Saturday, May 26, 2012

Teaching a Themed Unit: Pinterest to the Rescue

I am combining my love of Pinterest with my love of planning and organization.  Now, I am creating boards and treating them as folders to hold all my resources for teaching any given unit.  I can include books, videos, blogs, websites, photos, maps, travel brochures, scanned primary source material, etc.  I know many people may already be doing this, but it just occurred to me.  I can spend 15-30 minutes gathering resources from the web, and have MORE than enough material to teach any given unit.  For example, one of my boards is called The School of Athens.  This simple little unit can actually cover art, history, science, math, literature, writing and drama.  For example, the chemistry involved in preparing lime for fresco is quite high level (and dangerous!) and extremely interesting.  Not to mention, many of the scholars that appear in the painting are early scientists and mathematicians. The painting holds the unit together, with endless instructional possibilities spanning across the curriculum.

link to School of Athens Board

Friday, May 25, 2012

[W]e have not even to risk the adventure alone, for the heroes of all time have gone before us. The labyrinth is thoroughly known. We have only to follow the thread of the hero path, and where we had thought to find an abomination, we shall find a god. And where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves. Where we had thought to travel outward, we will come to the center of our own existence. And where we had thought to be alone, we will be with all the world.
-- Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth, 1988, p. 123.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

"Yes, and let's..."

     Often our first reaction to new situations, people, and concepts is a big knee-jerk, "No!"  In the drama portion of my graduate course, David Young taught us a very useful life tool. My goal is to practice this in my daily life and especially in my profession.  The idea is to train yourself to automatically respond with a yes to anything life hands you, and then simply adjust to it by adding the and let's so that it works in your life. For example, my teacher said to me, "Why, don't you drive us in L.A.?"  I responded, "Yes, and let's make sure I have a really good co-pilot!"  I mean, I can still say no anytime I wish, but how fantastic to respond first with a genuine openness and willingness to hop out of our comfort zone and just go for it, whatever it is!

Editing Resource

Click Here For Peer Edit Form

I will probably tweak this, but it is a great start.  There are some examples on how to model peer editing as well.  I feel this is such a crucial part of the writing process.  One of the most important elements to make this successful is the culture of the classroom. Without a safe space, kids will not take this seriously.

I Love School

My class is amazing. I had no idea it would be this much fun, and so intense.   I am going to be able to immediately apply so much of what I've learned.  More to come.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Day Someday Arrived

...and she flung herself down upon her favorite rock and cried as the relief and disbelief intertwined within her soul.  Flipping over onto her back, she stared up, past the gnarled leafy branches, at the blue sky beyond.  Sun-kissed butterflies, full of promise, flitted around her head and then skipped happily in her guts. Finally, she was a teacher.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Memory Makers and Honesty

Remember that day when Dr. Evans gave me my first pink slip?  I do. The date was May 9, 2012.  Of course, I wasn't upset; I knew my contract was ending.  I felt bad for her, and told her so.  What an awful way to end the school year, passing out pink slips.  She asked me to check my letter because some of them were misprinted.  I opened my letter in front of her and sighed with disappointment.  She asked me what was wrong.  I explained to her that I wanted to frame my first pink slip and truly felt disappointed that the paper was white. I wanted PINK!  She smiled.  I hope it cheered her up a bit.

Later that day when I checked my voice mail, I was dismayed upon hearing a message inviting me to my very first interview for a teaching position.  Wow.  Timing is everything.  Protected and cared for that is how I felt.  A quiet nod of reassurance that I am still stepping on all the correct stepping stones as I make my way quietly forward on my teaching journey.

Now the honesty part:  First graders and I just do not click.  They will NEVER know that truth by the way.  They only believe I love them with all my heart, which I do.  However, let me just say that there is some unknown element mixed in that particular age group that causes me to privately lose my patience to the MAX.  Like I said, THEY WILL NEVER know that truth because I keep it completely hidden from them at all times.  It cracks me up so much that I LOVE kindergarten and second grade, but struggle in first grade.  Funny.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Waiting and Working

One method for dealing with the stress of waiting for the results of my interview is to WORK as if the position is already mine.  I am particularly fond of this technique, and if the position were indeed offered to me - who has time to sit around and wait for the phone call to confirm it?  I mean, I have an entire 6th grade school year to plan.  I know, I am crazy, but at least I am busy working on something meaningful. I suppose if I do not get offered the position, I may regret this burst of ambitious creativity and meticulous attention to detail (school year schedule, end of the year testing, core content requirements, daily schedule, weekly schedule, classroom expectations, procedures, writing pieces, target skills, writing prompts, etc.)

However, for now, it is keeping me moving forward on what promises to be a most exciting journey, if only the telephone call would come.

There is a compartment in my head that whispers, "Forward all these plans on to him, so that he can see for himself what you can accomplish in such a small amount of time."  The email reads something like this:

Dear Mr. Wise and Best Principal EVER,
As you move forward in your decision making process regarding the 6th grade position, I humbly submit to you a tentative syllabus, schedule, list of topics, grade distribution schedule, parent letter, and classroom expectations and procedures list that I created specifically for this particular teaching position.  My only hope is to demonstrate my commitment to excellence if I were to be offered this position in your school.
Very Sincerely Yours,
Teacher Who Would Work for No Pay to Land this DREAM Job!!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Interview

Do more than belong: participate. Do more than care: help. Do more than believe: practice. Do more than be fair: be kind. Do more than forgive: forget. Do more than dream: work.
-William Arthur Ward

The last few days have been a blur of excitement, lack of sleep and dizzying work. I received an invitation to interview at Alvaton for a 6th grade position. My interview is tomorrow, and I am enjoying every minute of the nervousness and anticipation. I realize that I am not alone in this process, and every new teacher has to start with the interview. Realizing that all I have to do is be the person I am and do my best is taking most of the pressure off of me. A teacher taught me to think like that many, many, MANY years ago.

I feel it is important to be as prepared as possible so I've been devouring six grade standards, interviewing CT 6th grade teachers, visiting with former 6th grade teachers and making mental notes of all my experience working with this age group. After reviewing, I was pleased at how many opportunities I've had that make me extremely qualified for the position. If the position is indeed a writing position, not only will I be THRILLED, but I may not be able to leave without offering to work without pay. Truly, when I contemplate the possibility of teaching 6th grade, I find myself astonished and quite pleased at how amazing the prospect feels in my heart and guts.

My principal and cooperative teacher are AMAZING. They both met with me today and conducted a mock interview and provided me with feedback. During the interview, I had the opportunity to tell them the story about why I wanted to become a teacher in the first place. I made myself cry on the spot, and the simple fact that the whole story goes back to my teacher at Alvaton is pure synchronicity. I do not fancy the idea of crying during an interview, so I hope the tears stay put tomorrow. :)

I found that making a list of my experiences that related to the position helped me focus and articulate my responses. Some things I came up with that do not appear on my resume:
4 year volunteer leader for support group for teens.
Peer tutor at the Learning Center at WKU's South Campus - helped students revise and edit their papers - research, personal narratives, letters, argument/persuasion.
Degree in Social Studies - Extensive writing for every course, including a senior thesis, research, and secondary education classes (helps to see where students are headed).

My goal for today is to rest, study the standards some more and sleep like a baby.