Effing up miserably

Ahhh this week’s readings had so much good stuff. While I was reading, I was highlighting and typing down quotes from the articles so I wouldn’t forget them. It took me a whole afternoon to get through all the readings and videos because I kept stopping to write down quotes and journal in my writer’s notebook.

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Failure was a big topic in class; I’m scared to fail…for lots of reasons, but mainly because I don’t want to let my students down or get fired. I know I will fail, and I’m ready for that. Mariah said that if she fails in class, she’ll be able to pick herself back up, throw that idea out, and say “Ok, that didn’t work. How else can this be done? Ideas? Let’s try again!” I pray to God I have that mindset when I teach haha. During the TED talk where the 13 year old boy is talking, he showed a clip of a Sir Ken Robinson quote: “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.” Mariah and Sir Ken Robinson have made me rethink failure. It’s ok to eff up miserably. It’s ok to tell your kids that you were wrong. And by accepting that, new ideas will spark and creativity will flow from you and your students in a way that you didn’t think was possible.

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The first day of class we made a list of all the things we have to do. All those things we have to do are all opportunities to fail, learn from our mistakes, and try again. A quote from the Angela Maiers article made me realize why Dr. Ellington started our class that way: “It’s only when we expose our darkest fears and our greatest mistakes that true growth occurs.” I never thought I would say this, but I hope I fail. I’ve come to terms with it, and I’m ready to grow and become a better master learner, reader, and writer.

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Dr. Ellington is not molding pottery for us

To start off with, I love Penny Kittle. I was introduced to her material last year in Dr. Ellington’s adolescent literature course. I like her because she is honest. She is honest about needing to be different in order to reach students, but she doesn’t go about it in a manner that bashes public education or scares the bajesus out of me. I like learning new things and different approaches to problems that arise for the everyday English teacher, but don’t approach it in such a fashion that is going to make me go to Dr. Evertson’s office and change my major. (Trust me, some readings have made me consider this!)

Anything Penny Kittle writes gets my attention. She explains her reasoning for being different without boring me to death like one other reading I did for this week’s assignment. “The Book Whisperer” by some mysterious person named “Miller”, for example, was not fun to read. In fact, I can’t even say that I did read it. I skimmed it.

Even though I skimmed this reading, one sentence stood out to me. I starred it with my purple pen and lingered on it for a bit. The starred sentence was “Instead of standing on stage each day, dispensing knowledge to my young charges, I should guide them as they approach their own understandings” (15). Bingo; got my attention there, Miller! I immediately grabbed my writer’s journal and made the connection as to why I was hung up on this sentence. My “bottom line” that I created Wednesday in class was that I wanted students to develop their own opinion and understanding of English after leaving my classroom. I want my students to develop hatred towards Sylvia Plath but love John Green, or vice versa, on their own. I want opinions to form because they took the time to venture out and read something new or write something poorly. We all strive for lifelong readers and writers, but don’t tell them what to read and write forever. Let them discover that themselves!

My boss was telling us this story the other day that I couldn’t help but apply to my future English teaching self.

The story was that of a young man in a pottery class. He was nervous about the class because he had never really been a creative person. The student sat down at his wheel and put his hands on the clay and worked. He was becoming entranced by the process of creating something on his own. The student started loving his design: something that will never be recreated. His pottery teacher stood behind him and praised his great work. The teacher then reached down and put her hands over his. The student became deflated. This work that was once his and only his was now molded by other hands. It wasn’t his creation any longer.

So I guess to conclude and finally answer the question “what do I think about teaching and learning?”, I would say that teaching is guiding, not doing, and learning is taking that guidance and venturing out on your own to develop your own opinions.

Now that I think about it, that’s kind of what Dr. Ellington is doing with this class. She’s not molding pottery for us. We are the molders choosing what we do with our clay.

In my head this all makes sense.

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My Five Words

After reading Garnet Hillman’s blog about her 5 words, I was inspired to create my own. (While reading hers, I was like, “yeah, these are my 5, too!” So it took me a little time to think and come up with my five.)

1) Organized

I cannot handle disorganized classrooms, bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens, lives, etc. I have three planners. Three. I feel lost without knowing what is on my agenda for the next day/week/month. My classroom is going to be organized. I don’t just mean my desk is going to be clean, and my books are going to be straight on their shelves. My organization is going to help my decisions in the classroom because I will never be without a plan. I will have a Plan A-Z in my head. My students will never be bored in my classroom. This is not to say they will be swamped with busy work; they will always be prepared to do something in my classroom because I am prepared to make sure they are being engaged every second throughout their time spent with me.

2) Welcoming/Safe

When I say the word “welcoming”, I don’t mean that I want my room filled with comfortable bean bags for reading time or colorful posters plastered all over the room. I want my room to be a place where any and all ideas are welcome. The reason I paired it with the word “safe” is because my students will know that it is a safe place to express themselves through their choice of spoken words, written words, and words in the book they choose to read.

3) Dynamic

The decisions made by me and my students during our time in my classroom will result in a dynamic community. My students and I will be actively growing, changing, and progressing during the short time spent in my room.

4) Stimulating

It is every teacher’s hope for students to be stimulated and intrigued by their daily routine. Whether it be a lecture, activity, book, paper, video, etc., I hope my students are enthusiastic to learn. I want my lesson plan to arouse more interest than a text from their boyfriend. I want my ideas to be so captivating that they forget about the big football game this weekend.

5) Flexible/Differentiated 

My classroom will be easily arranged physically and mentally. I want students to be able to move around to wherever suits their needs best. As a teacher, differentiated instruction is pounded into my head throughout college education courses. I will reach each of my students by being approachable and flexible to accommodate their needs. Students will not be embarrassed by their learning disability in my classroom because it will be adapted to without any stress.