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Coming Back

4 Nov

I took the weekend “off.” I saw a play. I had family in from out of town. I got to say “I’m with the band” at a concert. (And, I took my parents to a rock show.) I thought about blogging on my own personal blog (didn’t do it, but thought about it…). I went on a date with my man-friend, saw a great movie, and refused to think about school.

I needed it. But now I need to buckle down and get back to work. This week is going to be about hopping back on that horse, not letting anything slow me down, and riding off into the sunset. Or at least into all these assignments that are due in the next few weeks.

It is November now, which means two things: No more October Cry, and Thanksgiving!

I seriously love Thanksgiving. If we’re being honest, I love the food. But I also love taking the time to think about what I am thankful for. I know it’s the 4th but I’m going to start posting one thing I’m thankful for a day, for the whole month of November. Which means you get 4 things right now!

1) I am thankful for my cohort, these 25 people who support me on a regular basis

2) I am thankful for Facebook and Twitter – I am “friends with” or “follow” teachers that live around the world. Teachers that I have worked with, teachers who taught me, and teachers I may never meet. Each one of them provides a unique outlook on politics, teaching, and the world at large, and I think these people will help me be a better teacher myself.

3) I am thankful for my desk. I read an article on Apartment Therapy last week titled “Using Your Home to Reach Your Dreams.” It’s about creating a space for yourself to work towards your dreams. My dream is to be an incredible teacher. I made myself a desk space but too often find myself sitting on the couch, surrounded by distractions, attempting to do my work. Now I’m back at my desk, hoping that using this space will help me “reach my dreams.”

4) I’m thankful for the rain. I love listening to it. I love how green this beautiful city is. Yes, sometimes that green is moss because everything is damp and grey – but I love it. When I have my own classroom, full of wet children after recess, I may have a different opinion, so for now I’m going to enjoy it.

What are you thankful for?

Games in Education

27 Jun

As a theatre teacher, I have always had a “back pocket” set of games to play with kids when they need time to move. I’m excited to now get to incorporate those, and learn new games to incorporate, into my classroom.

I loved the idea of having students create and “perform” their own jump-rope rhyme about a given topic. This is something that could be done throughout the year, and shared with families and other classes.

I also really liked the idea of doing Zumba or something similar with students. We often talk about how kids “need to move” but, what does that look like? It can look like zumba or a relay race or even simply moving to another workspace in the classroom. Reading in Yardsticks about the developmental needs of students emphasizes how much they need to move – schools aren’t providing the recess or P.E. time for kids to move, so we as teachers will need to incorporate physical activity into our day.

A few years ago, I worked at an elementary school in Bellingham. Towards the end of my year there, as plans were being made for the next school year, it was decided that there would be no PE teacher or class, and teachers would be given a weekly time in the gym to teach “physical education.” Teachers were upset, for numerous reasons, but I was also struck by how they through themselves into figuring out how to incorporate PE into their classroom curriculum.

I hope my future school will have a PE teacher I can collaborate with, but if not, I am glad I have this cohort and this class to look to for support and inspiration on physical activity in the classroom.

Inspiration of the day

4 Jun

I’m putting the finishing touches on my final essay for one of our classes. I needed a little break, and found this video.

I’m warning you, it made me cry. Education is powerful.

Singing in the classroom

23 May

One of our readings earlier this quarter described a classroom where the students all sang together. Remember, we don’t have to sing “Twinkle Twinkle” or “Old MacDonald.” We can sing things like Matisyahu, and have amazing classroom moments like this.

Becoming a kind teacher

22 May

On Friday night, I had the opportunity to attend a screening of Finding Kind, a documentary about aggression in girls.

We’ve been talking about bullying in class, and I thought the film would add an interesting element to what we’ve discussed, especially in the Middle School Learners course.

But I didn’t expect it to affect me so personally. I had literally blocked out a lot of the bad experiences I had in school, with girls being nice one minute and mean the next. I can think of three separate instances in which I suddenly without any friends because the girls I considered to be my “best friends” had suddenly decided they no longer wanted to be friends. I’m sure I was just as mean to other girls. Exclusion, gossip, name-calling, even physical bullying happen to girls, and it extends into adulthood. Our popular culture enforces it. Magazines scream at us about what female celebrity is fat, which actress is cheating on her husband, and who wore the ugliest dress to the Oscars. Reality TV focuses on women trying to outdo other women, and usually include at least one session of hair pulling/screaming/name calling (slut, whore, bitch, etch…) Our society has made it normal and expected to be a Mean Girl.

In her “Bill of RIghts for Girls” in Rethinking Our Classrooms, Volume 2, Mary Blalock says, out of 2600 girls surveyed, 60% of the elementary aged girls said they were happy with themselves, but only 29% of the high school girls surveyed agreed. What happens to young women between elementary and high school to cause such a shift in how we see ourselves? Why are we so mean to each other, when we should be helping each other out?

The book Queen Bees and Wannabes, by Rosalind Wiseman, is an exploration of why teen girls act the way they do, and how parents can help them survive their teen years. As you may know, the book was the basis of the movie Mean Girls. If you haven’t seen this movie, please do. Not only is it hilarious (as it should be, since it was penned by the one and only Tina Fey), it is also a pretty spot-on depiction of “girl world” in high school.

Ms. Wiseman talks about the movie and the book:

She has since re-written the book, including information on how “girl world politics” affect younger girls, and how technology is affecting girl-on-girl bullying. Cyberbullying is becoming more and more of an issue in schools, and no one seems to know how to deal with it.

So, bullying exists. Girl-on-girl bullying is a big problem that doesn’t get as much attention, because it’s usually not physical. However, it can cause lasting harm. What can we, as educators, do about it?

After the screening of Finding Kind, the audience had the opportunity to fill out “Kindness Pledges” in which we could pledge to spread kindness. The audience was about 95% female, with girls as young as 8 or 9. A few women and girls stood up to read their pledges, just as girls and women do in the film, and in the Finding Kind workshops that happen all over the country.

Here’s my kindness pledge:

I pledge to model kindess in my daily life. I pledge to show my students that kindness is always the best policy. I pledge to stop judging other women before getting to know them, and to stop using derogatory words like bitch, slut, and whore. I pledge to be kind to my students, friends, co-workers, colleagues, and even to strangers, because everyone deserves kindness.

 

Here’s a final clip from Mean Girls, because Tina Fey just says it so well:

(plus, hilarious.)

 

Becoming a teacher who makes a difference

2 May

We’ve been doing all these readings for my classes – how race affects learning; how gender affects learning; how poverty affects learning; how the education system affects learning… combine that with the statistics I’m getting from my Geography of Current Affairs course (approximately 400 million people in the world have malaria, 33% of the population of Swaziland have AIDS, and there are over 14 million AIDS orphans on the continent of Africa, to name a few of the grimmest), and sometimes I feel like “what’s the point?” Or even “I shouldn’t be teaching – I need to be doing something BIG to help the world.”

The man-friend and I have discussed joining the Peace Corps. It tends to be somewhat of a joke – “Can’t find a job? Let’s join the Peace Corps!” “You have to be married to join the Peace Corps together? Gee, mom will be thrilled!” – but there is often more than a hint of reality in those jokes. We are people who like to do things, to help people, and to make a difference. I was in AmeriCorps for two years working with students from all walks of life – but mostly in poverty. He volunteers with unions and social movements and works for a non-profit.

I have to remind myself sometimes that teaching is, in fact, a great way to make a difference. Not in the “If I can only reach one child” sort of way, but in a more realistic, I want to teach ALL my students to love learning kind of way. Because education is the way out of most of life’s hardships. Donna Beegle worked for years to get herself and her children out of poverty, the road wasn’t easy, but she now has her PHD and works to help others out of the poverty cycle.

First Place School, in Seattle, is a school that provides quality education and a stable environment to homeless students, and help to their families. This is an awesome video that I have been watching a lot of recently. It helps remind me that as a teacher, I can make a difference.

So I don’t need to go to Africa or find a cure for AIDS. I can help out right here at home.

Becoming an anti-prejudice teacher

5 Apr

First post. First day of the third week of the quarter. I’m sitting here on the couch, reading about Race and Respect Among Young Children (Tenorio, Rethinking Our Classrooms Vol 1), and wishing I had this book as a resource during the past few years I worked at the elementary level. I worked with students of all different colors and backgrounds – honestly, most of the kids I worked with were so used to the diversity that I rarely saw an issue, but when one arose, I never quite knew how to react. Also, now I’m wondering if there were issues there that I simply didn’t see, believing children to be “colorblind.”

Two of the most memorable moments involving race and children in my memory were not, as Tenorio describes, a lighter-skinned student making a negative comment about a darker-skinned classmate.

The first event served as a reminder that students, even young ones, are acutely aware of skin color, whether or not they have any negative or positive connotation. A first-grade teacher announcing to her class that a new student would be starting the next day. A student (a native Spanish speaker, with light-brown skin himself) immediately asked “Is he brown?” In my understanding of the event, the student was excited at the prospect of having another “brown” classmate to play with, and possibly speak the same language with.

The second event reinforced the idea that children come to school with an idea of race, and the knowledge that bias exists. During a difficult conversation with his teacher, and African-American student informed her “You’re white! I’m black! I don’t have to listen to you!” This idea is brought up again in the Delpit reading (Rethinking Our Schools VOlume 1, page 159), where the author mentions Paley’s encounter with a students telling here “I don’t have to listen to no white lady,” and in the Howard reading (page 120), where the author states “it is not uncommon for students of color to have deep-seated mistrust or suspicion of teachers who come from racially privileged groups.” Students do not come to school with blank slates. Between family, society, and popular culture (including the estimated 5,000 hours of TV that a child has watched by age 5!), they have an idea of how they think world works. Whether or not we enforce those ideas, or help mold and change them, is up to us as educators.

I think that many of Tenorio’s ideas about teaching and dealing with racial prejudice in the classroom can be applied to any sort of prejudice. She mentions briefly that one year she had students using the word “fag” as a put-down. I believe that educators have a duty to make a school a safe place for all students, and we need to focus on not just racism but also sexism, homophobia, bigotry, and all other forms of hate. Our classrooms should be full of love, learning, and respect.

**

I found some more resources online about anti-prejudice in schools and communities. Here are some cool links to check out:

http://www.adl.org/prejudice/prejudice_pledge.html

http://www.antiprejudice.org/apc-content.aspx?page=about%20us

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