Grading Time!

Grading. That dreaded word. Forget grading my students, I cannot even grade myself! I mean, first off, am I supposed to grade according to this scale:

Because, I mean, I give myself an A. 🙂

Or should I just pull the Super Senior card like this little guy:

I mean, I could even just do this type of grading where, no matter what, every single option is a good option:

In all seriousness, I really do not know what grade to give myself. I am now following four times the amount of people on Twitter than I did previously. This is also the most blogs I have ever done for any class. Most of the time, I give up not even halfway through. This time, however, I wanted to blog and had to keep reminding myself to. I also enjoyed reading my classmate’s blogs because they were all so good! I learned even more from them!

I also read four professional development books. This may not seem like a whole lot, but for me it is. This is because I never really have time to read what I want to read! However, I made time to read these books and I really feel like they have helped me understand how I want to teach.

And then there was the NCTE conference. This is where I really feel like I learned the most. I got to apply everything I had been reading all semester and meet the people who wrote the readings. That does not happen in pretty much any class. I never met the authors of my history or math textbooks. Therefore, this conference really made me realize how much I really want to be a teacher and why I even wanted to be a teacher in the first place.

I also believe that I will continue using my writer’s notebook. My writer’s notebook is a good place for me to just write without having to worry about anything else or anyone else reading what I am writing. Growing up, I always had notebooks full of incomplete stories and I think the writer’s notebook is only the most logical next step. 🙂

Basically, I have no idea what grade to give myself. However, I guess I would give myself a passing grade. This is because I feel like I have learned a lot not only from readings but from my classmates as well. Our class discussions really helped the three hour class period go by and these discussions led to some very enlightening ideas. I am going to miss this class and everyone in it because of how much I have learned from them. I am glad that I once again realize how much I want to teach. I do not know how to grade myself so I can only grade based on how much I have learned. And if I grade on that idea, I would say an A because I have learned an exorbitant amount in such a short time. I cannot wait to begin my adventure. 🙂

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Teaching Energy

Here’s my final blog in response to readings I have done in my English Methods class. Cue tears.

This section of readings was called “Being and Becoming” and I feel like these readings really tied everything up. There were blogs about handling difficult students, not burning out, dealing with pessimistic people, and engaging students in today’s classrooms. All of these things were what we have been talking about throughout the year. I focused on four of these readings.

The first one was about the difficult kids in the classroom. First off, I liked this post because the whole blog is titled “Gatsby in LA” and that made me laugh. The blog is at this website http://gatsbyinla.wordpress.com/2013/09/26/the-kid-i-didnt-kill/. What I found interesting about this was that the difficult kid is the one I am waiting to have when I am a teacher. I feel like this post is true to how teachers feel and how some students can cause such conflicting emotions. I am excited for these students and I am also nervous. I view difficult students like this:

The other two readings I read were about not burning out and retaining the energy to teach. I have heard so much about teacher burnout that I am determined to not allow myself to. I would like to teach for more than three to five years. I feel like most of the time, I would be like this:

In Donald Graves’s The Energy to Teach, he has six principles: 1) We are in charge of our energy, 2) It takes energy to get energy, 3) Find energy in what you do well and practice it, 3) Find energy in your students, 4)  Find energy in colleagues, 5) Find energy in curriculum, and 6) Find energy in being assertive–ask questions. These coincide with the other reading about not burning out at http://pursuingcontext.com/blog/2013/11/how-to-be-a-teacher-for-more-than-5-years-without-killing-yourself-or-others. These pointers are ways to help me not burn out and I liked reading about them. And, just because I can, I am putting this picture on here: 

Basically, what I have gleaned from this is to find energy in everything around me. I also need to have a life outside of the classroom. I believe I can do this if I just take some “me time” every now and then to refresh.

My favorite line in the engaging students in this century from http://the21stcenturyprincipal.blogspot.com/2013/08/6-practices-for-creating-21st-century.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+The21stCenturyPrincipal+%28The+21st+Century+Principal%29. Number 4 on this blog is:

Accept that real student engagement and student learning is most often messy and chaotic.

I feel like a lot of people do not fully understand this. I am basically an organized chaos type of person and therefore, having a chaotic classroom should not really bother me.

After all of these readings, I am looking forward to student teaching and putting into practice the things I have been reading about all year long. I will probably never be fully ready but I am ready to begin my teaching adventure. I am also really excited to begin student teaching come January. I. Cannot. Wait.

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Nancy Atwell and Linda Rief

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Hey it’s Nancy Atwell and Linda Rief (both at the podium)! These two discussed poetry and memoir and their importance in the classroom to teach writing. Nancy Atwell gave some pointers about poetry.

  1. Tap the Power of “I”
  2. Beware the Participle
  3. Sensory Diction: Beware of Adverbs
  4. Conclude with a Purpose

She also stressed the importance of “writing off the page” which is taking notes on the side of the page while writing a poem. She also said “Don’t think on air, think on paper.” I thought all of these points were important because I am not very good at writing poetry. Therefore, these pointers were essential to helping me teach poetry.

My favorite part of Linda Rief’s presentation was her story about her asking “What is the benchmark?” The confusion of the other people where they could not give her a straight answer was very amusing. I know of a class where I should have asked that same exact question. She also talked about choosing persuasive topics out of their personal narratives and things they care about most. She posed the question “why tell them what to write when they are curious about things themselves?

The question, for me, which arose out of this session was:

Why are facts and data more important than the actual student?

I feel like that will eternally be my question throughout teaching. This is also something I would like to keep in mind for as long as I am a teacher so that I do not forget that I am there to teach students and people not robots and statistics.

Oh, and here is a picture of Laura and I with Nancy Atwell! 🙂

Nancy Atwell

(Courtesy of Laura Martinovich)

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Penny Kittle and Kelly Gallagher

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Look! It’s Penny Kittle and Kelly Gallagher! I read Kelly Gallagher for my presentation in English Methods class so I was excited to actually see and hear from him in person. And, of course, we have been reading Penny Kittle all year so that was equally as exciting.

Penny Kittle said to:

  1. Build reading lives
  2. Practice daily writing
  3. Study text and have mentors in classroom
  4. Write with the students
  5. Conference with students

Kelly Gallagher said to:

  1. Show them what the final piece looks like with samples/examples
  2. Stand by someone who knows how
  3. Show how to move into meaningful revision

Give the students a purpose to look for while reading to help them know what to focus on. Some of my favorite quotes from Kelly Gallagher were:

“You can break the rules if you understand them.”

“Can’t revise if they are not writers or readers.”

Listening to these two people was very helpful in connecting ideas to what I have been reading and learning about all year. What they had to share at the conference was valuable to how I eventually want to teach my students to read and write. Therefore, I enjoyed hearing them even though I (one again) had to sit on the floor in order to be in the room. 🙂

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Authors and Their Censored Novels

This might have been my favorite session of the whole conference: Great Censored Novels. What I found most interesting about this session were the four authors who talked about the censorship of their novels. These authors were Ellen Hopkins, Nancy Garden, Lauren Myracle, and Chris Crutcher.

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(From left: Nancy Garden, Ellen Hopkins, Chris Crutcher, and Lauren Myracle)

Here are some of Ellen Hopkins’s books:

And Nancy Garden:

Lauren Myracle:

Finally, Chris Crutcher:

Ellen Hopkins discussed how “we all live in rooms of fear” and that because of this fear, we challenge books. She said that “our job is to open that door” and that her job is “to expose the truth to dissipate the darkness” and “challenge the belief that books are evil messengers.” It was sentences like these that made me realize how great of an author she really is. I know that a lot of students were reading her books in my observations of the 8th grade classroom. I appreciated how she did not care that people wanted to ban her books because she is there to help students who are curious about such things as drugs read about drugs instead of try them themselves. I agree that it is better to read about these things than experiment them in real life.

I also really loved Chris Crutcher’s speech. Not only did he start out by saying just the F word, he also said that censorship is “stealing your life,stealing your career, and killing creativity.” He also joked about how people say that “teenage sexuality is an adult issue” by retorting that “adult sexuality is an adult issue.” Though I have never read any of his books, I really enjoyed his conviction and his humor.

I also got the chance to talk to the author of Shine, Lauren Myracle. I received a free lesson plan on how to teach her novel in the classroom by pairing it with To Kill a Mockingbird. The teacher who created the lesson plan also shared with our table that she was told that if she taught this book, she would be fired. So, she find an ally willing to teach the book with her and be on her side. Then, she created a lesson plan and taught the book anyway. I loved how she stuck to her convictions and ended up not getting fired. The one piece of wisdom she shared with us was to find an ally because two people create a more united front.

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Holocaust Session

The funny thing about this session is that I practically stumbled into it. I was trying to go to another session right next door but (not surprisingly) the line for that session was out the door. I was about to walk the other way until I happened to glance into the next room and see a video playing. I recognized the pictures as pictures from the Holocaust. And since I am strangely interested in the Holocaust, I walked into the session.

Not only did I get free lesson ideas about how to teach the Holocaust, I also learned about thousands of survivor testimonies on the ushmm.org website (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum). The testimonies were interesting because there was testimony from German citizens during the Holocaust and not just from the survivors of the Holocaust. I think these citizens represent the other side of the Holocaust which is how people can be so blind to atrocities happening so close to where they live. I think these videos are a real eye-opener not only for students but for myself as well.

Some of the quotes I wrote down from this session were from the teachers attending the session with me. When asked how they felt about presenting sensitive aspects of the Holocaust, a couple of teachers responding with:

“At what point do you accept something’s there and when do you become indifferent? I would like my students to evaluate that question.”

“We want to protect our students so much that we create the indifference [to the Holocaust] because of a lack of knowledge.”

What I took away from this session was the more students understand the Holocaust, the more they will connect with the subject matter. I do not believe in ignoring the past to protect students. They need to understand that things like the Holocaust can happen and that they can stop these things from happening again if they can realize and recognize the signs.

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Round-table Discussion

I was a little skeptical about attending round-table discussions but after this session I kind of liked them. The main reason I enjoyed this particular round-table was because I got the chance to listen to multiple teachers and authors instead of just one. The authors in this round-table who I got to listen to were: Teri Lesesne (Professor Nana), Cindy Maric, Kellee Moye, Katherine Sokolowski, Colby Sharpe, and Jennifer Holm.

Donalyn Miller was the moderator of the entire discussion (which was awesome!) and she started by sharing the 8 conditions of learning.

  1. Immersion
  2. Expectations
  3. Demonstrations
  4. Responsibility
  5. Employment
  6. Approximations
  7. Response
  8. Engagement

The main focus of this discussion was condition number eight: Engagement. One of the statistics Kellee Moye shared was that “90% of 7th and 8th graders never read.” I found that statistic to be depressing enough to write down in my writer’s notebook. Kellee Moye also shared how she created her own classroom library. She said in order to start a library you should: 1) Use Scholastic book orders, 2) Scholastic Warehouse, 3) Ask parents if they have any books they would be willing to donate, 4) Ask your school for classroom library supplies in a proposal, and 5) Sign up for ARC’s (Advanced Reader Copies).

Another thing I wrote down came from Colby Sharp and Jennifer Holm where he told us to find authors to Skype with students for free. He said he has an entire list on his website. He also had a fun idea to have students tween authors. If the authors reply, he suggested framing the author response tweets and giving that to the student. Students will be more willing to read if they can interact with the actual author of the books they are reading. I thought that that was a wonderful idea.

This session had so many great ideas but I just chose a couple I really liked. If you want to know more, all of the presentations from this session are on the website: nerdybookclub.com.

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