One-eyed, one-horned, flying, purple people pleaser?

This blog will be short, sweet, and to the point….mainly because I have blogged about this ongoing stressor of mine before, but it just keeps showing up!

What is that ongoing stressor of mine you ask? Well, the fact that I can’t please everyone.

I have ALWAYS been a people-pleaser. (PS did you even notice that the title of this blog isn’t the usual “one-eyed, one-horned, flying, purple people EATER”? It’s people PLEASER….eh? eh? I try to be funny.)

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I am currently planning my wedding, and all I can say is, for the union of two people, there sure is a lot of shit to do for a lot of people with a lot of different opinions. Neat. No pressure.

Also, and here you and I are, entering a career field where we want to please everyone, but it’s humanly impossible.

I hate it. Why can’t everyone like my wedding ideas? Why can’t everyone like the way I teach? Why would it be weird if I got a “catoo”?

What is a “catoo” you ask? Great question. It’s a tattoo of a cat. Cat + tattoo = catoo. I want one. I will make this happen.

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Story time: Our block class went to Lexington’s public schools today to observe the diversity within the classrooms. We had a 30 minute Q&A panel with 5 students from the school. The principal told them to give us, future educators, one bit of advice for us before we start teaching. Each kid had something different they wanted, so, naturally, I panic. That school had 800 students in it. So that’s 800 different opinions and wants and needs. I can’t please all of you. I know I can’t and I know I won’t, and I’m slowly coming to terms with this. But I do secretly (but not so secretly) hate it.

Tacos and caffeinated cats

During class on Wednesday, I found myself writing down a list of ideas to blog about. Item #3 on the list is simply the word “Taco.” Lindsey saw that little note to myself and said “Oh man, I gotta read what that’s gonna be about!” Reason #4098 why I love Lindsey.

We talked in class about sharing entries from our journals to our future students. Some of us didn’t like the idea while some didn’t mind at all. One of the reasons given as to why we should share our writing is because it puts us on a level playing field with our students. If we can show them that we were once awkward 14 year olds or had a horrible break up or whatever, then they will be inspired to write and share bits of themselves, too. High school students love when they can see their teacher as a human being; someone that messes up and makes a fool of themselves.

Story time:  I remember being super nervous for starting my “O&P” at Chadron High. I was trying to tell the students that I liked talking, but I didn’t like public speaking. It ended up coming out as “I don’t like public speaking, but I like to talk, oh, about anything.” The kids all started laughing, and I felt my face blush. I couldn’t figure out what I did. Then this kid blurts out “you said you like to ‘taco’ hahaha.” Throughout the rest of my time in that classroom, the kids call me “Miss Taco” or “Taco Teach”, which was fine with me because it was like we had our own little inside joke and personal relationship.

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I’m not keen on the idea of sharing some of my entries, but I’m not opposed to it either. It isn’t for personal reasons that I don’t want to share them, it’s because I honestly don’t like my own writing. Yeah sure, kids need to see that even as a teacher I struggle, but that doesn’t get rid of the fear of sharing my writing. In Kelsey’s blog video last week, (which was awesome!! If you haven’t watched it yet, quit reading my blog and go watch it right MEOW!) she talked about Penny Kittle’s trend on twitter about why English teachers chose English: #WhyEnglish. In Kelsey’s video, she talks about how people assume we are these amazingly creative creatures. Well, no, actually. I’m not creative. I want to teach English because discovering parts of English can transform students’ lives. It’s not because I can whip out a sonnet in 10 minutes or write a short story exceptionally well. Even though I hate my own writing, I want my students to be able to understand that English isn’t all about being creative but about digging deeper for a bigger understanding.

I actually had fun turning one of my journal entries into a rough draft. I literally took TWO sentences out of one my free writes and developed it into a poem. For once, I want to share my writing. Not because it’s good, but because I’m proud of myself for turning a free write into a “published” first draft!

Oh, and if you’re wondering why “caffeinated cats” is in the title of this blog, it’s because I spilled coffee on my cat the morning I wrote this.

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I thug hard like a unicorn

ImageNo lie–I just found this image on Google by typing in “thug unicorn”…makes you wonder, right?

For those of you who didn’t see my tweet earlier this  week, I tweeted about visiting a friend of mine who is an English teacher, well, technically a 5th grade language arts teacher.

This is her first year teaching. So naturally, I asked her how stressed she was. She said “Not very, but that’s because I don’t have much to plan as much as I thought I would have to.” I asked her what she meant, and she said, “They gave me a scripted curriculum and scripted lesson plan book.”

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I obviously asked to see it because, for as much as I have heard about these things, I had never actually seen one or been taught with one.

Maybe I am just super naïve, but I could not believe it was literally scripted. It was honestly like reading a play.

Teacher: “Okay students, now what is the prepositional phrase in this sentence? (Write “In the woods, there was a wolf” on the board.)

Student: “In the woods”

I guess I don’t know what I thought a “scripted” instruction really meant. I thought maybe like a bulleted list of things to cover? Like a really massive to-do list? I don’t know. But I wasn’t expecting a full blown book of “how it should go” skits.

There were lessons 1 – 60 in this teaching “guidebook”; every ten lessons, there was a test.  There was also a worksheet book that went hand in hand with the lessons to give the students to reinforce the material being taught from the instructional guide.

In my tweet, I also said that there were pros and cons to seeing this script in front of me. I want to revise said tweet. I want to say there was “A” pro and lots of cons to seeing this script in front of me.

What is the one pro you ask? The minimized about of time spent planning your lesson. I mean the work is done for you right? Why am I even in college? Give it to any bum on the street that can read, and bam. You have a teacher.

But this is why this girl I went to visit is my friend and makes an excellent teacher. Despite the fact that she has a script to read from, she makes it her own. She speaks to the students in a conversational manner; not like a robot reading from a book. She DOES plan and adds more to her scripted lesson.

The biggest con was the lack of depth or breadth to the lesson. Talk about learning at a basic level….there was NO room for individual growth. It was strictly “teaching to the test” at its finest.

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She said that even though the target of her lesson matches the one that the book requires, she makes sure she doesn’t shut down creativity and provides them with lots of freedom. She went and grabbed the worksheet book that is supposed to go along with each lesson in the instructional guide, and she says “I have never touched this thing. I don’t go and make copies of the lessons. I don’t want to grade them and the kids don’t want to do them.”  High five, teacher lady.

This experience was followed by me reading Janet Allen’s “Potato Barrels, Animal Traps, Birth Control, and Unicorns.” The scripted instructional book had no teacher response for a student asking questions about the existence of unicorns or girls wondering how to avoid pregnancy. It didn’t have a teacher response for situations where students write about “thugging hard” or fighting people that “talk out the side of their necks.”

I seriously want so badly to have students ask me if they can research unicorns. Hell yeah you can, kid!

ImageThis is probably a pretty accurate anatomical description of a unicorn. Seriously though, this picture cracks me up hahahaha.

I guess I just can’t understand how anyone thought scripted instruction could be a good idea. Honestly, I am bit floored by the whole thing.

I encourage comments on this topic/blog.

Loaded Potatoes

What do we need to be doing in ELA classrooms? That’s a loaded question. Mmm, now I want a loaded potato. You know…with bacon bits, sour cream, cheese, chives…My mouth is watering.

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 According to this week’s reading, there is much to be done in any ELA classroom. One reading talked about the importance of motivation in the classroom. I agreed with the reading that in order to have a successful classroom, a teacher must first designate a meaningful task, which will then prompt students to become more motivated.

Thinking back on my high school education, there is nothing from any of my classes that I have kept. I threw away all math tests; I don’t have a single chemistry lab, and I definitely didn’t keep any reading journals or character logs. Sure I got them done, but was it because of motivation or because I knew my grade depended on it (and I cared about grades)? The kind of motivation that needs to be in ELA classrooms is the type of motivation that leads students to craving more. It must be challenging enough that the students use critical thinking and want to investigate it. It must be challenging enough that it doesn’t trump their abilities but motivates them to strive for their best.

I never did homework because I found the task quote “meaningful” unquote. I never motivated myself to go above and beyond the homework requirements. I want to motivate my students to never settle for my homework requirements; those are strictly minimums. I want their motivation to spark from the fact that I am assigning meaningful tasks.

Cheesy picture, but I dig it.

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“Everyone needs to be a work in progress.” –Reid Hoffman

We talk a lot about us, as teachers, failing. But the “Teaching for Joy and Justice” article got me thinking about our future students failing. There’s no reason to beat around the bush. It will happen; some of our students will fail.

A quote from that article was “Instead of telling him how beautiful his writing was, instead of finding what worked in his piece, I found every single thing that was wrong.” Too many of us have had teachers that line up our writing in the crosshairs of their weapon: the red pen. Instead of failing and focusing on the negative, we have the opportunity to praise our students for the better parts of their paper. They fail because we tell them they’re failing. We have the power to change that and use our red pen for good, not evil.

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By using our pen for evil, we create dependency. We create students like Tom in the article by Penny Kittle; students that will hand us their paper and say “I want you to tell me what you think! You’re the teacher!” By correcting the wrongs and not highlighting the “rights”, we create students who rely on our every word or mark of pen. Teachers are powerful creatures; we can promote independence by praising our students and guiding, not doing/correcting.

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Earlier in that same article, Kittle says “we write to be heard”. Students don’t want to be torn down because they missed a comma; they want to be uplifted for their creativity, big or small. I really related to this section of Kittle’s article. I definitely write to be heard. I share my blogs with my fiancé, Tyler, and make him read it. It’s even gotten to the point where I want to share my journal entries on my blog or with Tyler so someone else can hear what I have to write about. Students will not continue to write if we don’t listen to what they are writing about because we are so high and mighty with our little red pen, pointing out their flaws.

ImageAaaand one cat picture because I can….

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