My Next “Published” Draft

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It’s Monday. I’m at the tutoring center with all the homework I need done for most of the week completed. I tell myself that I am going to work on my next published draft for Special Methods because I am excited about it. I start planning out every page of my graphic novel. Then I decide suddenly that I don’t think it’s going to be a graphic novel because there isn’t going to be individual boxes with dialogue and plot. So, I’m like shoot, what is it going to be then. I decide maybe it could be a children’s book type of thing or just writing with pictures that go along with the words. So, I go about planning, and I thing about drawing my sister and myself because the beginning of my writing has to do with my mom reading to my sister and I. And….I realize I suck at drawing people. So, I’m pretty downhearted about the project now. I feel like maybe I should just do something easier even though I was genuinely excited about doing this project. When I get home, I think what if each page just represented the book in my life. I google and save a bunch of images, and before long I have spent 2 hours drawing and planning.

I was worried that it wasn’t great. Special methods changed my mind. I was pretty nervous to show Dr. Ellington and other people my drawings and plans. But everyone was so encouraging that I am SUPER excited about creating this book again. I feel like everyone is going to be so blown away by how awesome it looks after I have colored it and spent some time on it. I was so excited that I spent most of block class drawing like 10 more pages (I may not have paid enough attention to the class, oops!) I think this project will be a really great way to introduce the literate lives unit in my class because it shows how much books have meant to me, and it shows that I want my students to pursue their creativity in my class. If you want to create something like a children’s book, a graphic novel, or something that doesn’t even really fit into a genre, do it if you are excited about it! I am hoping to finish my rough sketches of each page within the next week or two. Then, I am going to perfect the words for each page. Finally, I am going to color it, and make it look awesome! And I am going to show it to you all, and hopefully you guys like it!

Regan and Jessica! Since I know you like Jodi Picoult: what could I draw that would kind of represent her books? I am bad at drawing people and all her front covers have people. I haven’t been able to think of something to use to represent her amazing books.

More stuffs/reflection on class:

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I really appreciated our discussion on grading, feedback, and assessment this past couple weeks. It has taken the stress out of the whole process to me. I now know that it is possible to encourage a love of literacy in my students while giving administrators (and everyone else) the grades they want from my classroom. I loved Kittle and Romano’s thoughts on grading. I know that feedback is going to take time. It’s going to be a lot harder to do feedback in a way that encourages students to keep writing than it would be to edit and correct their papers, but I think it is worth it. It is worth it to spend extra time giving feedback on my student’s writing if it is going to help them to see themselves as writers and maybe even learn to love writing. Spending time on students’ writing also gives me an insight on who they are as people. It lets me know what they like, what they excel at, and what they need to work on!

Update on my reading life:

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I am currently reading the second book to the 5th Wave series, The Infinite Sea. It’s from a different perspective than the first book (different perspectives since there is more than one perspective in both the books). Next, I am going to read How I Discovered Poetry by Marilyn Nelson which I am super excited for. Then, I am going to read Readicide by Kelly Gallagher, and I am pretty sure I am going to buy it after I read it (just from Dr. E’s description). I also have a book that I checked out from the library like a month and a half ago that I need to get to. I am excited to read Lighter than my Shadow by Katie Green when Regan is finished with it. I also bought three graphic novels that will be coming from Amazon soon: Pax by Sara Pennypackler drawn by Jon Klassen, Through the Woods by Emily Carroll (looks super creepy!), and Invisible Emmy by Terri Libenson. I want to read The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison and The Color Purple by Alice Walker, so if anyone has those books I would love to borrow them!

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Week 7 Reflection

I really enjoyed workshopping this week. It is such a privilege to be able to read other people’s writing. It’s like a glimpse into their soul. So, I want to start out by saying thank you to everyone who shared their writing with the class. I know that it isn’t always easy to share what you are writing, especially when it is personal. All the pieces we have read for the workshop have been so strong. I still feel like crying when I think about Kelly’s piece. Carlie shared a piece with us that showed her fear of growing old and losing her grandmother that I think we could all relate to (I cried while reading this one too). Bryce gave us the gift of a glimpse into a terrible first day in her life. Shaniya shared her childhood with us. Maryanne welcomed us to her literate life. Zane took us on a journey through the trails of his childhood with some beautiful writing. Ali showed us her safe place, and her growth as a writer. Timmi revealed how hard it is to be a student athlete to us.

It’s pieces of writing like these that make me remember why I want to be an English teacher. They make me remember why I love reading so dang much. I love seeing the world through someone else’s eyes; I love how much writing reveals about a person. If teaching my classroom in a nontraditional, workshop way, produces pieces as inspiring and revealing as the ones we produced in special methods within my own high school classroom; I will be beyond thrilled.

I never wrote creatively in high school. Not once. I mastered the five paragraph essay, and once or twice we were asked to write a descriptive essay about how our summer went or our favorite season (narrow topics always). My high school experience has had a huge role on how I think of myself as a writer now. I doubt my creative writing abilities, but if you give me a critical paper to write over a piece of literature, I can write it without thinking. I’m not saying it’s not important to be able to write critically about a book; it is important. But it is definitely not more important that allowing students to develop their voice, to express their opinions, and to see themselves as writers. I cannot wait to give my students the opportunity to write for their own purposes.

To this day whenever I am working with a student with their paper, all I want to do is edit their paper. It’s hard for me to change my mindset that workshopping is not the same as editing, and that editing does not really help a writer or their writing grow. It takes some training in the classroom to get students (even college students like me) to understand that workshopping is not editing. It takes some practice for a class to understand constructive criticism, and how to look at a piece of writing for its strengths rather than for its weaknesses.

I have been reading The 5th Wave all week. I love it. I can’t wait to watch the movie, and to read the rest of the books! I love how it is a different look at alien invasions than we usually see. I also love the romantic element because I’m a sucker for romantic books. I also read American Born Chinese this weekend, and I super love how it ends. I read American Born Chinese to my nephew and he loved it! It was the first book that I have read to him that he actually sat still for more than 10 minuets to listen to! He loved the colorful pictures. I also have been listening to Stephen King’s short stories, and I finished The Mist which was scary. Stephen King is seriously the most amazing writer ever. He has such realistic characters; he isn’t scared of portraying humanity. His characters are not the ideal human; they are real humans. I found two new graphic novels in the library too! I am about to start The Lunch Witch and the second book to The March series. I also bought Wonder which I have seen some people in class reading: what did you guys think of it? And I bought The Wonderling which has a pretty cover, and sounds very interesting. I am still working towards reading Stardust, Small Great Things, and another professional development book!

Blue is the Warmest Color, A Game for Swallows, and Pride in Baghdad

I already book talked these books in class, but I wanted to write a blog post about them too. The past two days was a sob fest for me as I finished these graphic novels. Blue is the Warmest Color hit me hard. It’s terribly sad. I loved the art work as I talked about in class. I loved the splashes of blue to emphasize how she fell in love with the blue color of her girlfriend’s hair. Blue is the Warmest Color is an amazing glimpse at the struggles homosexual teenagers face while trying to figure out their sexuality. The main character, Clementine, spends a lot of time denying her sexuality. Clementine cannot admit to herself that she like girls. It does not help that her friends cut her off after finding out that she is with a girl. Her girlfriend tries to open her eyes to the different kinds of love and the openness of love. Everything goes downhill when her parents kick her out of the house after finding the couple together. Clementine moves in with Emma, her girlfriend, but she still struggles with her own sexuality despite being happier than she ever has been. When they break up, Clementine spirals, and so ensues the sadness.

A Game for Swallows is a glimpse at the life of a family in Lebanon. Their entire block is split in two by sandbags for the citizens safety. People within the community have lost loved ones, and their sadness is tangible within the pictures and the text. They live their lives from cease-fire to cease-fire, simply trying to survive on the small amount of food and water that they have. Young men are required to take over their families. Children wait in anxiety when their parents do not come home within an hour from their grandmothers down the street. Yet, there is beauty and there is hope. They rely on each other. They find ways to have happiness. They cook, they sing, and they appreciate what they have. Everyone is family even if they are not blood. They work together and love each other.

Pride in Baghdad was an arrow in my heart. The graphic novel begins with four lions in a zoo. An older lion who lost an eye to a tragic event in the wild which is super brutal and almost made me cry in class; she does not want out of the zoo. She finds safety in the zoo. The cub has never seen the wild, but he is curious. His mother was brought to the zoo as a young, and she makes plans to try to escape the zoo. She idealizes the wild. The older, male lion lived part of his life in the wild. He tells stories of the horizon and the sunset. When bombs start going off, the lions are scared, but they are reassured that the zoo keepers have not left. However, when the zoo keepers leave, the lions realize they are in trouble. The bombs blow the lions to freedom, but now they struggle to find food. They explore the dens of the keepers and find wild animal pets. They struggle together, fight, and support each other. The ending is tragic. I do not want to reveal it because it is beautifully and terribly sad. Seriously, if you never listen to me another time about what you should read, listen to me about reading Pride of Baghdad. It is super relevant. I wish many Americans would read it, and realize there is another side to the war in Iraq other than the American side. Many Americans believe we are justified to bomb these different countries, and I believe this is because they do not fully understand the destruction we are causing.

My Journey to Teaching: Rollercoaster of Classes

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I did not come to Chadron State College expecting everything I thought about teaching to be thrown out the window. I expected to learn how to give grammar worksheets, grade papers, create essay questions, manage crazy teenagers, etc. I expected to learn how to traditionally teach a classroom. I did not expect to be asked to question beliefs that have been deeply engrained in our society such as the survival of the fittest in a capitalist society or that students learn through memorization and repetition. I did not expect to be asked to question how we learn in the classroom, or how we systematically, unconsciously oppress students who did not grow up in a certain way. I didn’t expect to question the structures of language, the creation of the literary canon, or my own privilege. But, I am so deeply grateful that I was expected to question society, education, and my own beliefs. I am grateful that I have been asked to grow and learn continually. I have been given the awesome insight that learning is endless.

Now, I believe that there are elements of our society and our education system that are incredibly oppressive. We are forcing people to fit into labels and to conform into little boxes. We do not allow creativity it seems. We punish those who cannot fit into our ideas of success or normality. My English classes make me so excited. I leave Special methods, and I am so excited to have my own classroom. I want to help my students start their journey to love learning and to love reading and writing. And I leave believing to my core that students want the opportunity to learn and to have their voices heard. I plan my classroom in my head. I see hard work from my students, but I also see valuable life experiences that will form lifelong readers, writers, and learners. I want my students to question the way things are. I want to ask of them what my college professors have asked of me: to check my privilege, to question what society expects of each individual, and to love learning. I strongly believe that this is how we create beneficial citizens. Why would we want everyone to conform? Why do we ask so little of our students? I do not want to live in a world of robots who cannot form their own thoughts, who only think what they were raised to think.

I leave my education courses with a fire of passion. Heck, I’m not going to lie, I’ve been leaving block downright angry the last few days. Angry that people cannot see what we have been taught in our English courses. Angry that I cannot express how wrong our education system is to those who do not fit into society’s neat little labels of humanity. I get down. I tell myself that I know what I have been taught is right. Sometimes I tell myself that it would be easier just to teach how everyone wants me to teach. I know we are up against years of traditional teaching. We are fighting against the way things have always been, and people hate change. They hate things that are different. I think the fight is worth it. I do not know how prepared I am to justify how I want to teach, but I know that what I have learned these past three years in college is right. I’m so passionate about how I want to teach that it makes it hard for me to argue for what is right in my classroom. I get red. I get angry. I get loud. And I know this is wrong. I know I need to stay level-headed. I get flustered. How do I explain three years of knowledge in a few short sentences? How do I defend everything that is against what people have been taught to see as right? I am being taught completely different things in my classes. And I have resigned to just jump through hoops in block, but I keep being asked to explain my beliefs.

Relish, Doll’s Bones, and Thornhill

I love graphic novels! I am IN LOVE with graphic novels! Relish by Lucy Knisley made me so hungry. Doll’s Bones, though it isn’t necessarily a graphic novel, had some creepy pictures within the amazing story. Finally, buying Thornhill was a win! I am definitely going to get each of these novels for my classroom. I know some of my students will love them. I can also see how reading portions of these stories in the classroom could be useful. Graphic novels will appeal both to visual learners and to artistically inclined students in our classroom. But, also, I think all students will like graphic novels because it is a refreshing break from the “boring” typical book they are forced to read.

A portion of Relish could be read, and I believe students would have writing ideas from having been read Relish. I think students would want to read Relish for themselves. Writing craft can also be taught from Relish. Students could discuss how sensory details can add to a story, and they can practice sensory detail in their own writing. Or Relish can be used to show how memoirs can take different forms. Students could practice focusing their memoir writing off one significant portion of their childhood and life. I had ideas for my own writing after reading Relish. Books have always been a part of my life. Using inspiration from Relish, I wrote in my writer’s notebook about creating a graphic novel memoir of my life through books from childhood to now, and how books have shaped who I am (if you guys want to steal this idea, do it because I am proud of it. I think all of us could probably produce this idea and it would be amazingly unique to all of us).

Doll’s Bones has a lot of relevant information. It could be an introduction into a horror unit. It can be a conversation starter about whether play is important in life, and whether our students are too old to engage in play. We could ask our students to describe an adventure they have had in their lives with their friends. Thornhill could also be an introduction into a horror unit. It can be shown to emphasis how art does not have to follow certain limits. Thornhill does not fit a certain genre. It’s a novel, it’s epistolary, and it’s a graphic story! It’s everything, and it’s so amazing! Seriously, snatch it Regan once she is done reading it because it is a fun and easy read!

Professional Development Book Review #1

“In a workshop setting, a truly successful teacher strives to become unnecessary”

I have read several professional development books on workshops within the elementary and middle school classroom. It is not so easy to find workshop books that address the secondary classroom. While Elbow, Atwell, and Calkins all address how workshop strategies can work for a secondary classroom, I wanted to read a book that strictly talked about work-shopping in the secondary classroom, so I chose Richard Bullock’s Why Workshop: Changing Course in 7-12 English. 

Bullock began the book with some points that I have already heard many times, but that are good to be reminded of again: we are in the business of teaching kids HOW to learn in an ever evolving world not shoving information into their heads for them to forget within a year, effective teachers are readers and writers who model these behaviors to their students, effective teachers are continually learned and adapting their practices, and ALL writing is creative.

The writing workshop needs to be structured in a way that students are willing to take risks and find themselves. I liked Bullock’s comparison between workshop teaching and traditional teaching. I also liked how Bullock emphasized students being able to have a say in their learning, and being able to have choices in the classroom. Assessment in the workshop should be done for learning not of learning. We should never tear apart a student’s draft without giving them positive feedback or a chance to grow. Too often, teachers will turn back a paper with red all over it, and they won’t even give students the chance to fit their errors or improve their writing.

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Bullock brilliantly provides different sections from different secondary teachers who decided to try work-shopping in their classroom. It made me feel better that these experienced teachers were nervous about implementing a workshop in their classroom. Most of the teachers in the examples had troubles giving up control in the classroom by giving their students so many choices and freedoms. Sherri S. Hall states, “Control isn’t power. Power is creating an arena where learning can take place and letting it happen” (21). Sherri S. Hall lost power in the traditional sense in the classroom; she gained a relationship with her students. Her students were interested in reading and writing. Her classroom was messy, but exciting.

I learned from Why Workshop something that I probably already knew deep down: students are more excited about positive feedback from their peers than they are about positive feedback from their teacher, and students are more receptive to constructive criticism from their peers than they are from their teacher (despite what we want them to think, they believe their teacher is just telling them they are not good at what they are doing. In contrast, their peers are trying to help them). Nothing is going to get our students more excited about writing and reading than when their peers are excited about their writing or about a certain book. Allowing students to do pair-shares or having read-alouds in the classroom gives students an audience they are excited to write to; they care more about how and what they are writing when they have an audience.

The last section of Why Workshop addresses those students in the workshop who simply will not participate or are disruptive. In my opinion, the reason behind a lot of these problems in the classrooms are problems with our education system: “How many students decided long before they hit middle school that it was easier not to ‘do school’ [try their hardest] and risk failure than to keep working at it — and risk failure anyway?” (92). By the time students get to us, they have learned that they get the same grade if they do not finish a task as they do if they try their very hardest at a task and do not understand the conventions of the task. We have emphasized product over process and performance for so long in our schools that students have been conditioned to think that it is sometimes easier to just not try than it is to try their hardest and be beat down with a bad grade anyway.

I really enjoyed Why Workshop by Richard Bullock. I feel like I barely scratched the surface of what he tackles in the book within this blog. He provides a lot of resources at the end of the book including mini-lesson ideas and organization, a letter to parents about the workshop, and en example of expectations for a writing/reading workshop. Peer conferencing, picture books, classroom management, and providing students with a chance to explore their identities are all addressed. I really enjoyed getting examples of secondary teachers who switched from the traditional classroom to the workshop classroom. I feel like college has been training not to look at one way of running a classroom as the right way, and it has taught me that many of the methods we use to teach in our school today are not helpful to students. If teachers who have been teaching traditionally for decades can change to a workshop setting, then I can make a workshop setting work in my classroom since I have gotten three years of learning about workshops under my belt already.

 

 

Education: “Outdated, Unexamined, and rooted in Folklore”

Holy crap, these TEDtalks were awesome. They went hand in hand in my mind. The students in Sugata Mitra’s TEDtalk, “The Child-Driven Education,” did so well in the impossible tasks he assigned because they were given the motivation elements Daniel Pink discussed in his TEDtalk, “The Puzzle of Motivation.” They were given autonomy like to the extreme that we would cringe at if we were traditional teachers. Mitra gave them resources and let them figure things out with their peers and in their own ways. The autonomy Mitra gave these students gave them purpose; they had a role in their own learning. The technology Mitra gave them also gave them a real world purpose. Computers are a part of every day life now. Often, when we give students the task of reading out of a textbook they are thinking I would never do this, I would just google it. The purpose and autonomy Mitra gave these students encouraged them to want to master the subjects they were given; this is why students continued to google the subjects after they were given the test, and why they did better on the test after time had passed.

Through-out both of these TEDtalks, I found myself thinking well, this is common sense, and to my core I think it is. But, we do not do this in schools. Schools are run schools like businesses. Schools rely on punishments and rewards. Our country insists on accountability. Our schools are run in ways that are simply, as Daniel Pinks puts it, “Outdated, unexamined, and rooted in folklore.”  Our schools teach certain ways because that’s the way it’s always been done without even looking at the results of their methods or researching better methods.

We are the generation of teachers that changes these outdated practices. Our classroom wills run based on intrinsic motivation where we allow students choices in their own education, where we encourage mastery rather than proficiency, and where we gives education that has a purpose outside the school. We need to teach children how to learn not just shovel information into their heads. It is very evident from Mitra’s TEDtalk that students want to learn, and that they honestly do not even really need our help learning in this technological world. We need to encourage the use of resources in our classroom. Learning is more purposeful when students find the answers to problems themselves. It is more purposeful when students can use resources including cooperation; in fact, I honestly do not understand why we makes our schools so competitive. Why do we punish children for working together? We are learning now to do the grandmother method. We are learning to promote autonomy, mastery, and purpose in the classroom. Even though I’m scared to death of actually being a teacher and all it entails, I am confident that we will all do a better job than our schools do now.