This week, I had the experience of leading class on my own for the very first time. My mentor teacher had to be absent and left her three classes with me. She later noted this experience as being my “baptism by fire” and it is safe to say that is probably an accurate description of my feelings during leading those classes. Throughout reading Choice Words, I found myself wishing the knowledge from this book was put into my mind a week earlier. Peter Johnston reminded me that as we are teaching students about language and its power, we should also remember that our language has power as well. Now that realization may seem obvious or silly to you, but it hit me hard as I was reading Choice Words because I wish I could have handled my speech in front of my students with more care. Each and every word we use to address our classes has repercussions. As I am reminding my students to note means of persuasion used in Julius Caesar, how am I not reminded about the power my own language holds?
At every impatient moment (indicated by the chance of tone in my voice), I could have used those moments as opportunities to engage with a student, revisit the situation or question from a fresh angle, invite them to rethink an idea, or pose a question to help spark agency in these students. Johnston’s book hits on lots of examples on how we can make sure our students know their thoughts and opinions are valuable, which is the hold reason many of us go into the teaching field in the first place. Although Choice Words presented helpful tips in negotiating the social signals in a classroom and ways in which to encourage students, it, most importantly, reminded me to revisit and reevaluate the value I put on my own language – the weight it holds in my classroom and the encouragement it can offer to my students.
Going forward, I hope to take the practices and advice presented by Johnston in Choice Words as a source of wisdom for when I enter the classroom. I humbly understand that I have much to learn in this field and a long time until I even begin to feel like I’m starting to figure it out, and my “baptism by fire” and Johnston’s words helped move me one step forward and maybe even a little bit wiser for the next time (& each and every time after) that I get to meet with my students.
So What? This semester has come and gone. Time to check off the course & forget it, right? Not for us. Not this time. Very soon we will begin student teaching and pre-planning with our mentor teacher (I mean very, very soon – I start tomorrow…) and we will experience a real classroom. Now more than ever should we be applying our reading to our academic and professional lives. That being said, it was important to me to take some time and skim back over some of our reading for this semester, my notes, and my reflections in order to prepare myself for the fact that this is real and is happening now – not some time far in the future, but now. What kind of teacher will I be? Well, only time will tell, but I can tell you now what kind of teacher I would like to be along with a few lessons I’ve learned from the pro’s we have read this semester.
- Digital Writing
- This will be incorporated in my classroom without a doubt – our students are so absorbed in this world of technology that it is important – not to bash it (although I always advocate for a good paper & pen or a paper book), but encourage the creative tools that can be found when utilizing technology in the classroom.
Hicks (2013) talked about digital writing by addressing the fact that our students are actively engaging in digital writing all of the time through social media so we should be “inviting them to be intentional about the craft of digital writing is perfects the best way to help them realize their potential in academic, social, political, and community contexts. When we talk and teach thoughtfully about the elements of digital writing – words, images, sounds, videos, links, and other media elements – we are helping them be purposeful and, in turn, helping them be creative.”
- That being said, I will also counteract the digital technology with CURSIVE. Yep, I said it. Pen-to-paper cursive. It blows my mind how this is a dying art. Shorthand writing is something we will always do (I think… unless robots take over completely), therefore, learning shorthand in cursive just makes things faster. I think eventually those of us who can actually write in cursive will be paid simply for our handwriting and I’m waiting to cash in.
- Multi-genre projects
- Dr. Kajder’s writings about Personal Narrative Digital Storytelling and the project she gave us really allowed me to see the connections that can be made through using mode writing in terms of composition and storytelling through video or pictures. From that point, we continued touching on this idea through our different prompts during the semester that urged us to create more than a written assignment. Maybe it’s just me & my tendency to doodle, but I found myself wayyy more invested in the projects and producing my best work when I was able to put a little of myself into it by expressing my creativity.
- Social Media in the Classroom
- I chose to research integrating social media into the classroom as my focus for my final multi-genre project, and due to my interest and the discoveries that support engaging with students via social media networking and how it works to spark their interest, I will working to curate my Bookshelves & Brainstorms account for the classroom one day.
- Cultivating Community
- After reading The Greatest Catch: A Life in Teaching by Penny Kittle, I realized just how important creating an environment that is both inviting for students and a community for them to rest in is essential to the setting I desire for my classroom. Teaching is the most powerful form of investing in others because of its ability to start a chain reaction – the inspired will seek to inspire others, and by choosing to consider position, purpose, and the person in teaching, you are choosing to constantly refocus of your mission as an educator and bring your best self to the classroom for your students. Consequently, creating a space for students to feel as if they are participating in a group that encourages each other with a teacher that has their backs is a non-negotiable for me, so I hope to provide optional conference sessions for students who want feedback during the drafting stages.
- Optional Writing Conference Sessions
- Once again, Penny Kittle’s words stuck with me! In her writing about feedback she writes, “Writers need feedback, not evaluation,” and she says it in such a matter-of-fact way that it makes me wonder how this is not common sense. Now, I understand at some point students must be evaluated for their work, but in the drafting stages (and really in the first few papers or written assignments) constructive feedback should be encouraging and formative rather than just an evaluation of what is “wrong.”
- Have my own Readers/Writers Notebook or Journal
- I hope to have my students working through some sort of journal throughout the school year to give them a chance to get their thoughts on paper. Middle and high school students, especially, have so much rolling around in their minds every day that having a little therapeutic writing time (I’m talking 5-10 minutes) can really be a stress reliever for students, if presented the right way. I would like to also write my own entries during this time, so my students can see me writing and know I’m not just assigning them busywork to take up time. If I take the time to do it too, it adds value and sincerity to the assignments I give.
- Back-to-School Letters
- This one does not necessarily have anything to do with the reading we have had this semester, but it has to do with a positive impression left on me by one of my former teachers. Mr. Melton, if you stumbled upon this (even though your math mind may not be reading an English Edu. blog), I would like to thank you on behalf of all of your students for the time you took writing little responses addressed to each of us individually & addressing our personal messages to you about ourselves. I remember seeing the suppressed smiles across the classroom as each person read a note that was sincere and considerate. This is a great way to start off the year and it automatically adds a personal connection between you and your students without much time. I hope to keep this as a non-negotiable even when my years seem too busy.
- A comfy chair (or two?)
- Okay, this may be a silly non-negotiable, BUT space permitting I will have a comfy reading chair/corner/area to help aid the homey feel I would like my classroom to have. My mentor teacher has a Keurig in her classroom (the DREAM, I know), so maybe coming up with a system (as a reward maybe) or a B.Y.O.KC (bring your own k-cup, I use this term often if I’m honest) could be a fun addition to a classroom. After sitting in those squeaky, plastic chairs all day, the students may love me just for having a real piece of furniture.
- Andddd #10… T.B.D.
- To Be Determined… I want to leave this spot open in hopes that I find the right fit. It would bother me if I made a list of “non-negotiables” and included something I was iffy about, and considering I have much to learn this year, I think I am going to leave this space as a placeholder for an exciting new possibility. I have confidence by the end of student teaching I will be able to confidently fill this spot!
The High’s & Low’s:
I’d be lying if I claimed that every assignment this semester was easy for me. There were ones that challenged me to the point of new realizations about my mind as a student and there were others that sparked my interest as a future teacher. The “Things Overheard” assignment was actually very enlightening for me. I would not say it was necessarily hard for me, but it was eye-opening in the way it introduced me to observing my surrounds. It made me think and feel and write like an actual author. I think this will be an assignment I use every year with my future students (maybe even list it as a “non-negotiable”). Another “low” of sorts for me was how torn I have been about teaching coming into this summer semester. I had an incredible marketing internship and I have always torn between my passions of running my business while pursuing a career in marketing or teaching – both hold very special places in my heart. These summer courses have made that struggle all the more real. I am excited to start student teaching and face all the challenges that come with it as growing experiences and, hopefully, learning experiences as well to help me make my decision. From our reading assignments to our zoom discussion and blog prompts, I have seen a spark in interest for my passion for teaching this summer. A “high” from these courses have been the encouragement I have had through interacting with my cohort & instructor. I actually loved the zoom discussion, mainly, because I like to talk to people, but also because I was able to see the support group I feel have with me through these next several months.
Here’s to new challenges, experiences encourage growth, new friends, and those kiddos we get to love on very soon!
Here’s to the next step!
Oh, what a semester it has been!! This summer in and of itself has challenged me in ways I never would have expected, but I am hopeful that it has all been worth it! From the Y.A. class alone, I have seen my mindset transition from solely student to teacher of students/student teacher, and, maybe, my next step is teacher student – where I learn things from my students far more transformative than anything I can teach them about structuring an essay (a little too cheesy? sorry, I couldn’t help it). I plan to work here and there with Bookshelves & Brainstorms even after this summer semester goes to a close because I have a passion for utilizing technology in the classroom, and I think it is important for me to practice and promote digital literacy in my own life.
From beginning this semester with a lot of nerves about my schedules and work load to wrapping up the final week of all of my classes, this summer has had its highs and lows without a doubt. Our Young Adult Literature class has taught me so many things while reminding me of a fact I think I knew all along… that being a reader is so important in shaping and reshaping my worldview through lenses provided to me in novels and that Young Adult Lit. is not the second-class status we often see literary snobs (oops, sorry if that offends anyone) place as lesser than other genres. I posted a clip from Friends From College, where one of the characters is acting as if he is too good for YA – and come on, you have to admit its enjoyable for everyone at some level – this class served as a reminder of that. Also, as silly & behind the curve as it may seem, utilizing Goodreads has been a wonderful, new tool for developing my personal reading list! This course has encouraged me to keep at reading in my personal time while Goodreads has made it easy for me to curate a list to reference when I’m in need for a good book.
I leave this course knowing importance of being a teacher that reads. Knowing the content that is reaching your students is important in understanding how their perceptions and world views may change based on whatever is popular for them to be reading or whatever text is put in their hands. Therefore, being a teacher that reads is just as important as being a teacher in the loop. This course has inspired me to invest time in reading books not only for myself, but for my students – I hope to read Wonder by R.J. Palacio because of its potential to use in a classroom and teach me more about empathy towards my students. I hope to continually find ways to fuel my passion and soften my heart for my students & I think investing in them through reading is the perfect place to start!
For our final week of Teaching Writing, we took time to study and learn about constructive ways to provide feedback for our students, and we tested out our feedback skills by providing feedback on each other’s revision projects. To mix things up, instead of traditional written, annotated feedback (which I am more comfortable with) we were assigned to provide video feedback and revise the work live on camera so that we were able to give our most immediate, honest feedback.
I don’t think anyone would describe me as a shy person, and I do not usually get nervous talking in front of people, but when I launched the screencast and realized that I was not just reviewing a piece of writing from some unknown author, but writing from a friend, Sarah Beth, I was oddly a bit nervous. I was not nervous because I was afraid of what I was about to read or the quality of the writing because I knew her work would be great, but I was worried because I know the time, effort, and heart that probably went into this piece of writing. This sensation was a great imitation of what I will feel when I have writing conferences with my students one day. There I’ll be, sitting with a revision that they have worked hard on, and they were be looking right at me, awaiting my opinion on his or her writing… woah. This video feedback was the first time I have ever felt that way and had that realization. Yes, I’ve edited and reviewed friends’ writing before because hellooo English major (it’s a common request), but this time I realized the weight of revising someone’s revision, especially when I was reading this tediously, well-written piece by Sarah Beth.
Responding via video made me feel oddly exposed, as I mentioned above, but I think it was a perfect trial for the way we will be working with students. It will be even more rewarding in-person with students that you have worked with through each stage of the writing process. The exciting part of revision is the progress and the growth that can be seen over time. The general consensus from all of the authors of this week’s readings emphasized the importance of examining what the student is doing right and what components are working for the piece rather than simply commenting on all of the things that need to be fixed. Consequently, I thought of this sentiment as I completed my feedback video to emphasize all of the great aspects of the revision piece I was reviewing while giving constructive feedback on the parts that could be even better with a little bit of tweaking.
This exercise was beneficial for me as I am beginning to think about the ways I will provide feedback and grades for my students.