Sunday, January 30, 2011

sometimes, it's bigger than you alone.

If there is no struggle, there is no progress. ---Frederick Douglass

Wow. The past two weeks have been a crazy, surreal blur. I would be lying if I said that I hadn't broken down in tears. Twice. Once was after a lesson completely tanked, and my CT and I sat down to talk about it. The other caught me completely by surprise. I was observed on Friday and everything went well. I sat down with my supervisor after I was observed and I had tears in my eyes.

I couldn't believe how much of an adjustment this was for me. I think thats why I became overwhelmed. Teaching all day is like running a marathon full of peaks and valleys. You work really hard and sometimes things go really well. And other times, things flop.

I have a wonderful car-pooling mate to school every day. As we were driving home on Friday, she made a very keen observation about teaching, and that is that teaching is often so much bigger than yourself. It's no wonder that there are teachers who burn out so easily. Don't get me wrong. I am not planning on changing my career path. It's just a matter of adjusting to a new schedule, a new lifestyle, and new commitments.

For as stressed out as I have been the past couple of weeks, I am so incredibly happy. I'm now in a situation where I can create lesson plans that are my own. I've planned two lessons with The Office in them. My CT is a great man who offers great feedback and is slow to impatience. I totally understand why we were put together because of the balance we strike with each other. It's a lot of work, but so far, it has been worth it.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

O Captain! My Captain...

"O Captain! My Captain, Rise up and hear the bells; Rise up-for you the flag is flung-for you the bugle trills; For you bouquets and ribbon'd wreaths-for you the shore's a-crowding; For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning..."---Walt Whitman

Well, the first day has come and gone. I approached it with a perspective I don't normally take. I was relaxed, and anxious to be up in front of the students again, but in a way that felt calm and ready. I joked that I was going to go Dead Poet Society on my students and have them reciting the brilliant O Captain! My Captain by the end of the day. I chose to veer away from that poem, as it is dedicated to the assassinated Abraham Lincoln and each stanza reminds the reader that the Captain is dead.

My CT and I planned to have me lead a small portion of each class, and the most natural one for me seemed to be American Literature and Composition. I don't know if my jokes were funnier in that class or what, but I thought that class went the most smoothly. I ended up entirely planning the rest of the week for that class, showed it to my CT and he thought it looked fine, so I guess I'm on my own tomorrow in American Lit. I'm sure if all of a sudden, I'm flailing and clinging to dear life he will rescue me, but hopefully if my brilliant lesson goes according to plan, it will be wunderbar and they will just offer me a job on the spot. (Joking. I guess I have to be a little careful about my sarcasm via computer).

...Actually, I'm sort of looking forward to the moment when I crash and burn with skid marks on my face. Seriously. I want to get that advice. Because it will help me grow. And that first time will be out of the way.

I thought I would hate planning for a 90-minute class, constantly having to change the plan, mix it up to keep kids' attention. But it definitely allows me to do a lot more, get more creative with what I want to accomplish with block scheduling. In my practicum, everything felt so rushed, as if I did not do the subject or the students justice. I think this has been good, because it forces me to really over-plan and have back-ups if something doesn't go as long as planned. I can also be a little more leisurely with attendance, housekeeping, etc at the beginning of class.

At the risk of being a little academic, I was reminded of Paradoxes in the Classroom article that Parker J. Palmer writes about. One of the classroom paradoxes is that "the space must be open and bound." That's one thing I'm trying to really take into consideration with American Literature and Composition. I want to give my students a lot of creative freedom, but give them enough guidance that they are bound to follow certain guidelines. I sometimes forget that what is second nature to me is not for them, so giving them the boundaries is what is difficult for me. I put a post-it note on my laptop that just says "Bound Open Spaces" on it to remind me.

I heard from every single person who has ever student taught that I will be wiped out after a day of teaching and planning. I sort of didn't believe them. OHMYGOSH. Exhausted. I never thought teaching was easy. It's not. But the physical toll is something that I never took into consideration. I hope I get used to it. And that I eventually get enough ahead of the game that I can get maybe 6 hours of sleep.

Until next time, cheers.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

voyage to improvement

The real voyage to discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes. ---Marcel Proust

I would like to omit the word "discovery" from the above quote and replace it with the word "improvement." I would also like to say that I think that improvement will lead to discovery if I let it.

I know what I am good at. Allow me to blow my own horn a little in a vehicle that I am the master of: List-making. I pride myself on that, as well as these few things:

1. I am good at planning, perhaps this is because I practically sleep with my planner.
2. I am good at delivery-I will always deliver on an assignment.
3. I am good at being early.
4. I am good at logistics/practicality- I will be able to look at the practical side of things to envision the potential bumps in the road.

However, for all the things that I am good at, I know that there are a few things that I want to focus on this semester. In "having new eyes", I want to think about how other people view me. I want to improve on some of my habits, so that I may discover better habits. Think of this not so much as a "new year's resolution" but as a professional development plan.

I need to work on...
1. NOT BEING FRAZZLED. If for some reason I am not on time, (or even late for being early, but still early) I tend to get frazzled. As a teacher, this is something I really need to work on. Students come in with questions. Traffic jams happen. Administrators or teams call meetings. If my plans have to change, I CAN'T let myself become frazzled. I see this is something that my cooperating teacher share to some extent, so for the past few days, we have been calming each other down. It's been wonderful.

2. Making my bed in the morning. Call me a slob, but some mornings, I just really can't get out of bed. Then I take my time. Then I rush out the door before I think about making my bed. I think that I should work on that.

3. Limiting my distractions. Facebook, Email, and Twitter have been the main source of procrastination lately. I'm considering eliminating my Facebook account, just so that I stop taking 5 miunte breaks every 15 minutes.

All right, that seems like it's a good start. Cheers.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

making the most of it all

It's really a wonder I haven't dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything, I still believe that people are truly good at heart. ---Anne Frank

It's hard to believe that the events of the past week have really unfolded, just fifty miles away from where I live. The Millard South shooting was a harsh awakening for everyone. It reminds us how truly fragile life is, and that every action and interaction, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem, impacts us all. To the victims and their families of the Millard South shooting, you have my prayers, my thoughts, my condolences.

I may be going out on a limb here, and I hope I don't receive horrible comments for it. But I started to think about the shooter, Robert. I started to think about how, in his final words, he spoke about how awfully he was being treated at his new school. From an educational perspective, this breaks my heart, that students can't reach out to someone who is so obviously in need of a friend in a new and scary environment. He was just a kid who needed someone to talk to.

What is the responsibility of the educator here? The head of the English department at the school where I am student teaching spoke to our cohort about the responsibilities of a teacher that go far beyond the importance of following the curriculum. She said that "we need to be good humans to them." I won't ever forget that. Robert needed a someone to be a good human to him. Research has proven that adolescents need to feel that they have an adult who cares about them at school. Think about it. They spend nearly 8 hours a day at school, and if not a single adult in their lives during that 8 hour period makes an effort to be a good human to them, they won't feel wanted there. He was a kid who probably fell through the cracks of adults like many who so easily slip into the crowd.

I observed my cooperating teacher last Thursday. One thing I noticed was how he made a point to be in the classroom as the students came trickling in before class to talk with them. Although some got more attention than others, almost every single student got some form of acknowledgement from him. I now see how essential all of this truly is for adolescents to feel like they are wanted. I had adults who cared about me at school-and I didn't realize it at the time, but I have a feeling that they carried me through during some dark and depressing moments that high school brings sometimes.

My first "official" day is Wednesday but I am going in Monday. I need to start getting next week (when the new semester begins) in order. This is a semester-long job interview. I want to make the most of every day and knock the socks off every teacher and administrator I come into contact with. Thankfully, I have some awesome cohort peers that are also student teaching at the same school, so I won't be too alone in all of it. The English department eats lunch together, so I will get to see them every day.

All right, dear reader. Thanks for taking it all in with me-quite a long entry, but I feel it to be entirely necessary. I'm off to spend some quality time with the American Lit textbook to hash out ideas for units.

I look back on all of my experiences and I am overwhelmed with gratitude.