Picking up

27 Jan

broken_heart

 

Without going into detail, my world shattered in late December. Though things have “settled” a bit, I still find myself, in the middle of one task or another, suddenly standing still, wondering “How on earth did I get here?” and “This is NOT where I am supposed to be.” And to be quite honest, I’m having a hard time focusing on anything, from cooking (which I love) to school (which I usually love).

This happens to students all the time. Parents lose their jobs, or divorce, or even die. Families move across town, across the country, or across the world. Shootings. The fear of shootings. Violence at home, or in the neighborhood. Bullying. Family members who fall ill. Numerous other events that happen every day.

Just like me, these students – these children – are expected to go on as if nothing has happened. Rarely are teachers even aware of what, specifically, is affecting their students lives – but usually they can tell something is going on. Students lose focus, act out in class, neglect their homework, and otherwise “act out.” At this age, they are not capable of putting their feelings into words, they only know that something is wrong, so they do these things, to prove that life is not working right for them.

I have been lucky these past few weeks, to discover who my real friends are. Family members and friends have provided support, encouragement, and help, as I struggle to pick up the pieces. As teachers, we must be a rock for our students. Even when we don’t know what is wrong, it is our job to sift through the clues, be the glue and the support, and help our students “fix” their lives, as best we can.

It’s not all about teaching reading and math. As John Spencer says, it’s about love. “Real love. Muddy love.” Really, that’s what life is all about, isn’t it?

National Day of Service

20 Jan

In addition to being the day we celebrate the official beginning of our president’s second term, tomorrow, January 21, is also Martin Luther King, Jr Day. In 1994, congress designated MLK day as a “national day of service” – in an effort to “make it a day on, not a day off.” The spirit of the day is based on the belief of Dr King, that anyone can serve.

Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love. –Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr

I would like to make an addition to Dr. King’s belief – you don’t need to be wealthy to serve. Many people believe that volunteering or otherwise helping a charitable organization is something that only the wealthy can afford to do. I believe it is something that all of us must do – we can’t afford not to.

Tomorrow, my day will mostly be spent working on homework and lesson planning, trying to get a little bit ahead, so maybe I won’t be behind by the end of the quarter. I’m going to be getting ready for my first official lesson observation, for a week of classes, and for taking on more teaching duties. Though I may not be working with an official volunteer work party, it is still service. Or rather, preparation for service.

In the past, I have spent MLK Day cleaning parks, serving pancakes, organizing toy drives, and building school gardens. In the future, I hope to do these things with my students. Yes, MLK Day is a federal holiday, which means no school. However, it also means that many of my students will be home alone – because many of their parents will still have to work. What better way to ensure my student’s safety than to organize a day of service? Maybe I will have to give extra credit. Maybe I will have to receive special permission from my principal, the district, and the parents. I am sure there will be hoops to jump through and paperwork to file.

It will be worth it.

Creating a sense of community responsibility and teamwork is a vital part of being a teacher. Working together on a service project of our own creation could be a powerful way to build towards these goals. Whether on and official Day of Service or not, teaching my students that they can have a positive impact on the world around them – that they indeed have that power – what textbook can teach that?

Here’s a video about the meaning of MLK Day of Service:

For more information about the National Day of Service, check out their website.

Back in the swing.

15 Jan

Being back at school. It feels overwhelming and amazing and scary and exciting.

My mentor teacher was out this afternoon, and I survived two hours with a sub. It was tougher than I expected. Apparently, I don’t “have this” yet. Although, I think whenever I can say “I’ve got this – ” well, then what is there to learn anymore?

Sometimes in my tears I drown

15 Dec

I have too many thoughts going through my head right now, too much pain and need for understanding. The events of yesterday morning cut me to the core.

Sometimes, the Universe gives you what you need. Today, as I stood in the kitchen, this song came on my Pandora stream:

And I remembered this video that I posted earlier this spring:

Teachers died yesterday, protecting their students. Let’s never forget those heroes. And let’s never forget why we teach – not to fill these vessels with knowledge, but to inspire and help them grow into adults who know what love and compassion are. Adults who will say “We don’t wanna fight no more.”

Just a little inspiration for you, and for me, on this day when we try to make sense of the world and the pain and the fear.

Sometimes in my tears I drown
But I never let it get me down
So my negativity surrounds
I know some day it’ll all turn around
Because
All my life I’ve been waiting for
I’ve been praying for
For the people to say
That we don’t wanna fight no more
They’ll be no more wars
And our children will play

-Matisyahu, One Day

 

 

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.

 

Thanks-Vember 30, The End

30 Nov

Today marks the last day of November, and I was pretty good about blogging every day! Even with all the crazy deadlines and assignments and family commitments and theatre work I’ve been doing, I only missed a couple of days.

But I missed yesterday. I wasn’t thankful for anything yesterday. I was not in a good place the last few days. And today I decided to make an appointment with a school counselor. Most colleges and universities offer counseling services to their students, and I don’t know why more people don’t take advantage of it. College is stressful – even when, like me, you’ve already completed four years of it and are now back at it. Actually, maybe that makes it more stressful – when I was in college the first time, I didn’t have to pay rent for the years I lived at home or in the dorms, and when I did move out my financial aid covered almost everything, I just had to work a few hours a week to pay for fun things like movies. I got stressed about tests, and stressed about relationships, but nothing seemed too overwhelming.

But now, it’s hard. I’m struggling to pay rent, struggling to keep up with my schoolwork, I’m struggling to maintain my relationships, and let me tell you – I’m sick and tired of being broke. After college, I worked minimum wage jobs (or less – two years in AmeriCorps) and pinched every penny. There was a point when I wouldn’t use the clothes dryer in my apartment building because it cost $1.00. Instead I hung my wet clothes all over my apartment. I’m not that poor anymore, but I have to pinch and save and I want to buy my family and friends holiday gifts and bake and I just don’t know how I can do it all, and pass all my classes, and write all these papers. So I made a choice. It was sort of hard for me to make the appointment, I almost walked out. But I had a friend there for support, and that definitely helped.

Two days ago, The Bloggess tweeted:

“There would be less people coming out with “brave secrets” if everyone would just be honest about having the exact same secrets.”

(PS – she’s hilarious but don’t click if you’re easily offended)

So, I’m sharing my “brave secret” with you, because it seems like the thing to do. I decided I needed to talk to someone about all the stress I’m feeling. Is it normal to feel this stressed? Maybe not, and maybe this will help.

On this last day of November, this last day of publicly giving thanks – I’m thankful that my university offers a support net. I’m thankful that my classmates are also there to support me. And I’m thankful for all of you who read my blog.

Also, because I have gotten a lot out of this blog, and because I was inspired by Gretchen Reubin’s The Happiness Project, I’ve decided to start a Gratitude blog. I’m not going to have a daily post requirement for myself, but I’ll post regularly about things I am grateful for. I hope you’ll check it out!

Thankful for: A healthy body

28 Nov

I haven’t left the house in two days. It’s getting a little overwhelming. I’ve had some intense stomach pain and headaches, which could either be because I’m stressed out (end of the quarter! write all the papers!) or because I ate something with gluten in it (three Thanksgiving meals at other peoples houses…). It’s a bummer that the effects of gluten on my body mirror so many other things. Sometimes it’s stomach pain, sometimes it’s congestion, sometimes it’s body aches – that’s a big reason gluten intolerance is so difficult to diagnose.

However, in the long run, I am a pretty healthy person. As long as I am hyper-vigilant about what I eat, I can avoid gluten and those nasty side effects. I don’t have asthma, or diabetes, or any of the other illnesses that affect many of my close friends. My body is whole and strong. And for that I am thankful.

What do we do when we encounter students whose bodies are not whole and strong? Students who are wheelchair-bound, or have a terminal illness? These students deserve to receive the same education as their able-bodied peers, but there can be some difficulties. What are some roadblocks you might encounter while teaching students with disabilities, or with critical illnesses? How might we work together to make sure these students are fairly served?

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