Learning How to be Okay with not being Okay

…But I’m learning a lot.

I am. But I’m also bombarded with uncertainty, insecurity, and nervousness throughout my learning journey. There is a lot of work that goes into everyday. I’m adjusting and preparing resources for daily lessons and trying to figure out Hamlet at the same time. The best part of this journey is that I’m willing to fight for it, because it’s all I’ve ever wanted out of a career. The people make me happy to be where I am. However, I still wake up every morning afraid I’m not good enough.

This week, the most important target I’ve been working on is being dynamic and giving energy in the classroom to help build engagement. My confidence and energy waned as I was allowing myself to be consumed by negative thoughts. The first class that I actively tried to be positive and bring energy, was an amazing experience and made me feel better in just 55 minutes.

In addition to my classroom experience, the communications outside of the classroom have made a huge difference for me as well. The google community for English majors has been the greatest support system I could have asked for. The best thing for people going through difficult time, is to know that you’re not alone. The google community does that, but is also a space to gather ideas to help with my learning. That is also, why I wanted to include my mental state and emotional experience in this blog reflection. I want other interns to know that I will not be silent, so that they know that if they’re getting down on themselves they’re not alone.

Finally, I have taken this quote (shared by a fellow intern) to heart. I am only in the first month of a lifelong journey. There will be many failures and successes to come. As I learn, I will make my teaching better. Right now, I can only be my best self. This hit home after reading one of my students journal responses. The prompt asked them to consider how they’re reading of a story changed from when they read it with the reader response lens and then when they read it with multiple lenses (gender, social class, and postcolonial). The student said that he had reflected more on his thinking than the ideas in the stories. He said that he was questioning his judgement and, more or less, becoming more critical of common sense ideas. Lastly, he said that because of this, he was enjoying English class for the first time. How could I be so negative, when this was happening for some of my students? I might not be a master teacher, but I care and I can be there and do my best. From this moment it will be deep breaths in and out, long nights planning, but satisfaction knowing that learning is going on (on both sides).

… We’re learning a lot. AND we’re afraid sometimes. That’s life. That’s okay.

Inquiry: Summary of Learning

I began my inquiry asking the question: “how can I support student-centered learning in my classroom?” I have researched and discussed with other teachers to learn about student-centered learning and begin to answer my question.  I got a lot of support and enjoyed hearing what others had to say and what others were doing to support student-centered learning.

I have put together a google doc that highlights what I learned and is cram packed full of resources that might be helpful for others trying to answer the same question I started with. Please check it out and leave comments as to further resources and ideas that relate to my inquiry project. I would also be very happy to discuss ideas around student-centered learning. I am no expert, but I am a very engaged life-long learner.

This inquiry project has helped my begin to put my philosophies and theories into practical teaching strategies and learning activities. While I have been struggling to structure my ideas, this has been an exercise in doing just that. Moreover, it has been another activity that pushed me to collaborate and reach out to communities of teachers, which I have yet again found so supportive and helpful.

As a last word, I am going to leave you with a video that I found and included in my document twice. I want to share this video, because if you only have time to check out one resource in regard to student-centered learning, I think this is a good choice. This video was a helpful resource for me as it given strategies, but also shows them in action. I can see myself using them now. If the video peaks your interest, check out my summary of learning package.

What do you think? Is student-centered learning something you would like to do? Please feel free to share and discuss.

Student-Centered Learning in my Pre-Internship

Before and during my pre-internship, I was inquiring into student-centered learning. My inquiry gave me many ideas and was reflected in my teaching philosophy. I would say that I made small steps toward my end goal. There were many things I was trying to consider as I prepared and taught during my internship.

I wasn’t sure how far I could go and to be honest I felt like I still needed to control the direction of the class quite a bit. I wasn’t sure what I should expect. I wasn’t sure how much control I had over the direction of the class and my teaching. In part, I didn’t want to teach in a way that would be disapproved by others or would be too different. I hate having these kinds of thoughts. I know people say that there is no one correct way to teach, but sometimes I feel like as a young teacher some of the things I want to try might be chalked up to inexperience. I also worry that because some of my ideas go against super traditional ways of teaching, they will not be well received by teachers who prefer traditional teaching methods. I tried to give students a voice and incorporate student-centered teaching/learning methods when I could. This is still something that is really important to me, so I will continue to take bigger and bigger steps toward reaching my goals.

For my first lesson, I asked my students to fill out an exit slip in response to three questions:

  1. What is something I should know about you as a learner?
  2. What is something you find interesting about or would like to learn more about the subject? (The World Around and Within Us – Environmentalism)
  3. What is a question you still have?

I was really happy with the responses I got. It was especially refreshing to read those for question number one. Here are a few examples of what my students told me:

“Making connections to similar concepts when teaching something new aids in my comprehension,” “I am the type of learner that has a little trouble understanding things the first few times…,” “I rather be learning in groups and moving than sitting by myself doing something,” “I learn better if you provide an image for me or let me use hands on,” and “I like when people talk and have a discussion.”

My students were able to clearly explain ways that they learn best. This reiterated that students know what works for them and we need to listen more often. My education has given me many tools, but with the diversity of learners that exists, I need to pay attention to them to know what they need.

I didn’t carry out an inquiry project, although I would have liked to. As I reflected, I saw that I could have gotten students to inquire into an environmental issue. If I had more time and felt more comfortable getting technology access for my students, that is something I would like to do. I did, however, have my students write journal responses to prompts related to what we were learning. I told them that they would choose one in the end to revise and make a good copy of. I tried to make this project into a process portfolio of sorts. The assessment for the “journal project” included: drafts completed, revisions, conventions, and content & understanding. I made it clear that the goal was for them to make personal and topical connections and provide support for them. In this way, I was respecting their perspective, giving them a voice, and getting them to build off of what they knew.

The poster project I had them do was similar. I went through an article that showed ads against food waste and then gave them complete freedom to advocate for something regarding an environmental issue. During class discussions and journal prompts, I asked students about the issues that bothered them.

I tried to incorporate the things that they had told me about themselves into their learning. I used group work as a few students mentioned that as being beneficial for them. I also recognize the power of collaboration. I prepared a jigsaw activity to encourage students to take responsibility of material. Although, some students had some issues with the concept of teaching their peers. I still believe it was a good way to introduce ideas.

In the end, I believe some of my ideas came out and I was able to do some student-centered work. I also believe I could have done more and would have liked to do more. As I said earlier, I was still a bit uncertain as to what my role could be and how many different methods I could try to use. Time was another factor, I would like to give students time to explore and I would feel more prepared if I had time to set up the class for a more inquiry and student-directed learning environment.

Getting in the Zone

My first week went well for the most part. I had one “bad day,” but in the end it wasn’t that bad and I learned a lot from it. After the first week, I started to get in the zone. I started talking more about environmentalism with my B10 students. It seemed like my students were really getting it and contributing to whole class discussions. They were also more easily able to make connections between their existing knowledge and what we were learning.

School ZoneAfter my seventh lesson, my cooperating teacher and my partner both ecstatically pointed out how well the lesson went. While my other lessons had been going well, this lesson saw me shine. I enjoyed my time and really felt the room become a collaborative environment. I had warmed up, learned much along the way, and got students to see their connection to the material. It was such a great feeling. I think this didn’t happen in the first week as much, because I take time to warm up to people in general. I can be quiet and reserved, but I strive for meaningful interpersonal connections. Although, it does take time.

In future classrooms, I would like to establish a caring environment from the beginning. I really like the idea of starting every week off with a talking circle. I want my students to know that what is happening in their lives and how they are feeling is considered in the classroom. I also want to get to know my students as individuals and for them to get to know me as a person who is helping them learn and learning with them.

Additionally, as I said earlier, I have been learning. I think being a quick learner is one of my major strengths. My goal in learning is never to be better than someone else, but to be better than what I was in the past. As a teacher this means, I learn something from every moment and I use it to make myself a stronger teacher. In the end, this lesson was really important in that it told me that all of my work was helping. This lesson told me that I could accomplish my goals. I can’t settle for being a sub-par teacher. I want to be a dedicated teacher that helps students construct their knowledge. I know that I can do that and if I was feeling down, it was because being that kind of teacher means everything to me. Now I know that as long as I keep pushing myself I can be the teacher I aim to be.

I Am Still Learning

Learning

I am still learning – and I am learning so much. After three years of university, I have so many theories and philosophies that I have had little opportunity to put into action in a real classroom as an educator. I have been anticipating this moment, but I wonder if you ever feel completely ready.

My first week of pre-internship was hectic, stressful, and worth every moment so far. What I am doing now is something I believe you could never learn from taking a class. You have to stand up and try, because theories and philosophies are great, but practice is a necessary step. I am constantly afraid I will fumble, but I think that’s a part of it. I can’t teach as if I have years of experience – I don’t. What I do have is passion. My passion fuels me, that keeps me brave enough to learn despite a fear of failing, and that allows me to learn from my mistakes.

I am teaching my students about the environment through literature. I am also trying to learn about and from them. I want to know who they are as learners, so I asked them and I observe what they respond to and what they get excited about. I learn from them, things that work and things that don’t. I have learned that my unit plans will change with them and for them. A plan might take three days, when I hoped for one. This was something I needed to learn and I am glad I have.

For the next week, I hope to see students getting involved. I hope to learn more about ways to reach students and differentiate for their needs. I hope to find ways to get students talking about literature critically. I hope to get students seeing themselves in their learning. As I add another class to my teaching duties, I hope to learn even more than I have in my first week. I am keeping organized and caught up and I am looking forward to seeing how it all plays out.

 

The Beginning of Pre-Internship

TeacherCartoon (Owls)

I began my pre-internship on Thursday, March 12. I was nervous, as I’m sure most pre-interns are. However, I have been very warmly welcomed and I am feeling more comfortable in the school already. I have been able to observe four classes, be present for a PLC day, and get so many resources from the English teachers at the school.

There are times that I still doubt my abilities, but I have to remind myself that I have three years of education to look to. I also know that this is the real life learning experience I need. As intimidating as it is, I know I will learn so much that will help me to become a teacher.

I am looking forward to getting to know my students, get classroom experience, and for a first, put sequential lessons into action. I want to learn more about meeting students needs. I am also interested in observing more classes and seeing some of my cooperating teacher’s classes in action. I would like to learn about the student resource/help systems of the school.

My first venture into teaching a unit, is the English B10 “World Around and Within Us” unit. I am still putting it together and finding it most difficult to remember what mind space and knowledge set grade ten students are working from. I don’t want to do things that go beyond their reach, but I also don’t want to underestimate their abilities. I know that I am up for the challenges of pre-internship. I would still love to hear suggestions that any pre-interns, interns, or practicing teachers may have. Every bit of knowledge and advice will help me on my journey and I am thankful for all that I get.

Encouraging Students to Ask Questions

Question MarkWhile reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower for a Young Adult literature digital book talk, I read a passage that sent me even further into teacher mode. Charlie, the main character and a “gifted” student, describes how he will be ending his “first year with straight A’s” (Chbosky 165).

Charlie says, “I almost didn’t get an A in math, but then Mr. Carlo told me to stop asking ‘why?’ all the time and just follow the formulas. So, I did. Now, I get perfect scores on all my tests. I just wish I knew what the formulas did. I honestly have no idea” (Chbosky 165).

The sad thing is, this is a relatable school experience for many students. Even if it isn’t directly stated, it can be part of the invisible curriculum. However, asking questions is a huge part of how we learn. I think students suffer when their curiosity isn’t supported. I realized that this was a problem in my own learning. As a math minor, I have struggled in some of my classes and realized in my EMTH 300 class that it was because I was taught formulas, not to think mathematically. It is one thing to be able to plug numbers into a formula, and another entirely to understand the mathematical reasoning behind them. You can’t learn by being fed knowledge to memorize; questions are a necessary mode for deep learning.

Meaningful questions have to be asked by the teacher and the students. As teachers, it’s good practice to keep questions open-ended when you can. However, it is also important that we create a learning environment where student ask questions. On “The Critical Thinking Community,” they say that “thinking is driven by questions” and I can’t agree more. Innovative Management points out questions that people (Newton, Darwin, Einstein) asked that led to great discoveries (learning). This is another reason I want to include inquiry in my classroom.

In EMTH 300, we were asked to re-imagine the teaching of mathematics. The Pythagorean theorem had to be discovered, and students through critical thinking and problem solving can come to the knowledge behind theorems. They don’t need to be force fed formulas. They need to be able to work with idea and ask many questions until they are able to solve problems and construct their knowledge.

As I am currently inquiring into how I can engage learners through student-centered teaching, I thought about how I might take this moment to reflect on how teacher and student questions and inquiry can be a part of it. Edutopia asks the question “How Student Centered is Your Classroom?” in an article that gives two ideas for using questioning to support this kind of learning environment. Specifically, they point to guiding questions and ensuring the teachers role is balanced to support a student-centered design.

After reading the quote from The Perks of Being a WallflowerI was able to see the importance of questioning in learning and in creating a student centered classroom. I really don’t believe that great learning can happen without asking honest and meaningful questions.

What are your thoughts on this quote and the role of asking questions in learning? Do you have anything to add? Please feel welcome to share your thoughts and ask any questions you have.

Chbosky, Stephen. The Perks of Being a Wallflower. New York: MTV Books/Pocket Books, 1999. Print.