Teaching

BB: Blog and Basketball

Holy crap it’s been freaking forever.  Sorry about that.  I have no good excuse for my absence, but I have a few mediocre ones:

  1. The six weeks of class at the beginning of the semester were “kinda” busy
  2. I haven’t had anything interesting to post about
  3. Student teaching has me trying to keep my head above the water so I have, admittedly, put this sucker on hold until I get a better grip on lesson plans, projects, and other student teaching related stuff
  4. I forgot I had a blog

Fortunately, Potential Mr. Teach has reminded me that I had a blog, as did the lovely lady over at Performing in Fifth Grade.  If you are a teacher friend, go check her out.  She has some useful tips and tricks up her sleeve(s).  (She also has a pretty groovy Facebook page)

A fun story from this past week to finish off the post:

At the beginning of my student teaching placement I sent home a letter to families introducing myself.  In this letter, I like to put down little bits and pieces about me when I was the age of my students, in this case when I was 8 or 9 years old.  I also try to think of things I know my students relate to by picking sports or activities my students and I have in common.  I have a couple sporty boys in my class, so I mentioned, “When I was in third grade I played basketball, gymnastics, and dabbled in figure skating.”  My cooperating teacher read “I played basketball” and volunteered me for the 2nd v. 3rd grade basketball game that was to take place, in front of students, the following week.

Never mind that I scored a whopping 2 points in my two year career as a ball player.

And thus I found myself dreading the afternoon last Monday morning, donning my new maxi skirt (work out leggings hidden underneath in the event of a quick change later) and green for my team and, conveniently, St. Patrick’s Day.  I thought I was being smart wearing a maxi skirt with my leggings underneath – I looked professional yet was ready for the ball game all at once!

The students were skeptical.  Not just of my maxi skirt.  The following is a conversation during our morning cursive lesson:

Student 1: You’re not going to play basketball in that are you?

Me: (suppressing a giggle) No, I have leggings on underneath

Student 1: Phew, I was gonna say…

Student 2: Do you even have any experience playing basketball?

HA!  I politely responded, “Yes, I played for two years when I was your age” and then redirected him back to his cursive As, or Qs or whatever letter we were on that day.  He still seemed skeptical, but that changed when I scored 8 points and had two rebounds in our game that afternoon.  My team won, and Student 2 asked me for my autograph the rest of the afternoon.

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Teaching.  WIN.

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Answer ME!

I’m at a different local caffeniation station today, reading for social studies and procrastinating by talking with my trusty provides-a-distraction-just-when-I-need-it TA friend.  The book I am reading, in between gripes about school policies and busy schedules, is called Black Ants and Buddhists: Thinking Critically and Teaching Differently in the Primary Grades by Mary Cowhey.

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This book.  Is amazing.

Why?  Because it reads so well.  Because it gives practical examples of social studies in school.  Because you feel like you’re talking with Cowhey.  Because it integrates you into her classroom and makes you feel like you are talking with her students.  But most of all, because Cowhey addresses real questions posed by her students.  She doesn’t ignore the questions that might seem off topic; she answers them.  And if she doesn’t know the answer, she says, “I’m not sure, how could we find out?”

Brilliant.

Ok, enough promoting Black Ants and Buddhists.  I want to share with you, my hopefully devoted readers, something that I believe both as a teacher and as a woman who grew up craving information about her parents’ divorce and never receiving satisfying answers.  Here’s what I want you to know:

Kids are incredibly capable of understanding difficult, painful, and really uncomfortable social problems.

Topics that we tend to shy away from because they are uncomfortable/we don’t want to step on anyone’s toes: divorce; slavery; genocide; racism; LGBT rights; religion; feminism; social media; internet safety; etc.  Yes, they’re uncomfortable, but kid’s will understand as long as we address these issues in a way that makes sense for them.  What does that look like?

I have no idea.  Yet.

I’m going to try to figure out how by letting my students ask “why” and follow through with answers.  I’m going to avoid saying “we’re not talking about that” or “ask your parents” because I am uncomfortable with the subject.

Life example: I few weeks back I spoke with my father about my parent’s divorce.  I reminded him that I never understood what “custody” meant as a kid, and my dad said something along these lines: You were young, you wouldn’t have understood all the stuff that was done by the court and what it meant for you. (I’m paraphrasing, and I asked my mom these questions too as a kid and received unsatisfying answers like “because that’s the way it happened”).

My response: Kids are incredibly capable of understanding difficult, painful, and really uncomfortable social problems.  I also told him I had been frustrated to get the cold shoulder when it came to something so important to my life.  Why did I have to visit a different home every other weekend and two weeks in the summer?  Why was nobody listening when I said I don’t want to go?

These questions, and many others, were never answered when I asked them.  And they were important.

So answer your students’ tough questions.  Research the answers if you don’t know the TRUTH.

If you teach children lies, you condition them to passively accept and repeat lies.  If you teach them nothing, or a superficial, sterilized version with gaping omissions, you turn children off to history, which in turn causes them to ignore current events, which are history in the making. – Cowhey (2006) p. 157

MissTake by MissTeach

Last week I went to visit the classroom I will be student teaching in soon.  The classroom is big, there are usually two teachers in the class, and there is a multitude of access to technology.

But the best part of the classroom was not the decorations.  it was not the computer cart that got wheeled in for an hour of video-making.  It was not the freedom students felt amid a structured environment.

The best part was this statement from my cooperating teacher: “Isn’t it nice to know your teacher makes mistakes too?”

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Shocking, right?!

She had been reading the science textbook with the kids and came across a section about the various calls whales make.  One of the calls was a mating call, so we embarked on a discussion about what mating means – finding a boyfriend or girlfriend.  After a little discussion, we moved onto the next section entitled, “Long Songs.”  On her lovey-dovey kick, my cooperating teacher accidentally said, “Love songs” and hilarity ensued.

The kids loved that she made a mistake, and I loved it too.  Too often kids are afraid to get the answer wrong, and I think we need to show them that making mistakes, choosing the wrong answer is okay.

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Two of these faces staring back at you is intimidating. Especially on day 1.

A little later in the day I was working with a pair of girls on their project on hurricanes.  They were supposed to be entering their pictures into moodnote, and were nearly finished but in the process of moving to a new table one of them closed the computer, exiting out of the program.  Needless to say they were devastated.  And I mean devastated. Their shoulders dropped and their faces became expressionless.  They stared at the computer and began pushing buttons, willing it’s black screen saying “your presentation has broken” to suddenly wake up again.  So I tried to calm them down: “It’s alright, just close out and open up moodnote again and I’ll log you back on.”

They were having none of it.

But after a little more coaxing, they got back on track and were organized within minutes.  When I said, “See you had nothing to worry about” they just shrugged me off like I didn’t know what they had just gone through.  I guess I still have to learn not to say I told ya so to my kiddos…one lesson at a time Miss Teach.

In other news, this is what Potential Mr. Teach and I talked about on Skype tonight: our new sheets.  We’re excited about sheets.

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SHEETS! And yes, my expression was solely for the purpose of this photo. Ok, it wasn’t only for this photo but I did ham it up a bit.

Read it and Wonder

I want to talk about two things today.  One is about something I do, and the other is about something I hope I would do.  I’ll start with the latter, because it’s not exactly an uplifting topic and I hate leaving posts on a sad, depressing note.

What I hope I would do: My Sister’s Keeper

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I recently finished reading My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult, and while I was unbelievably surprised at the ending (seriously, if you haven’t read it, go find it at the library…right now) I have to say the hardest piece of the story for me to digest was, we

ll, all of it.

 *spoiler alert*

I can’t imagine what it would be like to be the mother of a sick child.  Heck I can’t even imagine what it’s like to be a mom (or a wife, for that matter).  I can’t imagine what it would be like to hear that curing my sick child would involve multiple procedures, trips to the hospital, and countless encounters with bodily fluids that a mother of a healthy child would hopefully only see once a year when baby girl got the flu or scraped her knee.  I can’t imagine being told that I could have a child be a perfectly matched donor because science is advanced enough to pick out the one life-saving embryo.  

But I would hope I could make the decision to realize when my child’s quality of life has deteriorated enough that the best decision is to let go.  I know this is easier to say when I don’t have a kid who’s sick, let alone a kid who’s healthy, but wouldn’t it be better to let them go than to put them and their donor sibling through countless procedures, hospital visits, and rounds of chemo?  Wouldn’t it be better to make them comfortable as they leave this world than subject them to years of sickness and pain.

I’m aware that this is easy to say when I’m not one of the many moms watching her child die, and I don’t mean to disrespect anyone who has had to go through this and has tried everything in their power to save their child.  Truth is I don’t know what I would do, but I hope I know when to call it quits if I do find myself fighting this battle with a little one.

What I do: Who were you or who will you be?

Over the past semester I got into the habit of trying to see my students in the future.  I would look at them and think what will you be like in second grade?  Who will you go to homecoming with in high school?  What will you look like walking into college for the first time?  Who will you marry?  You know, trying to see them not only in the here-and-now, but for who they will turn out to be when I’m no longer their teacher.  

I do this with kids on the street too.  And kids in commercials.  Pretty much every kid I see on a daily basis I end up wondering who they will be when they grow up.  I do this not to be creepy, but to remind myself that kids are more than cute, germ-carrying, unintentionally wise-cracking tiny humans.  They are people.  People that will grow up into someone meaningful, someone who will fight for our country, teach others, run a company, maybe even try to fix our government.  I don’t teach just kids, I teach people.

Well this habit has now reversed itself and I start trying to see the kids in adults.  So much so that yesterday when I was sitting in the sauna at the gym I found myself staring at a lady approximately five feet away from me.  I was thinking who were you growing up?  What games did you play?  Who were your friends? Did you like school?

And then she turned and looked at me, and I realized I had been “wondering” far too long.

Oops.

It was then I became aware that I have to limit the amount of time I spend with these wonderings.  Note to self: imagine who these people were as kids or who they will be as adults, but try to catch yourself before they catch you!

But I’m not going to stop wondering who these people are, or who my students will become.  I’m going to keep asking myself these questions, because then, and only then, can I get to know them for who they really are.

Re-Introduction

In an effort to better my blogger skills I’m giving this WordPress Zero to Hero: Thirty Days to a Better Blog thing a try.  Each day they give you a new assignment, and yesterdays (yep, behind on day 1!) was to introduce ourselves.  I thought maybe I can skip this one, I just have 6 posts so I’m sure that first one introduced me just fine.  But then I would be skipping class on the first day of school, and as a teacher I just can’t advocate such insubordination!! (However, I admit the couch was pretty comfy yesterday)

So here ya go, a *brief* re-introduction!

I am a novice teacher, having not yet gotten a full-time teaching position (but if you know of one let me know, I’m searching!).  I created this blog because I believe teachers learn more often than they think.  We don’t learn just at professional development seminars, weekly team meetings, or from our fellow teachers – though we do learn quite a lot in those moments!  We also learn from the students that sit in front of us every single day.  I learn compassion when one of our students is constantly in trouble at home.  I learn patience when one of my students makes a beeline for me every morning to tell me about Skylanders Swap Force (even though this actually happened, I still have no idea what they are).  I learn to keep my mouth shut when I get stung by a bee twice in less than 30 seconds.  I learn many things from and alongside my students, each of which is just as memorable and valuable as the last.

Here I’ll write funny anecdotes that happen to me on a daily basis, most of which will revolve around children (See my most recent post An Unexpected Thank You).  You’ll find everything I learn from teaching: math lessons gone wrong, investigations gone right, and maybe a funny story or two of a student coming out of our dramatic play restaurant saying, “Phew, that’s exhausting!!!”  Yes, that actually happened, and the next day we caught her and a few friends “taking a break” on the preschool sized couch I hadn’t intended on being part of the restaurant.

These are the primary reasons I created this blog.  I wanted to make sure I was recognizing the learning I am doing with my students, and documenting it online seemed a perfect route (names will be changed and pictures not to be posted without parental consent).  I also started this blog with the hopes of connecting with other teachers.  I want to learn from you all as well!  How do you teach odd and even to your students (for a fabulous take on this, check out Beyond Traditional Math’s post about teaching even and odd to her 5 year old).  What do you do for classroom management?  Why do you teach?  What’s the best I-have-10-minutes-to-eat lunch you’ve packed and taken to school?

Ok, so maybe that wasn’t so brief.  Sorry about that!  But if you made it this far into the post, I hope you will join me for many more to come, both as I finish the Zero to Hero assignments and as I write about everyday learning between my students and myself.

Yours truly,

Miss Teach

An Unexpected Thank-You

I’m sitting at the Starbucks in Springfield when a young lady comes in and sits at the table right next to mine.  Now, there were other tables to sit at, and I’m at the very back of the store (literally up against a wall, hidden from view to the general public).  So she sits at the chair closest to mine that is not actually at my table and says, “You’re not a kid you’re an adult!”

Amused, I say, “I’m not a kid?”

“No you’re an adult”

“You’re right I am an adult”

At this point her dad comes around the corner and tells her to leave me alone: “Let her do her work.”  He doesn’t say it sternly, lovingly, or with a tone of exasperation.  It’s just a simple request.  He seems a nice enough guy, taking his girl on a daddy-daughter-date to get a cup of hot chocolate and a cookie at the local caffeination station.  So I tell him it’s no big deal and we strike up a conversation.  Throughout the conversation this young lady, let’s call her Victoria, tells me all about cats she’s seen on YouTube – apparently there is a plethora of cat videos I have never seen.

Snoopy Woodstock Sticker

The sticker on my MacBook Pro. My boyfriend got it for me last year for Christmas, and it’s held up rather well! I highly recommend decorating your computer with obnoxious displays of your personality 🙂

After finishing her cookie and telling a few more tales of the Cats of YouTube, she notices the sticker on my computer: Snoopy and Woodstock roasting a marshmallow (and apple) over a campfire.

She quiets down, a fascinating change of events, as she eyes the sticker. “Woah! Look what’s on your computer” she exclaims.

“Oh yeah.  Do you know who that is?”

“Um…That’s a dog! That’s a dog! That’s a dog! That’s a dog!”

“Victoria, you’re making me look like a bad dad…”

I smile and tell her that the dog’s name is Snoopy and the bird’s name is Woodstock before asking what they are doing.

“Marshmallow!”

“What are they doing with it?”

“Over a campfire! Cooking it!”

“What’s Snoopy got?”

*Giggling* “An apple! He’s cooking an apple!”

I giggle too.  “Is he gonna eat it?”

“Yeah and it’s gonna be a hot apple.  It’s gonna be all mushy.”

And just like that I was back home.  I was back to my happy place, teaching.  In the middle, or rather the very back corner of the only Starbucks I have been able to find in Springfield, I got the chance to teach.  But that’s not all.  What her dad said next is the perfect way to end 2013:

Many thanks for the work you’re going into.  I don’t know how you people do it.

Remember, fellow teachers, that when you are frustrated with the low pay, the lack of appreciation, all the people who apparently know how to do your job better than you do, or any of the many frustrating moments you encounter, that there are those out there who appreciate the hard work.  There are people who see it, who admire it, and who know they don’t know how to do your job better than you.

Happy New Year, and many thanks.

Happy New Year 2014 2

In Remembrance

I’m sitting in my boyfriend’s apartment, weeks after finishing up my preschool placement at the university lab school.  All my final papers, projects, and artsy-farsty assignments have been turned in.  Grades have been found out and I’m beginning my third week (out of 5) of winter break.  I should be enjoying the relaxation, but I’m surprisingly nostalgic.

See, when I went to teach I knew who I was, knew what I was doing.  Now, I sit on the couch with a cup of tea and don’t move for hours.  It sounds nice, but after a few days I really wish I was back in the classroom.  I catch myself at odd hours of the day thinking Man, they’re settling into nap time or Right about now they’re getting ready for morning group time.  I miss my students.  As cheesy as it sounds, I really believe I left a chunk of myself behind that final morning of student teaching.  Ever since leaving I haven’t been the same – I roam around (or loaf around) without much purpose.  Spending a day reading a book used to fill me with happiness, but now I can’t sit still long enough to finish a chapter! (Don’t worry sis, I’m still reading that book you got me!)

I miss my kids, but I also am quite thankful for them.  I went into Early Childhood Ed on a whim, having no idea what I was getting myself into.  Now, I don’t know who I would be without it.  So, though I’m fairly certain none of their parents will ever see or read this, I’m thankful for each of the twenty of them for teaching me a bit more about who I am 🙂

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Finally, my apologies at sucking with this blogging thing.  I have no excuse, no I’ve been so busy with finals and the holidays and blah blah blah.  I have only the fact that I haven’t been getting on here and posting.  So, my new years resolution for 2014 is to post at least once a week.  Those of you who know me/read this, hold me accountable!