Wednesday, May 24, 2017

May I Introduce You To...

The Future Teachers from Cheney High School
(and some still considering...)

I have mentioned before (here) that I have the privilege of teaching the introductory course for the Teaching and Training Pathway at Cheney High School.  The class is called "Teaching as a Career" or many times as I refer to it as my "future teachers."

I LOVE this class.  And these students.

This class has been insanely hard to prepare for as a teacher.  There is SO MUCH to learn about teaching, how do you narrow it down?  Where do you start?  How much "teaching" should they do? Where do you go observe?  How often do you observe?  What should the final look like? How do you teach it?  How do you take the material from a college level textbook (that expects the class to be "sit and get") and create lessons that reflect best teaching practices?

I have enjoyed spending the last year getting to know these eight high school students.  Their personalities say so much about what their classrooms will look like someday (IF they choose teaching...there are still a few "undecideds")

After spending the year with them and watching their opinions about school and education develop, I wanted to make them something, something that would show them what I SEE IN THEM and what they could do with their classrooms someday.

So I started writing.  I created an "Inspirational-Educational saying" that was based on each student and what topics, theories and ideas they seemed to latch onto.  And then I went to one of my favorite classroom tech tools...Adobe Spark and created these.

She has mentioned many times this year that students should have a choice and a voice as to what goes on in the classroom.  Whether it's flexible seating, the assignment the complete, or just voicing their opinion in a class discussion.  As my only Senior, I hope her dream classroom comes true!

This young lady, was my youngest in the class, as a Sophomore, she was adamant that teachers be respectful of students as they require respect from their classes.  She will make sure that she never calls out a student's mistake in front of the class.  Such wise advice for us all!

I expect this lady's classroom to be filled with bright colors and creative activities that make students want to be in her classroom, instead of "have to be" there.  She is one of the most creative thinkers I have met and I can't wait to see what she does!

God Bless her.  She wants the "littles."  Kindergarten.  And she will be great at it! She really seemed to take a liking to the Multiple Intelligence theory and loves the idea of coming up with various ways for students to learn and interact with content.  As my oldest heads off to Kindergarten in August, I hope her teacher possess these same interests!

In case you missed the reference...she's a Star Wars fan.  I just see her connecting with her students on a whole different level.  And being one of my only two students who were considering secondary education, she will be able to make her classroom a part of her personality.  Students will know who she is from walking into the room!

I think, out of all the students in my class this year, this young lady surprised me the most.  She came in, a little unsure of her path.  She is leaving my class this year confident and strong.  She has mentioned many times how she was inspired by teachers, so she wants to inspire the students in her classroom.  I have no doubt that she will.

Goal oriented, strong leadership skills, and striving for perfection are qualities that Ms. Campbell possess. She doesn't just want to be a good teacher, she wants to be great.  I am positive that whatever goals she sets for herself, both professionally and personally, will be met, if not exceeded!

This young man will be successful at whatever he chooses to do.  Strong in people skills and many talents, he struggles knowing which career path is the best for him. I, however have a feeling, deep in my gut, that he is meant to be in education.  IF he does choose teaching...his classroom will be an active one. He despises the "sit and get" methods of instruction, and will create the classroom he would have learned best in as a student. The current trends in education are just perfect for someone like him.

As the year closes and these students walk out of my door, many head to the internship phase of the education pathway.  I see them as eventual colleagues, and hope that they come knocking at my door when they get the keys to their classrooms, wanting to chat about all things teaching!

Good luck and inspire many.

Friday, May 12, 2017

The Power of Positivity!

Wanna know a secret?

Everyone WANTS to love their job.

Unfortunately, some don't.  One question that I seem to keep running into on Twitter chats, especially the chats with a topic for new teachers or future teachers, is "What do you do when you encounter a colleague who is continually negative?"

This is a legitimate question, because it's reality.  There are teachers, principals, counselors, and students who are struggling daily with the challenges of school.  Those challenges look different to different people, and some just can't seem to get out of the rut.

I'm not talking about the encounter with a teacher who was just involved in a frustrating situation and needs to blow off a little steam.  That's venting.  We all need to vent.  Usually after voicing our frustration, taking some time to reflect, we calm down and move on.  I'm talking more about those who just always find something wrong with every situation.  The chronic complainers.  You know who they are.  Maybe it's you.

My answer to this question of "how to deal with the complainers," is the same every time.

Stay positive.  

Listen, offer support, but always...stay positive.  Because you can't force someone to see the positive side of education.  You can force someone to stop complaining...they'll just complain about being forced into it.  And you can't force someone to love their job.  But if you stay positive, smile, and let the love you have for your job radiate out of you... it's attractive and contagious.

You see...everyone WANTS to LOVE their job.

Eventually those who are struggling and frustrated will start to wonder WHY you always look so happy?  Why you are able to stay positive?  And HOW you do it??

And then they come to you.

They'll ask for your advice.  It may sound a little like...

What can I do to feel better about my classroom?
I wish I knew how to feel motivated about my classroom...
You're always happy, how do you do it?

And now you have the opportunity to help someone find a passion for their job.  This is powerful.  Don't shy away from it.  We need positive leaders of the school to be willing to share what works for them, what motivates them, and how WE GOT HERE.  Was it Twitter?  Was it developing a PLN? Was it getting to know your students more? Whatever it is...share it.

Because if something is going to spread through a should be positive.  Never under-estimate the power of POSITIVITY.  It is contagious and it can be just the thing you, your colleagues, or your school needs.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Power of the Ripple Effect

It seems appropriate for this post today.  National Teacher Day.  The power of influence a teacher has is hard to really fathom.  Today I'd like to dedicate this post to the most inspirational teachers I have had.

I don't do this to embarrass them in any way.  It's more so that they have the opportunity to see the ripple effect that they started so many years ago, when I sat in their classrooms.  You see, we talk about the "ripple effect" that a teacher has, and how inspiring one student can be a spark that may change the world.  But many times teachers don't actually get to see it.

Mr. Bart Kulhman, Mr. Chris Varvel, and Mrs. Sally Gates Donahue (may she rest in peace...) this post is for you.

It should come as no surprise to many of my classmates that I became a social studies teacher, when all three of the above mentioned educators were my social studies teachers in high school.

I first encountered Mrs. Donahue as a wide-eyed (and VERY nervous) Freshman.  I had heard the rumors of her class and the copious notes you would take.  In fact, I'm sure she mentioned that on the first day, using that word, "copious."  It quickly became a part of my vocabulary as I honed in on my method for note-taking.  Don't get the wrong idea here...she didn't just lecture.  Her class was the first time I can remember actively learning about history.  She taught World History.  Some of my favorite memories of her class involve studying Islam and having to cover myself with a sheet while sitting on the floor in the back of the room and her love for Alexander the Great.

Mr. Varvel opened a whole new world to me my Junior year with his National/International, current events class.  I can remember sitting in his class, watching the news, debating controversial topics with my classmates, playing the weekly current event quiz game, and producing our Year in Review project.  I sat in the front row as we watched the controversy unfold over the "hanging chad" of the 2000 election, I knew all of the countries that belonged to OPEC and their leaders, and first learned to develop opinions different from my parents and peers.  While I was away at college, I watched the events of September 11th unfold and so desperately wanted to be in his class, that I called him from my dorm room that night, just to talk about it.  What I wouldn't give to be teaching in the same building as him.

I was lucky enough to have Mr. Kuhlman for Junior American History and Senior Government.  His energy and love for the subject was contagious.  The first day of school our Junior year found us digging in boxes of dirt to discover the various eras of American History we would be talking about throughout the year (which was inspiration for my archaeology project we did this year).  One day he ran full-speed into the cinder-block wall just to hook us into his discussion on World War One.  Did I say he was high energy?  Our Senior year, we created a working government throughout the different classes.  Each class period helped run a presidential campaign, whichever class had the winning candidate became the executive branch (President, VP, and Cabinet), one class the Senate, and one the House of Representatives.  We had to pass laws, override vetos, and balance a budget.  There was some seriously powerful learning happening in that classroom.  So much so, that I can honestly say when I creep on my fellow classmate's Facebook pages, I am proud to say we have many who are actively involved in civics and politics today.

These three teachers, unknowingly at that time, instilled a love for history, government, and current events.  I knew that I would be a teacher, but I started out wanting elementary education.  After about a week observing in a 4th grade classroom (just a couple years into NCLB) I realized that my love for the social sciences would never get to be put into action in the elementary grades.  I decided to change to secondary education, social science and never looked back.

Together, these power-house educators helped inspire me to be the teacher I am today.  As I finish my 11th year as a middle school social studies teacher, I am just now starting to see the ripple effect continue from my classroom.  I have had three student teachers in the last three years and one who was sitting in my very first 8th grade classroom.  Who knows how many ripples will come from these new teachers.

All starting from Mrs. Donahue, Mr. Varvel, and Mr. Kuhlman at Burlington High School.  The ripple effect and influence that you three have had on your students continues today and will continue for year and years to come.

Thank you.