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End of Quarter Reflection: Fall

9 Dec

The quarter doesn’t feel over, yet – I’m still processing things, and I’m still completing a few assignments. I feel as if all I have done in the past week is “reflect.” So now it’s time to reflect on my blogging over the past few months.

One of the biggest goals I set for myself as a blogger this quarter was to blog once a day in November about thinks I am thankful for. I feel it’s important to focus on gratitude, especially in the middle of this quarter when everything was beginning to seem so overwhelming. Some days, I effectively linked my thankfulness to education, such as this post about “Small Business Friday,” or this one about using words like “gay” in the classroom. ome were more personal, such as this one about my dearest friends, and some were just for fun. For the most part, I managed to blog once a day for the whole month. I even wrote a short blog on a day I had the worst stomachache of my life. Why? Because writers write. As a teacher, I hope to model my love of reading and writing to my students (as well as my love of math and science). I love to write, and as Erasmus said, “The desire to write grows with writing.”

My most-viewed post was about a lecture I attended at UW titled “Finnish Lessons – what can the world learn from educational change in Finland?” Not only did members of our cohort comment on it – in the blog and in class – but I also had an actual Finnish teacher comment on it, starting a conversation about what it’s like to get certified in Finland. I am glad I had the opportunity to attend this lecture, and glad that I had this blog as a platform to share what I learned with other people who didn’t have that opportunity.

My most commented on post was about children’s screen time, and whether or not it was good for kids to spend all day sitting in front of a screen. The post was a follow-up to one about the contrast of technology used by my main placement school and my dyad, and my questioning about whether or not reliance on technology was good for students (and people as a whole).

I think the best way to generate comments is to write about something people are interested in – whether it’s Finland or technology. It also doesn’t hurt if that topic is also slightly controversial. Although a lot of the information about blogging out there will tell you that short blog entries are the best, my most-read and most-commented entries were two of my longest ones. I suppose that proves that readers are most interested when the writer is most passionate!

I tried to comment on many of my cohort mates blogs, they are all writing about interesting and insightful things. One of the blogs I commented the most on was Learn2Teach4Equity, such as this post about networking. Networking, meeting and collaborating with other educators, is probably the most vital part of becoming a teacher, and it’s one that can’t really be taught. I think we are especially lucky in this program to be forming relationships with our cohort-mates, which will last through our careers.

I also commented regularly on Teacher PostScript, such as this post about the differences we were observing between private and public schools. We shared a similar experience in our Dyads, going from public elementary schools to private middle schools, and regularly discussed the differences (both in our blogs and in person.)

Recently, I have come across several interesting articles and stories I want to blog about, and have found myself very frustrated that I don’t have the time! I suppose this proves that my month of blogging had a strong impact on me – my desire to write has definitely grown with writing.


Giving thanks, November 11

11 Nov

It’s Veteran’s Day.

My father is a Veteran of the Vietnam war. He avoided most combat by becoming an officer, and living in Japan flying supplies to aircraft carriers. But for a long time he wouldn’t talk to me about it, until he was sure I was old enough to understand.

War changes people. And so today, I am thankful that my dad is alive, that he wasn’t changed too much by being part of a war, and that he is the man he is today.

That’s something I’m thankful for today, but I also want to share a story with you:

I work an occasional job as a manager of Performing Arts Centers at some local schools. I manage events ranging from orchestra concerts to week-long conferences. I meet a lot of interesting people. (I’m often yelled at by these interesting people, but I try not to take it personally.)

Today I worked an event hosted by The Church of Christ, Scientist. It’s not a religion I know much about, and the event was an hour long lecture titled “The Power of Prayer.” I listened to a little of it, and learned some of the history of the Church of Christ Scientist.

While working at these schools, I work in close contact with the custodians. Today I worked with an older gentleman, originally from Vietnam, who struck up a conversation about religion with me (being that we were working at a church event.) He told me about Buddhism, the way his people celebrate holidays and come together at temple. He told me about how close families are in his culture, and how he is sad to see children “running away from home when they are 18” in America. He asked me if my family lived close by, and was happy to hear that I see my parents regularly.

While people were coming into the school before the lecture, a man came in with his dog. The custodian stopped him, and tried to tell him that dogs were not allowed in the school. This man, seeing the Vietnamese custodian talking to him, began speaking in Japanese. The custodian shook is head, and again said that dogs were not allowed.

“Oh, you aren’t Japanese?”

“Sir, you cannot bring a dog in here.”

“Ah. Arigatou Gozaimasu.” And then he left, with his dog.

The custodian, as I mentioned, is originally from Vietnam. And yet this man insisted on speaking Japanese to him, even when he was not answered in kind. What kind of awareness (cultural or otherwise) did this man have? Not much. Was he open to understanding a new experience? Not really, he wanted to make it into something familiar to him – and when it wouldn’t fit that mold, he tried to force it anyway. You know the story of the square peg and the round hole?

I learned things about two groups of people today that I previously had no knowledge of. I am a little more informed, and have a slightly better understanding of two new cultures. Cultural understanding is more than a classroom presentation. Cultural understanding is listening to people tell their stories, gaining understanding of people’s experiences, and using that new knowledge and understanding to see the world through a different lens.

How can we apply that kind of learning to a classroom? How can we teach our students not to force their ideas onto situations where they don’t fit – to find the round peg, instead of forcing the square one where it doesn’t fit?

Thanks-Vember 10 – Teachers who make a difference

10 Nov

In my entire schooling history, I have been lucky to have some really amazing teachers. Yes I had a few that were not great, unfortunately, but the ones that stand out had great positive impact on my life – and pushed me towards the idea of becoming a teacher myself.

In middle school, my Language Arts and Social Studies teachers taught with such enthusiasm and joy, it infected us students. We became joyful learners. We were given freedom and control of our own learning. I sometimes see my old classmates, and we still discuss the work we did in middle school. People wrote skits, performed songs. A stage was set up on a regular basis in our classroom. On more than one occasion, entire bands (drum kit, guitar amps, microphones, monitors, speakers, etc…) were set up on that stage, and songs were played about The Ramayana, The Odyssey, and The Declaration of Independence. We were treated with respect and understanding – something that can be difficult to do with 6th-8th graders.

I also began performing in middle school. I learned to play the bass guitar and the french horn, and joined the drama club. I discovered that even though I was a shy, quiet, nerdy girl in the classroom, I didn’t have to be that onstage. In 8th grade, supported by my teachers and classmates, I won our school’s annual Lip Sync. It was a big deal in Middle School, and even though a long time has passed, people still recognize me from that moment. It was my taste of fame, and I immediately wanted more. I never would have done it if my teachers hadn’t provided me with the opportunity to discover what it felt like to perform.

In high school, as many people do, I struggled to fit in. I didn’t go to the high school that my middle school fed into. Instead, encouraged by one of my friends, I enrolled in the school that my neighborhood was supposed to feed into. I wasn’t sure who I was, in this group of new people. With the help of my English teacher I discovered I was a writer and a reader, even more than I had realized. With the help of the band director I discovered I was part of a family of crazy band members – and an actual musician. When I joined the drama class, I directed shows. I organized fundraisers. I became a performer, once again. I was asked to be a Teachers Assistant my senior year, and ended up teaching most of the beginning drama class. Except for the day two football players picked me up and held me in the air for the whole class, it went well. I loved it. I loved drama and I loved teaching, and I had the realization that these two things could go hand in hand.

All these teachers have one thing in common – they gave me a voice, and listened to me. They handed me the reins to my own education and let me drive – with a little guidance. In To Teach, Bill Ayers says: “Teachers must be experts and generalists, psychologists and cops, rabbis and priests, judges and gurus, and, paradoxically, students of our students.” (p 17) I know what I learned from my teachers – I wonder what they learned from me.

Thanks-Vember 9

9 Nov

I am incredibly thankful for my friends.

I’m thankful for all of my friends – I know some amazing people. But I’m going to call out four particularly amazing ladies. If you had told me, ten years ago, that I would have four really close female friends, I would never have believed you.

But here I am.

One I’ve known since middle school. We lived across the street from each other. We went to different schools but sang in church choir together. Our moms arranged a carpool. She convinced me to attend high school with her, instead of with the rest of my middle school. I joined the drama class because of her. Now we live in separate cities but when I see her it’s like no time has passed – except we get to tell each other stories of things we have missed in each others lives. My dad officiated her wedding. She’s not a friend, she’s family.

One I went to high school with, but didn’t become friends with until college. We were introduced by a mutual friend, who suggested we carpool to a sailing class together. Eight years later, I call this woman my sister. I don’t think I would have survived my early twenties without her. Seriously – I lived on her couch for a month when I didn’t know what I was doing with my life. Again, we don’t live in the same city currently, but when I get to see her, like today, my life gets so much better.

One I met through a guy. He was my “best friend” and she started dating him. I remember teasing him about his new girlfriend, endlessly. Then he turned out to be a jerk and she turned out to be one of the best people I have ever met. A few years ago, I got to be a bridesmaid in her wedding. (She married a really great guy, so I guess dating the jerk was just a one-time thing.) They just had a beautiful baby girl who I can’t wait to meet.

One I have only known for about two years. We met while in a show together. We were both fairies in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. We started dating our men-folk at around the same time. And this past summer, my man-friend officiated her wedding, in which I was the maid of honor. I am so excited to be a part of their lives, and to have them be a part of ours.

Growing up, I was always amazed at the friends my parents had. Friends they had known for decades. Friends who had children older than me, or my age – and friends with no children. Friends they would see once a year, but who they considered their “very close friends.” I didn’t understand that, but now I do.

I wouldn’t be where I am today without my girlfriends. I sat on my “sister’s” couch and filled out my applications for my teaching program. I made her read my admission essay 5 times. I talk about teaching science and math and gardening with my 6th grade neighbor. My friend who just had the baby – she was teaching undergrad classes until she gave birth. These ladies are my rocks and my inspiration, and I know I wouldn’t have made it through the first quarter of this program – let alone through this past month – without them.

Some people meet their best friends in elementary school. Some people meet them in middle school. Some people don’t meet until later, but you really never know who you’re going to stay with – until 16 years later you’re still friends. I look at my students and wonder. Will they still be friends 10  years from now? 20? Most of my middle school students have already known each other for at least 7 years (they start in kindergarten). What kind of friendships will they have when they are my age? I hope they have something similar.

Best friends doesn’t mean you see a person every day. It doesn’t mean daily or even weekly phone conversations. It means someone you can count on, no matter what. No matter when the last time you spoke, no matter what. You might give them advice, and they might give you advice. And maybe that advice is ignored – but it doesn’t matter. The friendship is what matters. Because best friends aren’t just friends, they are family.

Thanks-vember 8

8 Nov

I’m sleepy, so this is short, but I’ve got a double-thanks for you all.

1) I’m thankful for my Dyad partner, and the students we work with. I taught a 2-period block humanities class today, on Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian. It went really well, especially for my first time teaching a lesson on my own. Hooray! (I’m also thankful for my mentor teacher helping me plan, and for Sherman Alexie who wrote such an amazing book.)

2) I’m thankful for all the theatre in Seattle. I met my lovely man-friend in a show. I met most of my Seattle friends through theatre. And tonight we saw a free show, with many amazing actors, and blood, and gore, and Shakespeare. (Or at least, probably Shakespeare.) Greenstage, famous for their summer “Shakespeare in the Park” shows, also puts on what they call a “Hard Bard” show every year – Shakespeare (or one of his contemporaries), made ridiculously, over-the-top gory. There is a splash zone. It’s not for everyone, but I think it’s amazing. This year’s Hard Bard show is Cardenio, which, even in it’s original form, is fairly over the top and messed up. If you’re into awesome, graphic, gory theatre, I highly recommend seeing the show.

Thanks-Vember 7

7 Nov

I am thankful for my parents.

They are immensely supportive of me in all my crazy adventures. Most recently, they gave me and man-friend their old car, so we have two. This means, when he needs to go to work in South Seattle, and I need to go north, and we’re both sick and it’s raining, we don’t have to juggle schedules, take the bus, or ride a bike in the rain. We both try to avoid driving as much as possible, but sometimes, you just need a car. And now that worry is off our shoulders.

My parents taught me to care for others, to stand up for myself, and to focus on the important things in life. It’s not always easy to let criticism and anger slide off, but for the most part, other people’s opinions are not important. When I am angry at people, or hurt by someone’s judgement, I often ask myself – “What would Mom say? She’d probably tell me it’s not worth my time.”

My parents taught me the value of a dollar, and more importantly the value of a good friendship. They have friends from high school and earlier who they are still close to, and I hope I’m on my way to friendships with that kind of lasting power.

My parents taught me about love. They have been married for 44 years, together for 46. They were together through a war, through deaths of family and friends, through good times and through bad. My mom has often told me she’s married to her best friend, and I hope I will be able to say the same thing about my husband after 44 years. Sometimes they annoy each other, sometimes they get mad, but they always get through it.

My parents taught me the value of a good education. Whether or not I would go to college was never an issue – it was always assumed that I would, no matter what it took. If every child had parents (or a parent) like mine, teacher’s jobs would be a lot easier.

Thanks Mom and Dad, I love you.

Thanks-Vember 6th

6 Nov

I am thankful for the right to vote.

100 years ago, women did not have a legal voice in this country. With the passing of the nineteenth amendment in 1920, the right to vote finally given to American women.

Fun fact – the state in which I reside, Washington, gave women the vote in 1883 – when it was still a territory, – then promptly voted for prohibition. The law was overturned four years later. Women officially got the vote in 1910, after “distancing” the suffrage movement from prohibition.

I am very passionate about many ballot measures and political races this year, and many of my friends and family may not agree with me. However, we all have a say. I am so thankful to the women (and men) who worked tirelessly for years to give me that right.

Today, women have a say in their lives – in their careers, their health decisions, and in how their country is run. Thank you, Suffragettes!

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