Sunday, November 23, 2014

Case Study Roadblocks and Learnings

I enjoyed researching and working on this case study. One of the most challenging, yet interesting parts of my research was the required emphasis on student strengths. I found it challenging to not allow myself to focus on a "problem" that the student appeared to be having. This felt really against the grain for me. I feel like I've been trained to look for problems and come up with solutions. It was hard not to look for deficiencies and immediately attempt to find "solutions." The research for this case study was much more like a puzzle with lots of pieces that didn't appear to fit together at first sight. Some pieces seemed too big or misshapen. I'm used to dumping all of the puzzle pieces on the floor and being able to quickly fit them together. I'm used to forming quick conclusions about people and about students. I think this has become the norm within the world of education, a norm born out of a lack of time and training. It's also a culturally accepted norm. Our sloppy thinking allows for snap judgements that go unquestioned. I don't think I can fully explain how frequently I make judgements and assumptions based on a single observation.

Stepping outside of this deeply engrained habit was one of the most challenging, yet revelatory assignments I have yet to receive throughout my educational career. The process of forcing myself to choose a more critical lens made me a more conscientious and thoughtful teacher. It has also made me a more conscientious and thoughtful learner. It's like a form of mind control, exercise for the brain. I remember one night in class where I was writing my observations on the whiteboard and immediately jumping to conclusions about these observations. It took a few minutes for me to realize that I needed to step back and analyze the data, that I still was skipping this step. I needed to ask more questions.  I was able to realize this without being told to do so. Dr. Horwitz was observing and she asked me why I decided to go back and add more questions and analysis. I told her that "smart people ask questions." She immediately said "yes, and good researchers ask questions."

Through these struggles I learned how to be a better researcher and how to ask better questions. I learned that I don't always have the answer (even if I think I do). Answers and conclusions take time. I learned that I must give everything (and everyone) time to truly be revealed. Wisdom is not born out of snap judgements, but out of patience and tenacity. This is a never ending lesson for me, one that I will need to very conscientiously go back to. It's kind of like forming a new habit. I'm on my way, but there is always more work to be done.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

A Letter to Hannah Tessitore

November 01, 2014

Dear Ms. Tessitore,

Your presentation “Girls Gone Wired: Encouraging Computer Programming Exploration in Young Women,” was one of the most motivating and interesting professional development presentations I’ve ever attended.  You really shed light on an incredibly important topic in our tech-centered society. I never realized the extent to which girls and women are underrepresented in the fields of computer programming and web design. Furthermore, I never realized how systemic this problem is. Although I’ve learned about the problems associated with gender specific toys such as dolls and baking kits, I never considered the lack of STEM specific toys meant for girls. Perhaps even more disheartening than the lack of educational toys meant for girls was your presentation and scrutiny of the few toys that do exist (such as girls’ Legos). I never realized the discrepancies within toys that are meant to provide gender equality.  Your presentation made me realize that what we think of as “equalizing” toys do nothing to even the playing field, despite being marketed this way. There is a hidden curriculum within the marketing of toys for boys and girls, even toys that we may think of as “progressive.”
It is clear that progress is the key word here. How do we make progress when it comes to girls in the math, science and technology fields? How do we dismantle the myths that keep girls out in the margins of engineering? Do we overcompensate by advertising for “Code and Pinot” nights? Should programming websites be developed to specifically entice young girls? Is it too late for girls to get involved? These are all excellent questions posed in today’s seminar, and I liked that you stood up and said “no” to each of them. The answer is not in the feminization of coding and computer science. The answer is in the humanization and equalization of these fields. This means that the field itself needs to change in the way of becoming more gender neutral. I am confident that over time we will see significant changes occur and barriers broken down, especially as more parents, educators and community members (like you!) encourage girls to question the status quo.
I appreciate your advice for some practical applications of your presentation. I plan on bringing this information to the after school program director where I work and asking to start a programming club with the user friendly websites you provided. Despite knowing nothing about programming myself, I think it is incredibly valuable and important for the girls of this nation to have fair and equal access to these opportunities. Your message was refreshing. You made me feel empowered and capable of sharing the very little bit I know about programming with my students and seeing the path that it will lead them down. Just a small spark of knowledge can lead to a lifetime of interest and career options. Thank you for your inspirational presentation.

Brittany DeMelo

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Chapter 7: Racial Identity Development

Chapter 7 was a challenging chapter for me. I highlighted and took notes on so much of what was included in these thirty pages, and I'm not sure that I understand everything fully. There are a few key points that I think are really important:

1. "Racial identity development is not just for people of color" (Pg123)
2. "Race is a social construction. It was created largely to divide people, giving power to some while taking it from others." (Pg.124)
3. "While youth are the primary authorities of their own experience, adult alliances are critical in helping cultivate authoritative responses to oppression." (pg. 125)

I think these three points stood out to me the most because I work in a school district that lacks racial diversity. It is very easy to assume that because I work in a school that is made up of mostly white students, we don't need to do a lot of work regarding the realities of racism. It is easy to avoid, and I constantly need to be pushed and reminded that we should be doing more to make white students aware of the dominant culture that they are a part of. Even more importantly, I should be working harder as an ally to those students who don't identify as "white." This is still a hard thing for me to do, how do I work as an ally and acknowledge differences in an organic way? I think I do a lot of this when we talk about different places in the world (as we do in geography...), but it's much more uncomfortable and challenging to talk about differences in my own school and classroom.

While I feel as though I could write a novel in discussing these points, I also felt that the second half of the chapter was important too.  Because this is a large chapter to digest, the most logical way for me to make sense of the chapter was to create a Venn diagram:

I think that this will be a really important tool for me to refer back to, especially as I think about those students who might be trying to figure out their own identity as a Black student in a white community. I think that there are some very important differences between Black racial development and white racial development, and it's necessary for ALL teachers to have an understanding of this prior to becoming professional educators.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Going Aboveground

As I read chapter 6 of Understanding Youth, I was able to really make meaning of some of my observations of my own seventh grade students (and myself in their world). This chapter really provided me with the ability to put words to what I've never been able to fully express. As I read, my brain jumped from one seemingly small observation to the next. What I now realize is that these small observations are actually part of a much larger picture that I can now see a little bit clearer. Because my thought process was all over the place as I read and took notes, I decided that the best way to share my connections to my own teaching practice (and my own life) is to share several short glimpses into my thinking and learning. This is a long post with lots of different thoughts crammed in. I didn't realize until I was done writing that my favorite, most meaningful blurb is at the end. If you must read the post quickly, skip to the end!

"Going Underground"

One of the math teachers I work with always ask "why are girls always so good and boys always the ones who get in trouble?" - I now have an answer to this question...This has to do with identity and gender development. Girls go "underground" and become quiet because being seen as loud or intelligent is not what they are taught to value. Our society STILL teaches girls that they should be reserved, supportive and in the background. Standing out is not a good thing. Boys are taught (through various societal channels) that they need to proclaim their masculinity and defend it at all times. This results in louder, more assertive behavior.  So boys are more often sent to the office, or assigned after school detentions. Although this is an oversimplification of what Nakkula is talking about, this pattern can be seen over and over again, especially as students transition into high school.

On being weird and awkward:

I said to a group of students the other day "you guys are stuck with the weird teacher" (referring to myself) and a girl responded "that's OK..." It amazed me to hear her say this, because I know it's OK, but I was shocked for her to say aloud (in front of the class) that weirdness is OK. I now understand that my shock most likely stemmed from the fact that to most kids being seen as weird is not a good thing, especially for girls who are beginning to conceal anything about themselves that may seem "weird."I think I understood this before reading chapter six, but my feeling of surprise was validated. I think I'll continue to point out (as I usually do) that I am weird or awkward at times, and that it's OK.

Laughing at the Boys:  

Another thought bubble that bloomed as I read relates specifically to my seventh grade boys. Over the course of my few years teaching seventh grade, I've realized the need to remove all sarcasm directed at students, especially boys. Any good teacher can tell you that sarcasm has a very limited and specific space within the classroom, most will tell you that sarcasm shouldn't be used at all. In my own experience I have seen that humor can be valuable, but humor directed at individual students will make them feel that they are not in a safe space. Nakkula mentions that one of men's greatest fears is that of being laughed at. I have seen this play out in a number of scenarios. Boys and men don't do well with sarcasm (especially sarcasm coming from females). The research that Nakkula cites is further evidence that teachers who use sarcasm are really creating unsafe spaces for students.

On Wanting to Be Taller: 

This is another observation that I think I was sensitive to even before reading chapter six, but I think it's worth mentioning. One consistent theme I've seen with male students throughout the years has been that of wanting to be taller. I've seen this in their writing (journal entries), overheard them joking with each other in the hallway, and it's something that comes up every year. I knew that this was a sensitive topic, but I didn't realize just how much it might be affecting social dynamics. Taller boys are often more popular and more domineering. They command their classmate's respect and are literally looked up to. Tallness is associated with masculinity, and boys who are tall are almost always well liked by peers.

Brave Boys Banning Together:

On page112 Nakkula quotes a sociologist named Michael Kimmel. Kimmel argues that one part of boys' gender identity development is the emphasis on doing everything in one's power to "not (be) like a woman."  This is something that we see play out again and again and it's a notion that is being continually challenged- What does it mean to be a man? What does it mean to be a woman? 

I have a group of boys who have chosen to stick together to challenge this tough dilemma. This particular group of boys joined chorus. The boys are well liked, even considered popular. In joining chorus (at 12 years old) they have taken a great risk. Even more of a risk then I think I realized. It is amazing to see and I absolutely love that they feel confident enough to join. I wonder how they got to a point where they felt confident enough to join without the fear of peer scrutiny?

Taking the Risk of Sensitivity:

One final observation that I now feel that I'm able to describe in a more meaningful way relates to an entire class that continues to impress me. This is not my class with the highest achieving students. It is not my easiest class. It is actually a class with a few male students who I was warned about. The sixth grade teachers labeled these students as troublesome and sneaky. I was told they shouldn't be in inclusion classes, they bullied special education students in sixth grade. 

On the first day of school I came to realize that I would also be having a few students from The Learning Center (a substantially separate program, also called TLC) come into this class. I was upset that these students would be placed together with the "bad" kids, and had no idea how things would work out. I chose to have the boys labeled as "bullies" sit next to the TLC students. I thought that with the correct attitude I could draw some sensitivity and good citizenship out of these "tough" students.

The three TLC students come to class with a teachers assistant (we'll call her Sheila), a woman who really cares about kids and their well being. Both her and I have worked together to make sure that this is a positive learning experience for everyone involved. Although I can say that we have worked hard, it is safe to say that the students (both special ed. and regular ed.) have worked exponentially harder. The students in this class work together so well, it's amazing. Both Sheila and have had moments where we are nearly in tears as we have witnessed tremendous acts of patience and kindness. We have repeatedly expressed how proud we are of this class and really commended them for stepping up to the plate. I think that part of the reason this has been so moving for both of us is because the kids who have taken on leadership responsibilities are the ones who had been previously labeled as "bad."

On page 113, Nakkula states that "learning-fully engaged learning-requires vulnerability. It requires the capacity to leave oneself open to criticism and to willingly seek and provide support." I think that out of all of my classes, this is the class where I have felt most vulnerable. It is also the class with some of the most vulnerable students. The fact that we are able to see each others' vulnerability and learn from it, has created such an amazing classroom culture. I am really proud of this class and my hope is that we continue to grow together. Up until this point, I don't think I understood how profound it is to see some of the most masculine and rough-around-the-edges boys take such a risk in being sensitive to these students who have been labeled as "other." These boys are taking the risk of having the entire class challenge their masculinity, and I am now able to recognize just how profound of a risk that is. 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Building Bridges to Learning- It Takes a Village...

Chapters three and four of Michael J. Nakkula's book, Understanding Youth, hold one loud resounding theme: Confident and dynamic learners are born from communities and schools that intentionally focus on providing channels for growth, communities that build bridges to learning.

We have all heard the saying "it takes a village to raise a child," but what does this actually look like? What does this quote actually mean? Despite what we may think about encouraging independence and self reliance in our children (two highly regarded American values), kids need to be afforded opportunities to learn from and negotiate with others. When we think about "learning communities" we should consider a more broad look at the term "community." The willingness and intentionality of a community to build up strong adolescents can determine the rate of success seen in students. Community programs (and individuals) can provide outlets for adolescents to become successful and according to Nakkula, success outside of school can be transferred into the classroom. Building up a child's confidence through the use of community programs can lead to more opportunities for success in the classroom..."The experience of building skills builds confidence and a sense of competence. The more confidence and competence we feel, the more likely we are to venture into new learning opportunities" (Pg. 71). Kids need to spend time with people who are not like themselves, learning how to work as a team.The benefits of a strong community and experience with teamwork cannot be overstated. It is through the wide lens of these learning communities that students are able to build bridges to learning in the classroom. Skills learned outside of school have a tremendous impact on the way a student may deal with challenges inside of school.

In chapter five Nakkula makes it clear that although the outside community plays a tremendous role in adolescent development (as understood in chapter 4), teachers are not off the hook completely. Teachers who choose to act as mentors to students are able to further bridge the gap between their students and themselves. "Like anyone else, youth want to be engaged as thinking, feeling, valued members of a community in which they are viewed as stakeholders" (Pg.81). Teachers who take the role of mentor, rather than commander in chief, are much more likely to earn the respect of students. As respect is earned, stronger and more meaningful relationships can be forged. "Teachers who model ways of being in relationship for students teach more than content knowledge; they teach respect, care, collaboration, and a host of life skills necessary to ensure success and personal happiness" (Pg.97-98).

Nakkula's approach is dynamic and multidimensional. His vision extends beyond one teacher in one classroom, taking more of a holistic approach. Strong communities working together with strong schools will produce strong students. Strength is not defined as making the honor role, or having the highest test scores, but rather as a network of competent and confident learners with the desire to learn from each other. Everyone is a mentor and everyone is a learner in this scenario. It takes a village to raise a child.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Really seeing our students

When I initially applied and enrolled in the ASTL graduate program at Rhode Island College I felt annoyed that this was something I was being forced into. The state of Massachusetts requires that teachers obtain a masters degree within the first five years of teaching. So I begrudgingly signed on to the program, thinking of it as something to "get through." However, over the last year or so I have come to really enjoy the program. One of my absolute favorite parts of being in a graduate cohort are the positive people I have the opportunity to be surrounded by, my fellow classmates. I believe that being in a positive, supportive environment has had a tremendous impact on my experience. 

Although I am naturally cynical, my classmates push and challenge me to think and behave more optimistically. Conversely, my coworkers often have the opposite impact (either intentionally or unintentionally). I'm still working on having the self discipline and self control to not feed into negative attitudes.When I'm with classmates I feel that a more positive and hopeful side of my identity is drawn out. When I'm with coworkers I feel like I want to shut down and shut people out.

I share this experience because in many ways I feel connected to the story of Janine, one of the case studies shared in Author Michael Nikkula's text, Understanding Youth.  Janine, a high school student, seeks to take risks in order to develop and shape her own identity. Much of her freshmen year in high school is spent with fellow risk takers partying and looking for ways to figure out who they "really are."It's not until Janine works with a teacher she calls "Ms. P" that she starts to see a different path for her life, a different identity. In Ms.P's class, Janine is highly successful. Ms. P sees a lot of potential in Janine and she chooses to draw out that potential. Ms. P brings out the best in Janine. She has a way of really looking into and looking after her student, and knows how to help guide her. If Ms. P had not encouraged and invested in Janine, Janine's path may have looked tremendously different. By the end of the school year Janine's "thinking and writing were displayed for an audience she valued, which allowed her to value herself more fully as well" (pg.60).

As human beings we are greatly impacted and influenced by our surroundings. Each experience, every day, adds or takes away from our own life story. When we are around people whom we feel valued by, this will have a substantial impact on our lives. When surrounded by those who challenge us, we will grow. My experience with this has come through my graduate program. Janine's experience with this came when she felt like someone could really see into her world, like someone could see the real her. Out of this experience, she may make some major life changes. Reading about Janine's story was incredibly validating for me as a teacher and as a living, breathing human being. I want to be a teacher who makes kids feel valued. I don't always know how to do this, how to really see them or get into their heads, hearts and souls. This requires a lot of creativity and authenticity. It's not about creating a wildly entertaining classroom experience. My goal is to host more of an open forum where kids feel comfortable participating, to build in the "scaffolds" that Nakkula talks about. One of my favorite quotes from chapter three of Understanding Youth can be found on page 53, "The call to make education enticing to students should not be confused with an approach to making it fun through superficial entertainment." How do we move beyond the superficial classroom? How do we connect with our students? These are questions that I suppose I will never stop asking. My hope is that I get better at finding the answers.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Authoring One's Life

At the beginning of the school year I run through all of the regular first day motions that most teachers go through. We play an ice breaker name game, take attendance, and go over the rules and class procedures together. As we go through the rules and procedures together, one of the most important points I bring up is the matter of teacher-student respect and student-student respect. We talk about what the  term "respect" really looks like and what it really means on a daily basis. As we discuss concrete examples of respect, I like to tell students that you never really know what other people are going through.  I remind them that when/if they behave disrespectfully towards each other (in the form of teasing, mockery, sarcasm, etc.) that they could really be hurting someone who is already in a tremendous amount of emotional pain. The atmosphere in the classroom typically changes when we discuss this reality. It's as though everyone becomes very aware of their own humanity and it brings a feeling of humility to the class. I think this point really resonates with students as they are at a very sensitive and vulnerable stage in their lives. From this first moment together as a class I want students to know that I do not intend to treat them disrespectfully and I ask that they behave similarly. I want students to know that we all hold some power in the classroom, this is not a dictatorship.

I share this story because one of my priorities as a teacher is to make kids feel empowered, to make them take ownership of their own actions and the consequences that follow. I also feel that it is incredibly important for me to let students know that I'm not there to criticize them or break them apart. I have many memories of feeling powerless and out of control as a child and as an adolescent. I remember many teachers who sought to control me, to dis-empower me. As they shouted or mocked or blatantly ignored me, I learned that they didn't really see me. They didn't see what I had to offer. Without my teachers having to say that I was not worthwhile or valuable, I still learned this lesson. I often flew under the radar. I remember one of the only projects that I ever put any effort into involved creating a soundtrack for the novel Wuthering Heights. I really couldn't tell you anything about the book, but what I do remember is the feeling of validation that came with verbal praise and recognition from the teacher after she graded the project. She made it a point to recognize me, to treat me with genuine respect and kindness. It is for this reason that I choose to look for the good in each student on a daily basis. I want to draw this goodness out of each of my students.

I believe that my Wuthering Heights experience is the exact type of experience that author Michael J. Nakkula is talking about in his book, Understanding Youth. Nakkula argues that we learn exponentially more from our experiences and interactions with teachers and classmates than we will ever learn from a set of notes taken in class. Teachers and schools are incredibly concerned with content and curriculum, and rightfully so-standards are important. However, there are other very important lessons that students continue to learn when they attend school. Each interaction is a page in the novel of a student's life. Through their teachers, students learn whether or not they have value. Teachers have an impact on students' lives whether or not they realize it. Teachers are "co-authors" in the stories of their students lives, according to Nakkula. Every action is a choice with serious implications. 

Nakkula includes a variety of very important points in writing about this subject matter. He emphasizes the importance of relationships with students, but also asks-"how do we go about doing this?" Additionally he adds that the traditional school structure inhibits the ability of students to feel empowered. These are two important points to consider-how do we form real relationships with more than one hundred students at a time? And how do we do this in 45 minute increments in a controlled environment? These circumstances are not conducive to deep relationship building. In order to break down the barriers between teachers and students, Nakkula encourages teacher transparency and honesty. He adds that this can be the difference between really getting to see student progress versus a student completely shutting down or becoming disruptive.

The resounding message here is that all teachers are students and all students are teachers. We are all constantly learning from our day to day interactions, whether we realize it or not. If all teachers and all students truly understood the depth and significance of this reality, we could have a profound and lasting impact in schools. So the question I'm left with is: How can I become a better student of my students?

Saturday, September 13, 2014

My Thoughts on Vulnerability and Knowing Everything

Vulnerability Just Ahead 

Here's a question: How comfortable are you with the term "vulnerability"? Does this word make you cringe? Does it excite you? I am beginning to realize that I absolutely despise feeling vulnerable. I want to know the most, to be the best, to have it all together. I have worked hard to make sure that I am never in a situation where I feel that I don't have some sense of control. I tell my husband how to drive.  I bag my own groceries at the grocery store, because I know how I want them arranged. Everything in my house (and in my classroom) has a spot. I write lists of things to get done. I enjoy crossing items off those lists. I don't like people telling me what to do, or how to do it. I am in control.

And I wonder where this has all come from....

When I was a kid, I was incredibly disorganized and scatterbrained. I didn't do well in school. I didn't feel that I had any control over my own circumstances. I often stayed quiet in order to avoid seeming like an idiot. I never felt like I had everything together. I always looked forward to the day when I could do things my way. I looked forward to being an adult. As an adult, I will tell you that I enjoy my day to day life infinitely more than I enjoyed life as an adolescent (which is probably the case for 99.9% of adults). I am finally able to do things my way, to feel like I have things together

Upon entry into the teacher education program at RIC, I told myself that I needed to make sure to do whatever was necessary so that I'd "have it together," because, after all...teachers have it all together, right? When it comes to teaching, my desire to eliminate any sense of vulnerability has been a driving force.I stay up late trying to find ways to make lessons more interesting, and making sure that I know as much about the following day's topic of study as possible. Additionally, I stay up late attempting to micromanage each moment of class time for the following day. I always have a plan for those five minutes of down time. Again, I am in control. 

I will say that my desire to avoid vulnerability has been beneficial in some ways. It feels good to have a well run, orderly classroom. It feels good to know that students respect me. I've had a number of old students from last school year stopping by my classroom to say hello. We say hello in the hallways. I have not made myself so robotic that I am completely impersonal. However, I feel that I do run the risk of becoming more impersonal with students as the years continue. I think I'm at a point where I need to take a step back and be OK with some vulnerability in teaching and in life in general. 

The reason I chose to write about this topic this week is because I feel that Ayers' overall message is about becoming vulnerable. On pg. 115 he says "...if we already know everything, we are terrible students and bad teachers." My goal should not be to make sure I know everything, I need to be reminded of this again and again. My goal should be to reach students, to connect with them, to be on their level, to be vulnerable with them.

I once heard an older teacher say "the day that I say I know everything is the day I should retire." This is a good reminder, a good mantra as the school year begins. The one question I'm left with is how I go about doing this? How can I become more vulnerable? 


Sunday, September 7, 2014

To Teach: The Journey, in Comics

William Ayers and Ryan Alexander-Tanner have created an interesting and thought provoking graphic novel, To Teach: The Journey in Comics. I found the first half of this book to be an easy, quick read. This isn't to say that the content was easy, or able to quickly be put into practice though. Although the book was light and airy (probably due to the fact that it's a graphic novel), it also poses some great questions and challenges to the classroom teacher. I found that several quotes and phrases within the text really resonated with me and for the purposes of organization and order, I  am going to break this blog post into sections according to those quotes and phrases.

Here are some of my favorites:

"In fact, it is often the myths themselves the young teacher must fight against"... (pg.3)

I find that over and over again, each year of teaching is truly a fight against the "myths that bind us," as Linda Christensen would say. Where I teach, there is a large divide amongst teachers as far as what makes for "good" teaching. To some people, good teaching looks like a classroom that is tightly controlled and intimidated to the point that no one dares to step out of line. The teacher is all knowing, their purpose is to deposit content knowledge into the blank brains of the children sitting in front of them. To some, good teaching comes in the form of questions, and well organized groupings where students are asked to be responsible for their own learning. These classes tend to work in more room for movement and activity and flexibility. Although the second scenario sounds like it is more conducive to learning, there is more room for disruption and off-task behavior.

As a (relatively) new teacher, I see myself caught in the middle. I want students to be on task, rather than socializing. I know that socialization is a large component of education, its one of the most important things kids learn in school, but I feel that it can take over the classroom and distract students from learning anything relevant to the content. As much as I have tried to hand over control in the past, I feel like it's not something I'm willing to give over completely. I want to create a learning environment that is conducive to all learners, to encourage curiosity and questioning. I want my classroom to feel alive and active, but think that I still have a lot of work to do in learning to be the teacher that I  am meant to be.

"Focusing on what I can't do diminishes hope"... (pg.20) 

I liked this quote because one goal I have for this year is to try to remain positive and optimistic, to see opportunity where others see a road block. I want students to know that there is hope for them, hope for their future. I want to go into the classroom each day and build kids up, to make them feel like they can be successful. I don't want to choose the easy road that is paved with complaints and bitterness. This is why I like the two following phrases, I feel that they perfectly describe what I want to do more of and what I want to do less of...

"Calm clarity"... (pg.23) 

I have a bad habit of getting really wrapped up in getting things done. I want each class to go smoothly,  to end in a perfect spot. I like structure. I like routine. I like having a plan and sticking with it. These are all practices that have made me a successful, fully functioning adult. However, ALL of these things are nearly impossible to accomplish when you are really trying to get kids to learn. Teaching is sloppy. It's inconsistent and different every day. Although I'm never usually at the point where I'm externally upset or out of control in front of students, I often experience an internal feeling of chaos. As the school year starts off, I want to practice calm clarity. I want to meditate on the fact that things don't always go as planned, and that's OK. 

"Sloppy thinking"... (pg. 27)

I loved this phrase because I think this is something we all practice too frequently. We let our thoughts run wild, without trying to intentionally control or self monitor them. Buddhists refer to the opposite of this as a "well disciplined mind." I think that the difference between stagnation and progress is a well disciplined mind. It is human nature to want to categorize and compartmentalize, but when we do this as teachers we really limit ourselves. The brain automatically files our experiences away, but it is up to us to really neaten up our thoughts, to reflect and re-organize. I do a lot of sloppy thinking because I'm busy and trying to get as much done as possible at once. I am only just starting to realize that for such a long time I have limited myself and my own thinking by operating off of initial impressions and judgements.

"It was fun, wasn't it? And educational!"...(pg.66)  

Although there were many other quotes that stood out to me, this is the last one I will discuss. This quote actually annoys me. I really, really want my students to love learning and to love the "fun" activities we do in class. However, there are times when learning isn't fun. I firmly believe that students must have a foundation of knowledge and some basic skill sets, before being able to participate in more in-depth and engaging activities. Does it make sense to organize a debate or write a skit or a play about a topic before doing a little pre-learning? I've always struggled with this. I don't believe that everything in school needs to be fun. Maybe it's just the word fun that annoys me. I think students need to be engaged and active. I think that students need to feel accepted and feel that they are a part of something. I just don't think that our goal as educators should be to constantly make things fun.