Tag Archives: students

It’s All about Perspective

My parents taught me at a young age to always have clear expectations of what I wanted out of life. When I was a tween (after the “big talk”), my parents encouraged me to make a list of expectations in a potential husband. I began the list of “musts” and “cannots.” Shortly, my mother (and I know she did this lovingly), redirecting me to one of the “must” items on my list that read “He must be a Christian,” said, “Don’t you mean you want him to be a Baptist?”

“Sure,” I responded crossing out the word Christian, replacing it with the word Baptist, all the while knowing that my husband being a Baptist was not at the top of my “musts” list. Honestly, I didn’t care then, and I do not care now. Furthermore, I became a Catholic, which at first seemed like the initiation of the Spanish Inquisition, but overall, my family handled it with grace.

Whether a Christian is a Baptist, or a Catholic, or a member of any other denomination (or a non-denominational Christian, for that matter), they all believe in God. They all have their codes, standards, practices, and rituals, but ultimately, in my opinion; religion is nothing above a man-made organization in which tries to make logical sense out of something that must be taken on faith alone.

In that moment I realized that I was an individual, separate from my parents. I spent the better part of my teen years trying to convince my parents that I was different than them. My father is a very logical man and would sit down and discuss things with me. My mother and I did not have logical discussions about anything. We mainly argued about everything. Those were some tough years for both of us. Luckily, we are very close now. Somehow along the way, we learned how to just be. I have many characteristics that come from both my parents, but there is enough of me that is different to make my parents ask each other, “Where did that come from?”

Autonomy is a wonderful thing. The allowance of autonomy is even better. I think we as educators try so diligently to teach the way we were taught. I mean, what else are we supposed to do, right? I certainly did not learn everything I needed to know about teaching in college. In fact, if we were to survey teaching styles and learning styles, most teachers teach how they learn. I know I do. I am very visual as a teacher and a learner. I have to see it, draw it, plan it, picture it. I get lost in lecturing. Sure, I like to have class discussions, but a straight lecture? I do not remember the last time I lectured in a classroom. Present and discuss, now that I love. When I think about the word ‘lecture,’ I remember my biology classes from college where the professor lectured in a lecture hall, and we all copied his notes word for word off the chalkboards. It was boring as hell!

If we teach the way we were taught, then we must also manage our classrooms in the way we were managed, or dare I say disciplined? I remember just a handful of teachers I had throughout my entire educational career that treated me and my classmates like we were idiots.

Most of my teachers were kind, loving, caring creatures that I did not realize existed outside of the school walls. I remember being startled by the site of my elementary school principal at the grocery store. There are two teachers, both of which I did not have in school, who became friends with my mother. I still keep in touch with both of them, although I would never consider them colleagues. They are more like mentors to me.

Here is where the controversy will begin . . .

I have taught and currently teach with some adults who treat students so poorly. I am actually appalled by these adults. (In the background of my mind I hear the theme song to this paragraph, Michael Buble’s “Feeling Good” . . . It’s a new dawn . . . It’s a new day . . . It’s a new life . . .”) . . . I know there was a time when a child was taught that he was to be seen and not heard. I know there was a time when a child was taught not to speak until someone has spoken to him. I know there was a time when a child was to show all others his elder respect by saying, “Yes, Ma’am” and “No, Sir.” And, there is nothing wrong with those teachings or the time in which they were taught. However, with that being said, that time is not today. The students who walk through our hallways deserve to be treated with dignity and grace. The students who walk through our hallways deserve to be shown respect. Yes, I said respect!

The days when the old saying that one must show respect to receive respect is leaving this world if it is not already gone. Today a teacher needs to show respect in order to receive respect. I understand how this may sound to some people. On the other hand, I see how teachers disrespect their students, and try to play the “Well, when I was in school, I would have never even thought . . . ” card. Newsflash, honey . . . those might have been the days, but “It’s a new day!” Change has arrived.


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Managing the Fear

Let me just get this out of the way now . . . above the fear that I will not be successful (because I can deal with failure), I fear that I will be successful. For example, I have always been grounded in reading and writing. I knew in first grade with Ms. Wendy Wooley that I would become a teacher. As sure as I am sitting in my home office and typing, I knew that I would be on the other side of that teacher’s desk one day.

There is another side of me though. There is the person who wants to write. It is silly – I, more than anyone else, know that if I want to write, I can write. I do, but I am also scared to write. I realize how this sounds . . . a writing teacher who is scared to write. That’s like a uni bomber who is scared to die, or a Navy Seal that is afraid of water, or a stand-up comedian who is scared of public speaking. Nevertheless, I am afraid to write because I fear I will be successful. What if I am successful? Then what will I do? Will I still teach? How will I balance family, teaching, writing, etc.? And it continues to spin out of control . . .

This makes me think about my students. Are they scared to learn? I know they are scared to write. If I am scared to write, I know they are. They show their fear by asking questions, wanting the teacher to read their papers just to see if what they have written is okay. As a teacher this has often annoyed me in the past, but I do understand where they are coming from. How are students supposed to know what we expect out of them if we are not clear with our expectations? — On a side note, I have a whole other idea about expectations, but I digress.

I need to express my fear to my students. I need to channel this fear into better instruction, communicating with my students that it is okay if the is not perfect; and it is okay if I do not agree with your opinion.

Furthermore, I need to accept this is a fear for myself and tackle it. I’m not going to let a bunch of “What if’s” keep me from being who I have always had a burning desire to be. I’ll cross those bridges of conflicts in my schedule and life choices and changes when I get to them. Besides, if that is the worst thing that happens out of living my dreams, is it really that bad? Ahh, anxiety; she’s a bitch!

I would like to explain what I am not afraid of in this exploration of fear. I am not afraid of disappointing anyone, embarrassing anyone, stirring up anger in anyone, or being wrong. I am not afraid of what my friends, family or peers will think of me. I am not afraid of controversial issues, disagreements or differences in opinions.

I think the underlying factor in my fear is the consequence(s) that will occur once I begin. For example, knowing myself and my integrity, I am not above (or below, for that matter) stating the truth, even when people do not want to hear it, even when it is not politically correct, even if it goes against the grain of what has been my existence up until this point. When it has been written, I cannot take it back. That will inevitably come back to haunt me and the ones I love (which is my biggest concern). I do not want my loved-ones to have to suffer because of my choices.

So, there . . . it is out there. I have said it. It has been written. Now we will see what happens.

These question remain:

  • How will I utilize/teach/explain this fear in the classroom?
  • What are my writing goals?
  • How can I use this fear to connect/empathize with my students?

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Reflection and Planning

On the first day of class, this hallway seems to be the longest hallway in the history of education. In my mind the students cannot get into my classroom fast enough.

After twelve years of public education, one might say that it becomes monotonousness. For me, this is not true. I do not think I could ever look at my career with that perspective. I am the one who still gets up early to go to the store to view the new school supplies months before the first day of school. I love school! I always have, and I probably always will.

One might think that I am an expert at what I do. That depends. What exactly do I do on a daily basis? When I try to verbalize exactly what it is that I do, I always come back to giving. I give of myself. I tell stories. I crack jokes. Above all, I have fun. However, wonder if my students do.

Looking back on this school year, I see things that worked, things that did not work and things that could have worked better. I want to be an example for my students and admit when I have been wrong. This is very important to me because I see a need for students to see that adults are not always right. They need to see that we are human, just like them – against the popular belief that we hang ourselves up on a hook in our classroom every night.

New things to implement . . .

1. Student discovery learning: instead of the skill drill effect, lecturing, and what the students like to call “busy work”

2. Better Test-taking strategies: not that my goal for students is to be the best test-taker in the world, but teaching them strategies that work for testing, studying, learning (e. g. Cornell Notes, analyzing analogies, building vocabulary that they will actually use).

3. Utilize the technology offered: research is going to play a key factor in the ELA TEKS this coming school year; how not to plagiarize . . . yes, this needs to be taught!

4. Progression of Higher Level Bloom’s Taxonomy: students must move beyond the wrote knowledge into the production of knowledge.

5. Recursive Writing: as opposed to completing a writing assignment, turning it in, and I’m done.

Let me ponder on these. I am not sure this is the wording I want to use. This is rough, very rough!

More later . . .

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