Posted in Teaching

Don’t smile till November or is that May?


It is near the end…I can see it!  My students can see it as well.  I should say this is my face while doing my new course build.  It isn’t though, I am actually excited about this course.  It has been so long since I have gotten to teach Composition.

Anyway…the end is in sight.  As, I am coming to a close in this semester, as always I am reflective.  What worked, what didn’t.  Well, lots didn’t this time.  I feel like more didn’t than did.  Which, as a teacher isn’t always a bad thing.  Just because it didn’t work, does  not mean they didn’t learn something, it means that you have the chance to do it differently and make it better.

I am going to use writing.  I have never liked to teach outcome based writing.  Yet, that is what I have done all year.  Mostly because I thought, why not give it a shot.  I suck at it.  I know that and I am pretty sure they know that.  So, knowing that makes me know what I can change and how I can do it differently.  I teach development or basic writing.  How in the world am I going to teach process writing?  I don’t have that answer yet.  I will have it, and it is going to take some serious work and effort on my part.  That face above.  I bet I make it lots.

Do I feel like my students are writing better in spite of the fact that I suck at outcome based writing.  Yes, they are.  I know they are.  Am I maybe being to hard on myself?  Probably.  In teaching, you have to be patient with yourself and know when to push yourself harder.  In this case I need to push harder.

This profession is a double edged sword.  In spite of the fact that it exhausts me, I find myself through my profession.  This is what I do and who I am.  What drives me is my students.  The students who learn in spite of all the obstacles placed in their roads.  The students who want to learn, who want to be part of the what it is to be a college student.  The student-athlete who remembers that they are a student first.  The student who dares to dream.  That is what makes me come back for more.  That is what makes me smile in August and in April.

Posted in Teaching

Misfit students and teachers

It is a well known fact in some circles of education that students who have a positive, meaningful relationship with a teacher are more likely to be successful.  It is even more important for those relationships to happen if those students come from homes where there are not great family dynamics, or if they stuggle in school.

Teachers who provide students with positive relationship should not be the exception to the rule.  Teachers should not be told that they have to be strict disciplinarians in order to gain the respect of their students.  Have you ever walked into a classroom and wonder why that teacher doesn’t have to send that kid to the office all the time?  What are they doing differently?

The relationship they built with that student could be what they are doing differently. Again, I am going to use my “misfits.”  This group of kids was the group that spent more time in the office than the usually did in class.  Sometimes for silly things, sometimes not such silly things.  However, they had earned a not so hot reputation, and were on the fast track to not graduating high school if they didn’t do something different.  Many of them were in my drama, speech, and journalism programs.  Some of them just migrated into my room because it was a safe place.  Some of them were just in my English class.

These kids taught me just how important that empathetic relationship with a student is.  They needed an adult to see them for them, and love them anyway.  I called them on their bullshit and we established a pattern of respect.  They knew that I wasn’t going to let them quit on themselves or me.  They also knew I loved them.  Some of them went through the alternative program to graduate, and some graduated from the traditional program.   The point is they graduated.  Now they are productive members of society.

The point is, by forming those relationships with kids I didn’t have to discipline.  Instead, I got to teach more.  I got to watch them learn and find success.  That is worth everything to me.

Posted in Teaching

A lesson on Social Media…

We all have it in some form or another.  Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.  Yet, what are we as teachers doing, and parents, you are not even getting off the hook on this one, to teach our students how to be responsible users of it?  Are we?  How many teachers out there still work in school that bans cell phone use?

Why are we still in that era?  There are ways to teach our students to be responsible using technology.  If we fail to do so, they are also going to fail when it comes time for them to really be responsible using it.

Take this most recent example.  A student posts something on Twitter about a teacher.  Students think that it will never get back around the circle.  What students fail to realize is that circle is larger than they think.  They also fail to realize that social media is way more powerful than that want to believe.

Now students, parents, and teachers once something is out there, it is out there is cyberspace for good.  There are so many levels to the Internet and any hacker or PI worth their salt can find what they want.  Those naughty pictures you posted and didn’t think anyone would find after you deleted them, wrong…they exist somewhere out there.  Do you really want grandma to see that?

It is not only what you post, but when you choose to use your smartphone.  I am from a very unique generation.  I bridge the gap that didn’t ever have computers in school to having it in their hands.  I was a kid when computers came into schools.  I was out of college when Facebook came into existence (Thank goodness)!

We are not teaching our students to use it at appropriate times either.  We are either banning it or letting it run rampant.  It can’t be two extremes.  We have to find common ground.

Start by having a conversation with students.  Help them, use social media in your classes.  It will enable them to learn to use it well.

Posted in Teaching

Trying to fit in, and wondering why…

All of my career I have made a habit of trying not to fit into the establishment of teaching. Not because the traditional classroom is wrong or bad, but because it doesn’t work for me. It didn’t work for me as a student and it doesn’t work for me as a teacher.  So, in the last few months, I have begun to wonder a few things about myself now that I am teaching at the college level.

Yes, I have great academic freedom.  However, I am not using that to the best of my abilities.  I have become what I detest.  I have lectured more in the last two years, than I think I ever have in my life.  Who is the lady up here?  I know that students are not going to learn to read and write, by being told how.  Yet, I feel like that is what is expected of me at this level.

So, this week, I decided to pull of some of my old texts.  Sometimes, you need to go back to the goodies to get yourself back.  Why I am I teaching that the outcome of what you are writing is the most important?  I don’t think that.  Yes, it is important, but what about the process?  Why am I bleeding all over their papers?  Are they really reading those comments?  Bet not.  Who is this lady?

What happened to the lady that could come up with really cool lessons using books, and short stories?  Those were the ways to teach kids to read.  Not a dry dull text about how to read.

So now I have to decide, do I keep trying to fit in, or do I take my own little rocky path and be me.  I know how to do this and do it well.  I just have to do it.  Maybe my last experience has colored me in ways that I didn’t think were possible.

Maybe it scarred me so terribly that I am afraid to take those risks again.  Is that what education is coming to?  Making teachers in robots that do what they are told in the way that they are told?  I hope not.  So this is my hope for myself and others that have be scarred.  I hope that I can find myself and do it my way again.

Posted in Teaching

What is your label?

2015-12-01 18.24.34What would happen if we did away with labels? This morning I was teaching and we were talking about an article that I had assigned to read, and we were talking about people being happy being part of a group. As we were talking about this, the concept of labels came up.

Every single person is labeled. Every single student comes with a label. ADHD, SPD, ODD, HAL, gifted, middle of the road, athletes, basketball player, drama kid, and the list goes on. Teachers are guilty of looking at their roster in August and seeing “that student”. I dreaded faculty meetings where I had to hear about how so and so had “that kid” again. All I could ever think was, “maybe if you would have put in a little extra effort into seeing what was inside, you would have had some better luck.”

Just me who does that? No, I know better. There are thousands of teachers out there who go the extra little bit and get to know their kids, and I mean really get to know them. Get past what the outer cover looks like. Once teachers are willing to do this, our classrooms improve drastically.

However, teachers are willing to do this and we have administrators that do not want us to. We have great teachers who know how successful they can be and how successful their students can be, but principals who want to see the traditional “sit and get”.

For all that talk about 21st Century Learning, Cooperative Learning, and all the other new buzzwords; they do not really understand that all of that means nothing if students never have a meaningful connection.

Think about it. Go back to high school and middle school, well not really, middle school was awful. In your mind, think about the teachers that really made a difference in your world. They knew who you were, they talked to you, and it was about more than just English. They could talk to you about real world things and you listened. They gave you a voice as a person. Funny how that made all the difference in the world.

Often times, it was this same teacher who believed in you more than you believed in yourself. That teacher fought for you when you wouldn’t fight for yourself. Now, it is these teachers who are being forced out of our high school, or who are just leaving. They don’t label kids, they want them all to be great. In small, rural America we run into a problem. Only the “good” or certain kids are allowed to be great. We have to have a division of class.  It is that division that is causing students to quit on themselves.  Teachers can’t let that happen.

Labels. I have one. I am the teacher without a filter. I am the teacher who believes in all of my kids. If we want to have a future in education, this needs to be the direction was are all headed. We all need to believe and really believe, not just say we do.

Posted in Teaching

What I wish my students knew…

I know I am not the best teacher out there.  Some days, I am lucky to be awake up in front of them.  Some days, I have this amazing idea for a super awesome lesson, and it flops.  It flops like Shamu.  Usually that happens when your administrator walks into the room.  That never fails.  I am so glad that my first few years of teaching I had an administrator that had the ability to laugh with me and tell me to try again.  Most days, we fire on most of our cylinders and get things done.

What I want my  students to walk out of my room knowing is more than what I am standing up there attempting to teach.  Yes, they have to know cool things like how many sex jokes are in Romeo and Juliet.  But, I want them to learn some life lessons along the way too.

See, I know that great teachers don’t happen because they are great at teaching English.  Yes, that is part of it.  Great teachers happen because they care about kids.  All kids.  They happen because they love what they do.  Even when it doesn’t love them.  They love it even when the school board decides to terminate your contract.  They love it even when they have been awake all night worrying about that one student.  If you haven’t ever done that last one, just wait you will.

I wish my students knew how proud I am of them.  All of them.  Some of them have been given more lemons than high school kids should have ever been given.  They are some of the most amazing people I have had the chance to know and be inspired by.  Without our students, we are not teachers.  We are simply people with an empty classroom and a degree.  It is our students that make us teachers.

It is the students that challenge us that make us great teachers.  Those kids that not only challenge us to find new ways to teach things, but challenge us to open our minds and our hearts.  They make us great.  I want my students to know without them, I would never be a teacher, let alone a great one.

Most of all I want them to know that they are loved.  Even when they think they are unloveable, I love them.  Learning happens best when you take care of the basics.  Love them and they will learn.