Thanks for your uninformed opinion!

I don’t mean to sound overly dramatic, but the United States has become a country in which those who have actual knowledge and experience in a certain area, we’ll call them experts, have become “tainted” by their expertise.  By virtue of their unique depth of understanding, their motives are quickly challenged and their knowledge is discounted or ignored.

Here’s a quote from former senator and vice-presidential candidate Joe Lieberman referring to the new secretary of education for the United States of America Betsy DeVos, as he introduced her at her senate confirmation hearing:  “I know that some people are questioning her qualifications to be secretary of education, and too many of those questions seem to me to be based on the fact that she doesn’t come from within the education establishment. But honestly I believe that today, that’s one of the most important qualifications you could have for this job.”  Did you get that?  It’s because she doesn’t have any experience in education that makes her, and hundreds of millions of others I guess, uniquely qualified to run the U.S. Department of Education.  Try highlighting your lack of experience on your next job interview and see how that works for you.

In local school districts, board members who are responsible for running their district, have been upset about texts being recommended by educators that refer to man-made global warming.  They argue that they do not “believe” in this concept and lament that “both sides” of the global warming issue are not presented in textbooks.  This also occurs in relation to evolution.  Somehow, scientists’ views of the facts about man-made global warming, and other topics, are up for debate from people who know nothing about the science.  Uninformed opinion supersedes millions of data points analyzed by tens of thousands of scientists.

Why is it that Americans have elected an alarming number of decision makers to positions of power who are so uninformed?  This is certainly true in education where the secretary of education, right on down to the local school board, is almost always filled with people with no experience in education.  The following comes from a Forbes article about an interview Newt Gingrich did on CNN following a political convention:

“There are three different lines of thinking he explores, and they should all terrify you.

  1. The full suite of facts doesn’t say what you want it to say, so you pick out the few facts that support your non-factual position and talk about them.
  2. The average American doesn’t think that the facts says what they actually say, and that alone should be a basis for both voting and policymaking.
  3. And that what people feel about an issue is more important than what the actual facts behind the issue are.”

I never thought I’d say this, but Newt is correct!  Why else would Americans insist on turning their uninformed opinion into policy?  “Fixing” education has been a topic of debate in our country for many years now.  As usual, those who are uninformed, which includes most of the policy makers, believe the “fix” is easy and revolves around such gems as school competition, breaking unions, getting better teachers while showing a lack of respect for the profession, etc.  Those who are informed know that the problem is complex, demanding a long look at the facts.  Those who are informed know that many school districts in the U.S. perform on par with the top performing countries in the world.  Those who are informed know that “failing” schools are in communities dealing with problems schools couldn’t possibly solve on their own.

But that’s just my uninformed opinion.  What’s yours?

 

 

Thanks for your uninformed opinion!

I don’t mean to sound overly dramatic, but the United States has become a country in which those who have actual knowledge and experience in a certain area, we’ll call them experts, have become “tainted” by their expertise.  By virtue of their unique depth of understanding, their motives are quickly challenged and their knowledge is discounted or ignored.

Here’s a quote from former senator and vice-presidential candidate Joe Lieberman referring to the new secretary of education for the United States of America Betsy DeVos, as he introduced her at her senate confirmation hearing:  “I know that some people are questioning her qualifications to be secretary of education, and too many of those questions seem to me to be based on the fact that she doesn’t come from within the education establishment. But honestly I believe that today, that’s one of the most important qualifications you could have for this job.”  Did you get that?  It’s because she doesn’t have any experience in education that makes her, and hundreds of millions of others I guess, uniquely qualified to run the U.S. Department of Education.  Try highlighting your lack of experience on your next job interview and see how that works for you.

In local school districts, board members who are responsible for running their district, have been upset about texts being recommended by educators that refer to man-made global warming.  They argue that they do not “believe” in this concept and lament that “both sides” of the global warming issue are not presented in textbooks.  This also occurs in relation to evolution.  Somehow, scientists’ views of the facts about man-made global warming, and other topics, are up for debate from people who know nothing about the science.  Uninformed opinion supersedes millions of data points analyzed by tens of thousands of scientists.

Why is it that Americans have elected an alarming number of decision makers to positions of power who are so uninformed?  This is certainly true in education where the secretary of education, right on down to the local school board, is almost always filled with people with no experience in education.  The following comes from a Forbes article about an interview Newt Gingrich did on CNN following a political convention:

“There are three different lines of thinking he explores, and they should all terrify you.

  1. The full suite of facts doesn’t say what you want it to say, so you pick out the few facts that support your non-factual position and talk about them.
  2. The average American doesn’t think that the facts says what they actually say, and that alone should be a basis for both voting and policymaking.
  3. And that what people feel about an issue is more important than what the actual facts behind the issue are.”

I never thought I’d say this, but Newt is correct!  Why else would Americans insist on turning their uninformed opinion into policy?  “Fixing” education has been a topic of debate in our country for many years now.  As usual, those who are uninformed, which includes most of the policy makers, believe the “fix” is easy and revolves around such gems as school competition, breaking unions, getting better teachers while showing a lack of respect for the profession, etc.  Those who are informed know that the problem is complex, demanding a long look at the facts.  Those who are informed know that many school districts in the U.S. perform on par with the top performing countries in the world.  Those who are informed know that “failing” schools are in communities dealing with problems schools couldn’t possibly solve on their own.

But that’s just my uninformed opinion.  What’s yours?

 

 

Checklist for Love

In the aftermath of these first nine days, as saddened as I am by the decisions of a powerful few, I cannot help but be so inspired by and proud of the collective many.  The message from cities and airports across the world has been clear; love is worth fighting for.  With a history that proves that this has not always been the case, I feel hopeful for the side of love.

Here’s what you can do to continue the inspiring actions of so many:

  1. You can #StopSessions.  The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote on Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions’ confirmation for US Attorney General on January 31st. Read this letter, written by Coretta Scott King, about why he was not an appropriate vote even back in 1986.
    Contact your Senator to let your voice be heard.  Not sure what to say?  Here’s a template for your phone call, e-mail, and tweet.  (They even provide a link to help you locate your respective Senator.)
  2. You can voice your support for public education, the foundation of democracy. There’s a class of Kindergarteners more qualified to lead public education than Betsy DeVos.  Use the phone numbers, e-mail addresses, and twitter handles you already located above to call/e-mail this message to your Senators.  (They also provide a link to help you locate your State Representatives.)
  3. Protect the powerless.  Print out and distribute this flyer, “Everyone has basic certain rights, no matter who is president,” to those who you know are undocumented.  Knowledge is power.  Pass it on. (English, Chinese, Arabic, Korean, and Spanish translations available.)
  4. Spread the word that “Hate Has No Home Here.”  Click here to join the movement and download the below sign. Display them in your front windows, classrooms, or get them silk screened onto a t-shirt (and then promptly contact me for my shipping address).

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Small Moves in Connected Learning & Teaching

Anna was a student in my Seeking Equity in Connected Learning and Teaching course last spring at Arcadia University – she is an Arabic teacher at a local University and teaches intermediate and advanced Arabic to students, some of whom will also go on to teaching. My class is open to both inservice as well as pre-service teaches, both in and out of school. It is organized as an opportunity to learn connected learning by being a connected learner; we follow our interests and work to connect our learning along the way both on and offline. This makes the  course very open to the interests that the participants bring. I encourage us to dig into our interests through an inquiry lens and share and reflect on our work in public spaces online such as blogs and twitter. There are two opportunities for self-reflection on progress in a formal way – mid year and as part of their final work. Anna reached out to me very early on and wanted to more consistent feedback on her work, letting me know that she had been burnt in the past by not knowing how the professor saw her work. She also told me how she worked as an instructor herself and this was how she did it with her students. While it was helpful to hear from her how she organized her classroom, I was also reluctant to set up a situation where she was only getting feedback from me. Instead I wanted her to interact with the whole class while building a body of work and related reflections that she could use for her own self-assessment. We continued to talk as things progressed in the early semester and she did a great job all around, increasingly posting more and more while sharing interesting reflections about her work and engaging with others along the way. By the mid-course self-reflection she reported that she felt much more confident in her work. Up to think point we had been mostly working on our inquiry questions and thinking about equity in our contexts. We then shifted into engaging explicitly with the CL principles and spent a week on on each one. During the Openly Networked Learning week, I wrote  … “this week we’ll dive into what it means to be ‘openly networked.’ We’ll look at this from a few angles — human as well as technological, the possibilities as well as the challenges.” And then I asked them to start by reading Bud Hunt’s section in Teaching in the Connected Learning Classroom. In that section, Bud writes:
Embracing the connected learning principle of openly networked learning is manageable. It does require, however, that teachers and other facilitators of learning make small moves toward openness and connectivity.
I then prompted folks to think about “small moves” they could make to to be more openly networked. This idea of small moves seemed to be very freeing for Anna – she referred to that idea frequently in her writing that week and the weeks ahead as she explored CL further and started an inquiry project of her own in her own teaching. She mentioned a couple times that as a University professor she couldn’t change the syllabus mid-course but needed to shift things in small ways instead. Even in her final self-assessment, she enthusiastically described the moves she made and the impact they had for her and her students.
Before and after ED 677: When I assigned projects to my students last semester and the years prior, they were  individual pieces of work. I gave them some freedom to choose what they want to learn about, but not completely. There were some rules and constraints to follow in completing their work. Every student worked privately on their project and they had their own presentation in the classroom. The only audience for those pieces of work were my students and I. The students reflections were done orally after every presentation. This semester, by implementing the connected learning principles and making small changes every week, I prepared my students to be more flexible with collaboration inside and outside the classroom. It became evident they were responsible and curious about the subjects at hands, more able to do their research, and more open to share their work with peers and other interested people out of the classroom. The final projects were examples of their improvement, and the  results came out phenomenal.
For me the take-away was around the power of small moves .. and the domino-impact they can have when working in connected ways.

Goodreads

Books have a lot to contend with for time in my life: Instagram scrolling, TBS network binging (Big Bang Theory re-runs, duh), Snapchat story watching… you get the idea.  It’s not that I do not enjoy reading; I think that the written word is one the most powerful and inspiring tools we own.  The issue lies in the fact that life is busy and tries its very hardest to make me believe that I am too busy to sit down and read.  For that reason, I set a goal for myself this past January that I would set aside all my distractions and read one book per month.

Six months and one to two books later, I realized I had a problem.  I decided to make up for all my months of missed books by reading as many as I could during the summer months.  Yes, goals can bend and work like this, don’t yours?

I ended up reading seven books, all of which I would recommend to another reader in a heartbeat!

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American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

Graphic novel. Brilliant, creative tale of three very different worlds that come crashing together in the most twisted ending you’ll ever read. A very short read!

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Fans of the Impossible Life by Kate Scelsa

You haven’t read a more perfect description of what it feels like to be the loneliest of lonely, struggle with depression, or feel frustrated with life until you read this.  Feel those things and need to feel less so?  Read this.  Don’t know what those feelings are like?  Great, read this to know how to walk in the shoes of 99% of the people around you.

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Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee

Want a romance story?  Read this.

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The Truth Commission by Susan Juby

How many times have you looked at someone long enough to actually see them for they are?  How many times have you asked someone how they are doing and deeply cared about listening to the response?  How many times have you listened to understand, not to reply?

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I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios

Want an even better romance story than my above recommendation?  Read this instead.

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Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

So witty, so hilarious, so deeply and incredibly sad.  An easy read.  An absolute must.

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The Taxidermist’s Daughter by Kate Mosse

Romance, murder, queasy descriptions of twisted violence.  I read this on the way to Colorado and was so engrossed that the flight attendant scared me to death when she interrupted me while passing out in-flight cookies.

 


Final Reflection

ED676 Course Reflection

Part 1: On the discussion board you will see a link to my PDF that I re imaged for my fourth grade class next fall. I shared my work with my colleagues last week, and the entire team is excited to enhance our Ecosystems Science Unit. The unit plan I submitted shows the current readings, and then shows a typed up version of an idea that I got from an article I read in my STEM class. For those of you who are unfamiliar with STEM, it truly fits Meenoo’s conversations greatly, as it’s very student-centered, and is a playful approach to teaching. Re-imaging a unit plan in my school is something that I am lucky enough to be able to do. As we read about in “Thrive” there are some schools that forbid their teachers to stray from the pre-packed curriculum. My principals, however, are open to our ideas, and my entire district is supportive to STEM methodology. My unit plan starts with the idea of teaching kids about recycling through a more exciting way that the current articles we read in our science books. Students will engage in an activity based off of “Caine’s Arcade.” Caine is a young boy in California who created an entire video game center out of cardboard, and recycled items. My students will do the same, after watching the video. Each group of kids will receive one large cardboard box, filled with recyclable items such as bottle caps, paper towel rolls, egg cartons, jars, etc. The kids will create a functional game out of the material, and will be allowed to use tape. The students will build using the engineering process, of imagining, designing, building, evaluating, and then re-designing if necessary. Once the kids are finished with the building of the games, they will write a set of instructions and we’ll spend the afternoon playing games. Later in the PDF attachment you will see a write up about the cross-curricular opportunities and also ways we can empower our students to reach the community through this unit. Students will have a lot of choice after being given the assignment. I hope that this is something that my colleagues and some of you will read through and consider using in your own classroom!

Part 2: Final Class Reflections

I didn’t know what to expect when I took this class, but as soon as I received my copy of “Thrive,” I propped my feet up and began reading. Often, when I do grad work it’s more of a chore, but this course was so intriguing, as I loved the topics discussed. I loved reading about the “simple” things, and then thinking about them in depth. For example, we’ve all been encouraged to have a mentor. Perhaps we even started off our careers with an assigned mentor. It wasn’t until I read “Alone in the Classroom, Why Teachers are too Isolated,” until I realized how much time teachers really do spend behind their desk, working. The power that comes from networking and collaborating is so strong, and I can speak for myself by saying that this is often something I forget. I’ve come home after long days and realize I’ve gone days without interacting with other adults. This is certainly something I will now be more aware of, after taking this course.

I thought a lot about my student teaching experience as I went through this course. One of the many things that I remember about student teaching is the fact that I reflected so much and how my mentor at the time explained how important that was. She had me make notes each note and journal about the day. It really helped me become a more thoughtful teacher. Although time consuming, it was the best thing she could have done for me.

How many of us actually take the time at the end of each day and reflect on what happened? Did students learn the material? Which students struggled and why? What can I do better next time? All of these questions are vital in order to increase teacher and student productivity and successfulness.

Lana M. Danielson writes, “Because of their ability to reflect, great teachers know not only what to do, but also why.” Great teachers have a purpose when teaching and their activities, procedures, and assignments have a reason. I enjoyed reading “Fostering Reflection,” and especially found the four modes of thinking to be areas that I need to be more aware of. Formulaic thinking, situational, Diliberate and Dialectial thinking are modes that require an increasing degree of analysis and data seeking.   I often thought before this course reflection was simply “how did the lesson go?” but there’s certainly more levels to student evaluation and grades. The importance of utilizing colleagues, writing down notes, and listing questions are now things I will consider in my own teaching. I think the “four modes of thinking,” has before always just been lumped into one way of thinking. I am excited that I will start off my new school year with the importance of mentorships and self reflection in mind.

My two mentors have always been great “go to” people in my building, but taking this course encouraged me to step up and become more involved with their teaching in terms of how I can use them to better my own. On my Blog I wrote about Ashley, who is my mentor that has really helped me with tech over the year. She’s given me some great resources to put into my own classroom, and I hope that everyone takes a peek at my Blog post about “Plickers.” I would have never gone out on a limb and searched for this formative assessment resource, but thanks to someone I’ve worked closely with and already trust, I was able to bring new tech resources to my students.

Meenoo, I want to truly thank you for gathering great materials for us to read this year. I also want to thank my classmates for sharing posts, blogs, and creative unit plans. My favorite thing about this course was that although a structure was provided, and guidance was present, Meenoo really gave us each the opportunity to be stylistic in the way we share. Blogging, for me, was something that I would have never imagined doing. Now, I will continue to read educational articles and post on my blogs, for everyone to share! I think it’s such a fantastic way to get lost on the internet- reading one another’s blogs. I want to thank Meenoo for teaching us, but allowing us to leave this course in our own greatness that we’ve each created!

Happy Teaching, fellow classmates, and enjoy a well-deserved summer vacation!


Chapter 5, Empower Your Students

Chapter 5, Empower Your Students

The reason I am a teacher stems back from my early roots in elementary school. I loved my teachers! I loved walking into school every morning and being greeted by the friendly faces of Mrs. Ashbrook, Mrs. Dobil, Mrs. Damweber, Ms. Schneck, Mrs. Gall, and Mrs. Madis. I loved the community that these teachers established, and more than anything, loved the school-family I felt part of within in the vibrant, colorful classroom. I am a teacher because I realized that there was no other job for me, other than giving back that same joy and love to kids. When I read chapter 5, I truly felt connected to the empowerment of students. My ultimate goal every day, every year, is to show up my authentic self, and to be seen. I love serving as a role model for my students both in the classroom and in the community, and more than anything I love getting to know my students as learners, and also their families and backgrounds.

As Meenoo Rami says, “Our legacy lasts a long time in children’s lives.” I couldn’t agree more! When I found out I got a job teaching fourth grade, I was thrilled, but the words “fourth grade” made me nervous. It wasn’t because of the age of the kids, or the curriculum, but it was because out of all my elementary days fourth grade was my LEAST favorite. My fourth grade teacher was the only one that I didn’t feel connected to, so my prior experience of fourth grade was a bit less than incredible. Luckily, I overcame this fear quickly, and realized that the grade I teach really doesn’t matter. The type of teacher I would become is a culmination of all my experience, all my super teachers, my great role-models, and my desires to show up in a big way to my students. I often remind myself that my legacy will last a long time.

Part of empowering our kids is teaching them ways to improve. Their job is to show up and gain knowledge. Our textbook discussed that “we must have honest discussions with our students…and yes, these discussions do need to happen…” I know that my first couple years of teaching, I had a hard time giving student feedback. I wanted all my students to love learning and to feel comfortable and successful, so when it came to giving honest feedback, I really struggled. Each year I find myself getting better at having honest conversations with my students, and this year I took some huge leaps towards creating more successful writers. I noticed that this year a vast majority of my kids were afraid to write. Every time a writing prompt was given, or even a quick-write in their journal they’d cringe. Kids would ask to go to the nurse, others would say “I can’t think of anything,” and the few that did get going right away wrote the bare minimum and quickly closed their notebooks. I realized that this was going to be an area that I needed to empower my students, since we had an entire school year together to overcome the obstacles they feared with writing. With the help of my mentor, and talking with some writing coaches, I decided that the fear wasn’t “what to write,” but rather how their writing would be evaluated. I decided to teach writing through the five scoreable domains. I broke down focus, style, organization, content, and conventions and had mini-lessons about each domain. Although I’ve done this in years past, I admit to rushing through these areas of evaluation, since I figured the kids got it. This year, however, I elaborated each domain and enriched my lessons with mentor-text that I found at the library. I brought each domain into everything- our language arts stories, our read alouds, and completely blended writing into every area of study. I was determined to break the false thought that my kids were “bad writers,” since I knew half the battle was getting them to believe in themselves. I also empowered my students by writing each of them hand-written letters numerous times throughout the year. Every couple months I would send each student a quick note to their home address, pointing out an area of improvement. Sharing this feedback with the kids was a great way for them to build trust, but also a great reminder that their hard work in the classroom isn’t going unnoticed. This empowerment was created out of trust, joy, and love but mainly out of co-creation. I took an opportunity to create something new, to take a chance, and to experiment with the ways I was teaching my students. Empowerment can come in many different forms, but the key concept is always the same- it’s giving pieces of our great unique self to others, so that they can thrive!

Chapter 5 stresses that it’s not only important how students acquire skills but it’s also important that they are left feeling empowered. At the end of the year every single student should leave your classroom, wanting to come back tomorrow. This past school year was the best year I’ve ever had. I was able to give my student’s tons of choice, because they could handle it. I was able to do yoga with my kids, and provide opportunities for them to teach me lessons that they created. I know that it was a meaningful year, and I also know that I left them leaving feeling as though they owned their learning. Being in creation with me during this year is something I want them to remember when they think back to their fourth grade year. I want them to remember their student-centered classroom as a safe environment to take challenges and make mistakes.

Benefits of empowerment include creating a lifelong love of education, increasing engagement, and building momentum. I saw my students taking the extra challenges this year when they were early finishers. I didn’t even need to tell them what to do when they finished their work, but instead they just did it. They developed this intrinsic motivation because they loved learning. When I think back to Mrs. Ashbrook, my favorite teacher of all time, I remember her setting these basic fundamentals of empowerment in me, and in her other students.

Coming directly from Meenoo Rami’s, “Thrive,” she summarizes final thoughts to her readers before closing this book. I love the points she makes so much, that I wanted to include them in my Blog to share with you. Those of you who are reading this, I highly encourage you to go pick up a copy of “Thrive,” as it is a quick, enjoyable read that will be one you’ll pull of the shelf every time you feel the need to energize your teaching style.

Perfectly, explicitly stated, here are Meenoo’s final thoughts that sum everything up:

-There are people in your community and network who want to help you. They can help you if you invite them.

-Know your students well so that you can live in peace with the decisions you make or them.

-Although the tools will come and go, how you model lifelong learning will stay with your students long after they leave your classroom.

-Standing still in these times is not an option. Your teaching must change and respond to the evolving world around you.

-You may not see immediate results or gratification with your students, but eventually you will. Watch for the tiny moments and appreciate them.

-You don’t have to follow every mandate put in front of you.

-Teaching is incredibly difficult and is the most meaningful work you’ll ever do in your life. It will change you physically, emotionally, and intellectually, and nothing you’ve ever done before will completely prepare for it.


Chapter 4, Listen to Yourself

Chapter 4, Listen to Yourself

Meenoo Rami starts this chapter off perfectly, with a quote from one of my favorite authors, Brene Brown, about human engagement and creativity. She quotes, “When learning and working are dehumanized- when you no longer see us and no longer encourage our daring, or when you only see what we produce or how we perform- we disengage and turn away from the very things that the world needs from us: our talents, our ideas, and our passion.” As this course discusses teacher burnout and ways to prevent it I think it’s important that we as educators really spend time evaluating our talents and ideas, and whether or not we’re fully putting forth our authentic self in the classroom. When we come to the classroom in auto pilot, and pull out the same material year after year, simply just to “plow through” that’s exactly when we begin to hurt ourselves and others. The value that we give to the students is diminished when we aren’t our true selves! “So what is it we can bring to the classroom?” one may ask. The answer is, everything! As educators we are talented people, often well-rounded in literature, or have backgrounds in art history or sports. Heck, we’ve got the whole summer off and many of us have a second job or hobby we turn to for the two months of the year we have some free time in our lives. I compete in triathlons, and spend summer days logging hours and hours of swimming, biking, and running to train for the Ironman triathlon. If I don’t teach through this lens, my students aren’t seeing my true self. As teachers, there is so much power in bringing the greatness of all that you know into the four walls of the classroom.

Meenoo talks about fear, and how teachers become fear based, and mask true feelings and identity. As teachers, we must be risk-takers, and as Brene Brown says we must dare greatly! Teaching from fear hinders the ability to act according to values that guide our teaching. I think a lot of the fear comes from administration, and the pressure to be successful. In my building a shift happened when the state changed the way we are evaluated. It seems as though any creativity that my colleagues and I once had became diminished once we knew that the PSSA scores would have such an impact on our teacher score as well. It quickly became, “teach to the test,” since there was x amount of material to fit into six months. I think once there is talk of this fear, the vibe changes quickly and unfortunately the children are the ones who suffer from the lack of creativity.

I connect with the fear based part of Meenoo’s book, as currently I am in the graduate program at Arcadia University and have faced some fears brining what I’m learning into my classroom. I’m taking STEM courses, and this past year I tried to integrate as much STEM into my fourth grade classroom as possible. My other fourth grade teammates gave me a bit of difficulty when I engaged my class in certain projects, partly out of jealousy, and partly from a creativity stand point. They feared that if things went well with teaching from the STEM methodology that over time they’d have to make a switch, too. Teachers who have been around a long time (let’s face it), fear transitions! My teammates wanted us all to be doing the same thing. Instead, I wanted to take risks, and try on what I was learning about in class. I laughed when I read the part of Meeno’s book about the amount of “extra work” she referred to, as this extra work can certainly be a killer of motivation. It’s easier to just grab the materials already given to us by the school district and go on with the boring old science kit. Instead, though, going the extra mile had tremendous effects in my classroom. My kids loved working on the engineering projects I did with them this year. I am motivated to continue to bring this energy and style into my classroom again next year. I strive to teach my kids, too, that perfection is NOT the goal. STEM has helped me convey this message to kids, as often when we engineer something it won’t work the first or second time around- this is perfect, since each time we fail creates a learning experience! I am lucky that my administration is very open to creative ways of teaching. In “Thrive,” we read about the fourth grade teacher in Austin, TX who was allowed to only teach from test materials, exclusively. Teaching test preparation all day long is not only boring for the kids, but frustrating for the teacher. This district is forcing teachers to lose their authentic self, and forcing teachers to do the exact opposite of empower their students!! Overall, it’s important to continue to turn back to the essential goal, which is to determine how we can align our teaching with our values. Seeking our selfhood in our classroom can be done, as long as we continue to be open to this important concept.

Reading about pre-packaged curriculum and the regular need to make changes really resonated with me. For this course, one of the requirements is to take a pre-packaged curriculum and to “listen to ourselves” as we create a more meaningful experience for the students. I am currently working on this project, and am thinking of ways to bring my students and my community together as a whole. Bridging the gap between the community and classroom is important to me. This past year I tried to do a better job at bringing people into my class, and one of the fun things I did was bring a seeing-eye dog trainer into our room during a week-long literature study that was about disabilities. I know if I bring community into our school this will make it easier for the kids to turn to their community members to enhance their education. For example, in my current plan I’m writing to revamp my Ecosystems unit I have a tie in with community and classroom. My students will be much more likely to succeed with this piece if they have seen interaction happening in the existing classroom. Once they see all the fantastic things the community has to offer, they’ll be motivated to work together. Certainly, this requires more work than just reading the ordinary textbook but in the end it brings authenticity and value to the classroom.

This chapter also motivated me to talk to my own students more about being a lifelong learner. In my own life I model curiosity, and lifelong learning, and I think it’s important for my students to hear about grad school, including the challenges I face. It’s important that we as teachers don’t make ourselves the center, but rather share with the kids that we are real people. I want my kids to know that things don’t come easy to me, and that when I was their age I struggled with reading comprehension. I talk to my students a lot about when I was in fourth grade, and the things that I now know that I didn’t know then in order to be successful. This thought brought me back to a concept we spent a lot of time discussing during my yoga teacher training. The idea of teaching with the question in mind of “who is this for?” If I am talking in front of my yoga class just to talk, well it’s probably about me. If I play my favorite song, it’s probably for me. This is the same in my classroom at school. If I dig out the old box of science materials and do the same lesson as every other year to teach about sustainability in ecosystems, well that style of teaching is absolutely about me! The answer should rarely, if ever, be about me in my classroom. My job is to make my students the center of learning, to empower them and enrich their education with creativity. Meenoo also talks about, in chapter 4, the importance of sharing student work. When kids know their work will be shared, they will be much more likely to edit for mistakes and go the extra mile to make it as clear as possible. When students share their work to an authentic audience, they are given the opportunity to overcome fears, which ties in perfectly to the fears that often hold teachers back from taking risks.

“So, this all sounds great but now what,” one may ask. Well, if you’re reading this you are already on your way to a bigger and better self. Reading Blogs, like this one, and continuing to read books, journals, and talking to your colleagues is a fantastic way to show up big. As we read about a few weeks ago, avoid isolating yourself. Avoid sitting in your room during all your prep periods and instead go look around. Open your eyes to the opportunities either already existing in your school, or potential areas to bring opportunities. Share with your peers. Encourage mentorships, and work with your mentor about ways to bring your ideas into the classroom. Most importantly, though, “Listen to Yourself.” We are in tune enough with our style of teaching, and our classroom to know when we need to make changes. Don’t think about it- just listen to your gut and do it. Dare greatly! Remember, that we as teachers, have the power to bring joy and love into our classroom, and have the power to give students the opportunity to THRIVE! A big thanks goes out to Meenoo Rami for brining awareness to our identity, and for reminding us that retreating from our real voice ultimately hurts our children. Listening to yourself is the key to success!


Teaching Immigration Finds!

Teaching immigration is not just an ESL issue.  Teaching immigration could easily fit into the curriculum of ANY classroom if we think about the issue in terms of government policy, human rights, activism, human stories and narratives, movement, migration, economics, jobs, taxes, and cause and effect.

Here are a few links to get you started thinking about the topic in general.  Even if you do now see yourself teaching this topic, I highly recommend a read of at least the first link!

Comic Captures What it’s Like to Spend a Decade in Immigration Limbo Do you know what it takes to become a citizen in the US the legal way?  Scroll down to the bottom of the article to watch Juana describe the experience in cartoon.

The Sound of One Immigrant Clapping by Adrian Castro

What Part of Illegal Immigration Don’t You Understand?  Obtaining legal citizenship is more mysterious than the Bermuda Triangle.  This infographic attempts the best explanation I have seen, and in the very least, you get a sense of the experience so many are faced with.

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