Tomorrow is my last day in practicum. I didn't think I would be as sad as I am. I'll probably cry. Okay, maybe not cry but probably tear up.

We had our final evaluations today from our cooperating teacher. She gave me the highest marks in everything except Classroom Management, which she explained is just something that is going to come in time. I remember thinking that I hadn't really changed that much, but after some deep reflection today, I think that I am leaps and bounds from the beginning.

It's hard to believe how far I've come. If you've ever wondered about your true character, a good test would be to teach a room of sophomore boys. Or just adolescents in general. You will encounter some extreme disappointments (and utter failures in your teaching) but the victories will make everything worth it. You develop some pretty thick skin. I've been frustrated and driven to tears, but I cannot imagine being any happier doing anything else in this world.

I will miss them.

BUT I am moving on to a new setting next semester, one which I am completely and utterly ecstatic about. I am working with an educator whom I already admire very much and I'm in a new school setting. I am teaching 3 classes (AHHH... um, when will I sleep?): American Lit, Reading & Writing Ideas, AAAND...drumroll... Holocaust Lit. This is such a wide spread of classes, abilities, and students, but I think this is so important for me as a student teacher because I know that I'm going to have all levels when I get a big-girl job. I was looking forward to catching up on my reading this winter break, but it looks like a lot of it will be in preparation for next semester. Oh, well. Reading delights me no matter what. :)

Now, on to this wonderful portfolio (EEEEEKKK) that will tear down an entire forest before it's finished...

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

You Wanna Know What I Make?

...I make them realize that if you've got THIS (brains) then you follow THIS (heart) and if anyone tries to judge you based on what you make you give them THIS (the bird). Here, let me break it down for you so you know what I say is true, teachers make a difference, now what about you? ---Taylor Mali, on What Teachers Make

In the spirit of getting toward the end of the semester, not getting burnt out, and FINDING OUT PLACEMENTS, here is something that I love to listen to from time to time. It reminds me why I'm doing what I'm doing. I'm not usually one of those people who likes to read books about "inspiring teachers" and "how I found my passion teaching" but this guy is pretty darn awesome.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


Not all who wander are lost. ---JRR Tolkien

Wow, I guess it's been awhile since I've posted. I probably shouldn't even be posting right now, considering the workload I've induced upon myself in my infinite efforts of procrastination. Why do I procrastinate? Because I'm distracted easily.

Lately I just can't let go of the fact that I don't know where I'm student teaching yet. The options I was provided with to preference are all fabulous, so I'm just excited about it all. I'm genetically wired to not let things go with ease (seriously, if you haven't spent quality time with me and my siblings, you should, and you will understand what I mean by this). I just let things bother me for extended periods of time. For the last year and more intensively in the last six months, it has been increasingly difficult to let go of the uncertainty of it all. I find out in less than a week (Friday at 3:30 pm, if you're interested) and it is just getting worse. The distraction and anticipation, I mean.

I've been distracted with my messy apartment and the laundry monster that is growing steadily in my closet.  I've been distracted with my frustration that my to-do list never seems to be fully completed and the finances of my life never seem to go away. I've been distracted with my worries that some of my practicum kids don't have warm coats or heating inside their homes as the weather starts to get nasty. The jury duty commissioner won't leave me alone-and that too is very distracting, especially because I would prefer NOT to spend my winter break on jury duty.

At the same time, I'm so focused. I'm ready to finish school, with 5 papers and a portfolio left to go, I have 3 weeks. Last semester I pulled two all-nighters, making myself stay awake for three days. I will do everything in my power to prevent a repeat of this because I was too wired and emotionally unstable to pull off my final presentation. I'm focused on crossing things off my to-do list. I'm focused on my long and short term goals, in the classroom and out.

I'm wandering, but I'm definitely not lost.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


We are each other's business; we are each other's harvest; we are each other's magnitude and bond. ---Gwendolyn Brooks (AWESOME poet, check her out!)

I've already accepted the notion that an all-nighter is in order tonight, so I may as well enjoy a little bit of time here to express something that I suddenly became overwhelmed with this evening. It's a feeling that I've sensed a lot with my cohort in the past year and a half, but tonight was just a reassurement that this concept is still ever-present in my group of colleagues: Community.

My cohort of peers in the program is a group of talented, insightful, inspiring, crazy but loving people. When Rob, our old professor, interviewed us and chose to place us in the program, I don't think he realized what a bond he has created. He got a lot more than what he bargained for. I met some of my closest friends. I found a man who is so incredibly smart and inspiring and constantly pushes me to not just be a better teacher, but a better person. This group has seen me at my best, they have seen me at my worst. But they are always there. Here we are at Rob's going-away dinner:

We have started to present our units (Kayla and I go next week) to the class. Listening to everyone's stories, their triumphs and successes, their failures and moments of growth reminds me that I am not alone. I always knew that teachers were strongly bonded, but I'm beginning to recognize how truly honest that statement is. Teaching is a community full of individuals who all live and thrive together. They share, they borrow, they blatantly steal from each other in the name of education. I love every single one of these individuals and I can't wait to develop these same bonds with my future colleagues.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Reinventing the Wheel

I myself am made entirely of flaws, stitched together with good intentions. ---Augusten Burroughs

Last Friday, my professor came to observe our class. I had been nervous about it all week. Well, actually, all semester. I was saying a novena that my kids would be good, because well, lately they haven't been. One day my CT made them apologize to my partner and I, that's how difficult they've been. I think I spent more hours and labor coming up with the perfect lesson plan for the observation than I have on an entire week of stuff. The lesson was risky because it required them to work with partners (which we strategically assigned) and we had just taken away their "group work" privileges because they can't seem to handle it.

I woke up early. I played pump up music and danced around. I even stared at myself in the mirror and told myself how wonderful I am as I put on my makeup. I had an entire pot of coffee that morning. Things were going to go golden.

And they DID!!!! Kayla (my partner) and I found ourselves looking at each other throughout the lesson and mouthing "oh my gosh!" to each other. We couldn't believe that the lesson went so well. Fridays are a grab-bag day for the kids usually, but they all participated and had fun with what we did for them. My CT at one point whispered in my ear that "they're doing it for you. They know how important this is so they're cooperating." The teacher in me would like to think that the kids were just into the lesson and intrinsically motivated to learn, but the student who is being evaluated in me would love to just be happy that things went well.

Then came evaluations. I was very nervous for this because my CT doesn't give a lot of feedback, so I was prepared for the worst but hoping for the best. More pros than cons, thank goodness. But an area she said I needed to work on was that I try too often to "reinvent the wheel".

In some ways, I don't see how this is a con. True, I do over-book myself and work harder than I have to sometimes, but I think that's because I want to discover things for myself. My professor advised us to "go overboard" with designing this unit because this is as much for us as it is for the kids. So that's what we've been doing. We're learning from it all, and that's why I think that reinventing the wheel shouldn't be a bad thing. I'm definitely going to take that with me next semester.

At this point, I am worse than a kid waiting for Christmas morning with these student teaching assignments. Apparently they're finalized but they don't want to tell us what they are in case something doesn't work out. I'm legitimately going to have a freak out moment if I don't get some kind of information soon.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


People talkin' sh*t but when the sh*t hit the fan, everything I'm not made me everything I am. ---Kanye West, "Everything I Am"

I had a horrible realization today that was completely inevitable. I wish I could say that I didn't see it coming, but I know that I did. I mean, it's something I've sort of embraced, but I can see that it will be an obstacle (and maybe a blessing?) in my teaching: I am utterly uncool.

When I say uncool, I mean perpetual nerd. I love Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter and you WILL lose a trivia game against me. I read about three books at a time and there's a giant, leaning tower of books on my nightstand of to-reads. I'm talking about a work-a-holic who gets excited about wordsearches, crossword puzzles, looking up new words, and unit planning. I watch as many documentaries as I do t.v. shows in my Netflix queue. I love to learn. (Learner is my #1 strength according to Clifton Strengthsfinder. Achiever is number two. Weird, right?)

I'm also talking about how uncool I was in high school. Straight-A, teacher's pet, overly-involved, going-stag-to-senior-prom uncool. I had ZERO fashion sense (no interest in that sort of thing 'til college...thankfully things have changed). I lacked a sense of rhythm and a set of good, reliable tweezers. Fortunately, I think that this part of my past can hide safely from my students, brushed under a rug of "let's steer clear of these kinds of questions, kids," as I sheepishly move the conversation in a different direction.

Here I am, as close in age as I will ever be to my students, yet I am finding that I can't even connect with them on the most basic level. Major failure there, Starfleet. To grab their attention one day, I threw a picture of Megan Fox in the middle of my powerpoint. That was my first attempt to show them that I am human, even if I am completely repulsed by her. I tried to use pop culture references such as Anchorman or Zoolander, but gosh, even those movies are dated. So then I tried to reference Jackass 3 after one of the kids was talking about it, and, to put in the words of Ralphie from A Christmas Story, "They looked at me as if I had lobsters crawling out of my ears."

I know that not too many high schoolers are going to get excited about King Arthur on their own. But hopefully I can make it interesting enough for them to look at me and think that I'm cool for trying to make things interesting. Maybe the fact that I'm not graceful, hip, disorganized, obsessed with sports and dating, aka everything that is cool and important to a high schooler will somehow help me create an interesting learning space. Everything that I'm not still made me everything I am. I'm proud of me, and for once in my life, I'm actually comfortable with who I am, even if my students can't appreciate it.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


"I know. It's all wrong. By rights we shouldn't even be here. But we are. It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it's only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines, it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in these stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn't. They kept going. Because they were holding onto something...that there's some good in this world, Mr. Frodo...and it's worth fighting for." ---Samwise Gamgee, "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" by JRR Tolkien

All righty then. If you were brave enough to read one of the greatest quotes in all of literature, you are probably wondering how Middle Earth can possibly relate to education. Now I'm going to ask you to watch this:

This is the new documentary that is causing a lot of hype in the education world. That is not what I want to talk about today. This documentary is something I am extremely interested in viewing, but I also want to point out that this documentary seems to believe that there are no good teachers left in the world. This is so disheartening. I have connected with some amazing individuals who don't care about the test results or the rankings at the end of the day: they care about the students and what they teach.

I want to refer back to the line in the quote above that says, "Folk in these stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn't. They kept going." In TEAC 452 on Wednesday, we talked about how teachers have this invigorating job that allows them to do something new and exciting every single day. Sure, teachers could burn out, get overwhelmed, constantly have to bring their work home with them, but they have a gift of a job. They recognize that "there is some good left in this world...and it's worth fighting for." A very important person in my life makes a healthy salary but every single day I talk about what I want to do with my life, he reminds me that I am going to be doing something I love, and he cannot say the same for himself. He doesn't find invigoration with his job, he only sees it as a means of living. I'm aware that teachers make minimally above a poverty-line wage in many states (including mine) but I constantly find myself unable to switch off my teaching brain and I love it.

I'm going to see the documentary when I get the chance, but I also want people to recognize that even though this education system is going through some ugly Durm and Strang right now, there ARE individuals out there who are in this for the long haul and in it because they love and value something more than standardization: students and their work.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Fix You

When you try your best but you don't succeed, When you get what you want but not what you need, when you feel so tired but you can't sleep, stuck in reverse... Lights will guide you home, and ignite your bones, and I will try to fix you... ---Coldplay, "Fix You" has been a little bit of time since I've given a new post. I think I wanted to give myself some time before I wrote something while I was exasperated or angry. My experiences in the past week and a half still slay me, but I suppose it is all a part of the learning experience for me as I try to become that great teacher way off in the distance of my goals.

Last Wednesday the students had a test over nouns, pronouns and possesives. Every single question was in the review game we played the day before, as well as in their notes somewhere. When the test day rolled around, I heard many students say, "Yeah, I didn't study." Guess how their test scores came out? Yup, many failed. My CT told us that we did everything that we could to prepare them, the test wasn't hard, and that it was a personal choice they made not to study. Many of the kids said that the test "had too many directions." (They had to circle the proper nouns and underline the common nouns at most).

I can't believe how much I have to hold their hands sometimes. I'm slowly beginning to realize how different I am from these kids. I always loved school. I wanted to do well. I didn't need to be told how to study or even how to take notes. The question becomes, "How do I fix this?" I think that when I teach in my own classroom, I'm going to have to develop a mini-unit on how to develop good study skills, especially if I teach in a school like the one I'm in now. A lot of the kids I'm working with place homework on the back burner, and for many of them getting a second meal for the day is a primary concern. It all relates back to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.

I wish I had an answer or that I could fix the problem. I know grammar isn't the most exciting thing in the world to learn. It's not supposed to be taught in isolation the way my CT is doing it, but I have to follow what she's doing. We're finished with grammar for awhile after tomorrow, then the kids have a break (hallelujah!) and then we get to do the unit that my partner and I are working on...or have yet to develop :)

They have a test over verbs tomorrow. We'll see what happens...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Lather, Rinse, Repeat

In the beginner's mind, there are many possibilities. In the expert's mind, there are few. ---Zen Masters

I dunno about the rest of my program, but I am ready for a break. I now understand why I felt that the teacher were often more excited than the students for a day off from school. I think it is all too easy to fall into a routine at this point in the semester, and it very easily has with what our class is studying : grammar. It's very difficult to create a meaningful and lively classroom discussion about dangling participles. In the end, it is about repetition-done in a way that isn't medieval. Lather, rinse, repeat.

After the break, however, my partner and I start our unit that we have yet to develop. We have some awesome ideas, but we are hesistant to begin. It's all very daunting. I am beginning to understand what my teachers were saying about "having no life" the first three years of teaching. You have to develop lessons, figure out if it is working, and if not, try something else. Lather, rinse, repeat.

My partner and I are worried about going too far off the mark from our CT's other classes. She doesn't assign homework, and all she wants to do is have the students read aloud and watch clips from A Knight's Tale for this upcoming unit. My partner and I want to have discussions about a major theme of the unit and how it connects to society. We want to assign homework and have the students think critically about this universal theme. We don't want to deviate too far, but in order to get the students to a higher level of thinking, we may have to. There are just so many options...and I hope that I never forget those options as the number of teaching years tick away.

Our unit is a King Arthur unit, which is something that I know nothing about other than my experience with Monty Python and the Holy Grail (thanks, dad!). I was a bit skeptical at first, until my CT told us that she breaks up the story by taking excerpts from different authors which gives different perspectives on the story. One is from Steinbeck, which is um, AWESOME so I'm excited to start reading. My CT said the major objectives for the unit were to get the students to understand King Arthur and chivalry. My partner and I agree, there is so much more to King Arthur than that, so we are working on bridging that into a bigger context. (Totally not Lather, Rinse, Repeat for these kids). We are thinking about "The Cultural Round Table: Ourselves as Heroes on Personal Quests". Like I said, we're working on it. But I can't wait! :)

Monday, October 4, 2010


You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them. ---Ray Bradbury

I got four hours of sleep last night. I'm in no way complaining, actually. After working on lesson plans and this 20-page paper due in a couple of days, I found my mind still actively awake. I sat in my bed and read until I fell asleep. Currently, I am reading three books: The Life of Pi (for pleasure), This I Believe (giving me ideas for teaching a narrative), and In Short: A Collection of Brief Creative Non-fiction (so I can find resources if I ever want to use them in a lesson). I woke up refreshed. And grateful that I had time to read, because it is one of my favorite things to do. I'm finding that even though I'm not getting as much sleep as I used to, I'm still functioning and I'm attributing that to the fact that I'm doing something I love in replacement of sleep. Plus, as long as I have a working coffeemaker, I think I'm set for the day.

This morning during plan period, my practicum partner and I both were joking around, sharing how little sleep we had last night. I mentioned how much I was enjoying what I was reading, when my CT perked up from her desk and said, "You'll find that you have to put reading on the back burner once you actually start teaching."

What do I say to this? If anything, shouldn't I be reading and writing more? The Nebraska Writing Project says, "The best teachers of writing are writers themselves." I think that's true of reading also. Granted, I do not have a classroom, so I do not fully understand the demands. But to give you a perspective, dear reader, during our planning period the other day, my CT dinked around on her iPod Touch and downloaded apps while my partner and I were grading. My CT reminds me of teachers I had who were obviously burned out, or complacent with where they were. It is my mission to NEVER be that teacher. If not for myself, isn't reading and writing for the students? I want to be that teacher who slips kids books and can dialogue with them about what they think. I want to give the best feedback on their writing.

In TEAC 452N we have been discussing the importance of classroom culture. Don't reading and writing in an English class constitute a major part of the English classroom culture? Taking out the books and the pen and paper destroy what English is. It creates indifference, it destroys potential. At first, I was silently enraged by her notion, and then I thought about it on the way home. I won't let myself be that person. If anything, that CT's comment is what is fueling me all the more. Reading and Writing for further development as a professional and for my classroom is not just an interest or a goal, it is a major priority, and I will make sure that it stays that way.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Creative Juices

To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong. ---Joseph Chilton Pierce

I will freely and willingly admit: I am not an artist. I struggle with being creative beyond the domains of pen and paper. I draw stick figures when I do self-portraits, and at best my other ideas are mediocre. Don't get me wrong, I am proud of what I can do. I know what I am good at, but coming up with creative lesson plans has always been a challenge for me. Even with all I have learned about Backwards Design, I still spent too much time looking at a blank sheet of paper trying to materialize ideas.

My practicum partner is a wonderful and creative person. She already has her ideas down on paper and is probably ready to teach everything. This is why I wanted to work with her because of her creative mind. I am much more practical, logistical. I am the planner, not the artist.

For the past 45 minutes, I've been staring at The Grammar Plan book hoping that some idea on how to teach verbs and subject-verb agreement will magically pop into my head. On Friday, the kids had a sub, and the CT wanted them to watch Grammar Rock!. It was a good Friday/substitute activity. My jaw almost dropped though, when after playing "Unpack Your Adjectives", I paused the video and asked the kids, "okay, what's an adjective?" (they should have known if they had filled out their worksheets), and one kid said, "I put 'a noun'".

Quite frankly, I'm afraid. This is something I learned in maybe first or second grade. Is this what our public schools have come to? I am not a product of the public education system, but more than likely that is where I will be working. And then I see the tests that these kids have to take. Our CT gave us a week and a half to cover not only the basic parts of speech, but also everything that the kids have to know for the test, such as semicolons, commas and colons. Throw in the days with shortened schedules, factors of kids not being there and missing out, how willing the kids are to participate in activities, etc, and I'm not sure that it can be done.

This particular class has a lot of kids who need to be up and active. So first and foremost, I am looking at how to incorporate movement into this lesson, and after that, I am at a loss. The kids are so used to sitting there and writing down notes from a power point when our CT teaches, and I know they need a change of pace and scenery.

Creative lesson plans do not equal effective lesson plans. Granted, most of the time they do. But I think I am overwhelming myself with trying to do too many things at once when developing this lesson plan. I think I'm giving myself a mental block by taking on too many considerations. Looks like it's back to basics.

I think I'll be burning the midnight oil this evening...

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Backwards Walk

I'm working on my faults and cracks/ filling in the blanks and gaps/ and when I write them out they don't make sense/ I need you to pencil in the rest... ---Frightened Rabbit, "Backwards Walk"

One of my faults: I don't learn things the first time. Exhibit A: Me ordering a tall caramel latte at 8 pm. You would think I would have learned not to do this after Sunday night. If I stayed up all night, I could probably still have stuff to do.

I became the teacher who uses threats to get students to do things yesterday. I'm not proud of it, and quite frankly I hope that this was one of the few times that I will ever have to do so. It wasn't a threat of, "If you don't do this, I'm going to take this away", it was a threat of "well, if you don't do your homework, I would be happy to inform your parents at parent-teacher conferences the reason why you have a zero in the gradebook for this assignment, even though you had plenty of time to work on it." And while this got the student to do the homework, I don't think I earned any respect. Teaching is about mutual respect, and well, I don't think I'm being effective in this way with a particular student. I'm trying to wrap my brain around how to do this.

One of my faults: I can't let things go. I can't help it, I think I'm genetically wired to be this way. A very wise friend of mine reminded me that the next time I see my students, anything that happened will have been forgotten. But I can't let go of the fact that this kid doesn't respect me. to quote the great Michael Scott, "Would I rather be feared or loved? Easy. Both. I want people to be afraid of how much they love me."

Another fault: I procrastinate. I'm finding that it is a million times easier if I am not at home when I am trying to get things done. If I'm at home, I'm constantly getting distracted-needing to unload the dishwasher, re-organize my closet, my desk, my drawers, what have you. Funny how it only took until my senior year of college for me to realize that studying at home isn't the best place for me to be productive. This CANNOT happen when student teaching rolls around. Procrastination is a no-no.

Another fault, a deadly combo with procrastination: I over-book myself. At the beginning of the semester, I was working 4 week nights and taking night class on the other one. I left no time for anything else involving school or teaching, let alone relaxing. Thankfully I cut back on work, but now that leaves me with less funds to have some play time or save up.

I feel like I can use some of my flaws to my advantage, if I channel them properly. Entering into the realm of adulthood, I feel like I'm doing this backwards walk, where I discover more about myself and try to use it to my advantage, and it only hurts me in the end. I'm doing this dance with myself, trying to figure out how to play up my strengths and minimize my weaknesses. And as I become more of an adult, I'm realizing how much I've learned about myself over the last year, which in some ways is great. But I never shut my brain off, more particularly my "teacher brain". My children are screwed because everything will have to be a learning experience, or a "meta moment". I'm sure they will probably hate me until they reach the age of 25.

Sigh. This was an all-over-the-place post. I just really needed to get it all out there. Back to something I'm unmotivated to do and will therefore most likely procrastinate, causing me to overbook myself later, and I'll be mad at myself and won't let it go, but heaven forbid I learn from this.

Monday, September 27, 2010


One's philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes. ---Eleanor Roosevelt

It is currently 1:05 am on Sunday night/Monday morning. I will never drink coffee at 8:30 pm if I want to get a good night's rest. I am sure that if I tried to lie down, I could fall asleep if I really focused. But my mind is just completely all over the place at the moment.

I made a choice on Friday, expressing my philosophy, as the wonderful Eleanor Roosevelt states in the opening quote. I'm still thinking about it, even though voices of experience from those I admire tell me that it won't matter in the morning when I see the students again. It's just something I can't switch off.

Friday was a squirrelly day for the students. They were restless, most were in bad moods. I could tell that my partner and I were going to have difficulty keeping their attention. We did our best, often having to ask them to stop and pay attention so that they would have enough time to work on things. One student in particular, could not do this. Every time I turned around, he was poking another student, moving to distract the others, or just plain talking. I think I was coming across as the more timid practicum teacher of the two of us, so I felt I had to do something that would earn their respect. I stopped mid-sentence and said, "(Name), move to the back desk, now please."

You should have seen some of their faces. Some had to pick up their jaws off their desks.

I have been told by many an adult that it is much better to come on strong and pull back, than to try to be laid back and then demand order. I think that the students just viewed us as a type of substitute teacher, and therefore felt it was okay to test us. Looking back on it, I think there were a number of ways I could have handled it differently, especially because the gentleman did nothing but pout for the rest of the period. I felt bad after that, because this kid is a good kid. He just needs more creative ways to exert his energy. I need to think about this a lot more when I'm planning lessons. They all need more creative ways to exert their energy. My CT told me that it wasn't a bad thing what I did, but I still feel bad for calling this kid out. I'm sure when I see this kid in a few hours he won't even remember it, but it was my first time attempting to discipline.

I don't like being the type of person who has to take action for that sort of thing. I guess it's something I have to get over. My CT had to kick a kid out of class later that period, so if its any consolation to myself, I didn't have to deal with that. I need to become more fierce without being overly authoritarian. It's just a balance I will have to strike.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


The question isn't who is going to let me, it's who is going to stop me. ---Ayn Rand

Today was a great day for practicum teachers throughout the land. Namely, ME! In my last post, I discussed how my practicum partner and I were kind of in a rut for awhile with our cooperating teacher. Well, tomorrow, we are going to be teaching our first lesson, which was a last minute thing, so we kind of had to throw it together in a pinch. But still...TEACHING. Finally.

There is a student in our class whom my practicum partner and I felt was gifted, but we really didn't see our CT doing much with him. He is constantly finished before everyone else, and usually puts his head on his desk, rarely participating. He's new to the school too, so we felt like he probably wasn't getting a whole lot of social interaction. He's one of the only As in the class as well. My partner and I were wary to "step on our CT's toes" in this matter, but we finally pushed enough in our planning periods for our CT to take action. My brilliant partner had the students fill out a survey, where he indicated how bored he was with the class as well as his interests-including the mass amounts of reading he does. This morning, we relayed his survey to our CT and she pulled him out of class after he was finished with his test and asked him if he wanted to be in diff classes next semester, and he said yes.

Although I'm not entirely sure if our CT was going to take action from the beginning, I feel a major victory for this kid. And I have a growing list of books for him to read in the meantime. I'm geeking out making it for him at the moment. I hope he doesn't get scared of me in my excitement for him. :)

After today, I feel completely energized for the rest of the work we have for the semester. THIS is what we have been waiting to put in practice for all of our college careers. It's finally happening!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Stuck in Limbo

Lead, follow, or get out of the way. ---Thomas Paine

I love my practicum partner. I love my class. I love the high school that I'm in. And I'm itching to get started, to be up in front of the students. The problem? It's not happening. And everyone else in the program has at least taught something or planned something. My practicum partner and I have not done anything. Yesterday, our CT turned to us and asked to turn off the fan next to us. The day before that she asked what the date was. We've made a seating chart, and that's about it.

We met with our professor to see if this was normal, and apparently it's not. More investigation is under way, but there is a potential for us to be moved, which I want as a last resort. Even though I have not had much interaction with the students individually, I've grown attatched to them and I have so many ideas for them. I'm hoping that once we are able to get in front of the class, it will get better. My partner and I have made efforts to connect with the students, but because we haven't been incorporated into the lessons (even the planning), the kids sometimes give us funny looks when we pipe up or say hi to them in the hallways, which is a little disheartening.

I'm ready to be that teacher up in front of the room, putting my ideas out there. This particular group of kids needs a lot of ways to channel their energy, and I have some plans I think would be effective, but for now my partner and I just have to wait until the CT is ready to step aside and hand over the reigns.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Books of Obligation

A man who doesn't read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them. ---Mark Twain

I have a teeny tiny confession to make. I have never read The Scarlett Letter. Nor have I read The Catcher in the Rye, The Outsiders, or O Pioneers!. I hated The Pearl as well as Great Expectations, and I've tried to read Catch-22 so many times that I'm sure I have a record going somewhere. And I'm supposed to be teaching English to the young minds of tomorrow?

I've often felt guilty and underqualified because I have not read "the list" of books that are being taught in our schools. I wish I could change it all. Because I think that there are plenty of books out there that are just as good (if not better, but I can't say for sure, considering I've never read them) as those books I've listed above. I love to read, but I don't want to waste my time reading books I don't like. Those books are books I've filed under the "get to eventually out of obligation" pile. Can't we give teachers a chance to incorporate books they enjoy too? In practicum, we are reading the same short stories that I read as a sophomore. I can tell my junior and freshman siblings exactly what they will read in their English classes at my high school, because it hasn't changed.

Also, where is the time? If I'm supposed to be reading professional development books, the books my students are reading, and young adult literature to recommend to my students, how do I stretch my day to at least 30 hours? I suppose this is something that teachers figure out with time. Or I cram it all in to June, July, and August. Do books on tape count for anything?

For now, I suppose, I should stop whining and order myself a copy of A Separate Peace. Maybe I will get to it by May. I have a stack of obligatory books on my nightstand already.

Books I'd like to include in my classroom some day:
1. The Color Purple
2. The Things They Carried
3. Bastard Out of Carolina
4. Me Talk Pretty One Day
5. Stone Butch Blues
6. Atonement
7. Angela's Ashes
8. The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven
9. The Great Divorce
10. The Namesake

Thursday, September 9, 2010


Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense. ---Ralph Waldo Emerson

I certainly began my day serenely. Seriously, I did. I had a good night's sleep, my homework all done, my outfit all picked out, everything. I took my time eating, getting ready, and boy, it was a GREAT hair day. (I've had maybe ten of those in my life, so it really does count). I put on my sassy high heels...and that's where it went downhill.

I will NEVER wear 3-inch heels to teach. That is the first thing I learned today. Not only did we go on a tour of the school (OWWWW), but I also disrupted every single classroom with its doors open as I walked by, attempting to be graceful but occasionally looking like a fool in my size 11 feet, clacking away. I thought I was going to be a perceived as a woman in power-nah, just the chick with loud shoes.

The practicum experience itself was fabulously refreshing. In the teaching classes, we've talked so much about teaching literature and the world and I envisioned this amazing connection with my students-like they would immediately understand and appreciate my wisdom. Then we did a reading partnership where kids couldn't even comprehend basic readings, which was completely disheartening. But these kids get it. They act like they don't care and they put on this guise of indifference, but they do understand the reading and they can apply what they learned to the reading. It was a huge sigh of relief for me.

I ruined dinner tonight... but I'm going to pass the buck and blame it on a bad recipe. Thankfully I have a very accomodating boyfriend who kept telling me he would have eaten the horribly bland food I had prepared as I gathered my things to grab a quick bite to eat before night class. Note to self: if I want chicken carbonara, I'll just go to Olive Garden. Next week: Lemon Chicken Pasta Toss? Or ordering pizza. Either works.

We got our applications to student teach today. Talk about overwhelming. Thankfully, I was too much of a weenie to ever put myself at risk for anything getting me in trouble, so my background check will be squeaky clean. As for the rest of it, well, that's going to take some serious sit-down time and consideration. Then our professor talked about applying for jobs as early as February or March. HOLY COW. Am I ready to be that much of a grown up? Can't my mommy just do it for me? Guess not. I DID set up an Internet router all by myself today, so maybe I'm more grown up than I thought.

Well, it's 12:32 AM. I have to be in 6.5 hours, and Lord knows I do not function normally with less than 6 hours of sleep. So it's best for me to retire so I can begin my day serenely once more.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Into the Unknown

Do one thing every day that scares you. ---Eleanor Roosevelt

Okay, Ms. Roosevelt. I'm not sure that I did anything today that scared me, but I'm sure tomorrow I will have had enough. I begin my practicum tomorrow.

I'm not really so sure what I am afraid of- it's not like I'm teaching tomorrow. I think the thing that I am afraid of is this moment of "this is it!" Since freshman year of college, I've thought about where I would end up doing practicum and student teaching, what kind of kids I would be teaching, what I would have kids call me, what I would wear, etc. (Trust me, I have lots of cute teacher clothes, so we are covered there). I feel underqualified. I feel like I am teaching my younger siblings or something, because really, I was just in their shoes a few years ago. Hopefully that makes me better for this reason.

Well, it is almost 11pm...almost past my bed time. I need to get used to this whole being responsible-not-pulling-all-nighters thing I'm so used to after three former years of college. You know what else I did today before I had to go to work? Homework. I've always been a night owl...and NOT morning person. Good thing I have a great coffeemaker and some deeelish coffee to look forward to tomorrow morning when the rooster crows!

Saturday, September 4, 2010


Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up. ---Inigo Montoya

Hello, my name is Lauren and I am a blog-a-holic. I love reading blogs. I've always wanted to have one, even if I felt it was a little self-indulgent. I wasn't sure what I would even write about, until a good friend of mine started one last year on her first year of teaching. So, me in my copy-cat ways am beginning one too. While I am still in the pre-service stage of teaching, I am starting a practicum in a few days and then student-teaching next semester. I know I have a lot to learn, and I hope to document my triumphant successes, my utter failures, and everything in between. Quite frankly, I am shaking in my boots as I begin this stage of my professional life.

So who am I? I am a coffee-drinking, book-reading dog lover who is a perpetual nerd, by choice. I geek out on a daily basis, and I am perfectly OK with it. I carry my life in my planner. I serve tables four or five days a week to get me through college. I am impatient. I am tenderhearted (seriously, I will cry at the drop of a hat). I love George Clooney. I am fiercely loyal to the people and things I love. I love good food, and am learning how to make it. I love deep conversations. I love a good line from a book...perhaps I will write my own someday. In the meantime, this will have to do.

I'm not sure where this will take me, but it is a definite start.