July 23, 2014

My Favorite Thing About Teaching

I'm excited to link up with the Big Time Blogging Challenge to share my favorite thing about teaching. This is, hands down, the easiest post for me because I can say, without any hesitation, that my favorite part about teaching is building lasting relationship with my students.

You see these young men and women in my photo? In the past week or so, I've had lunch with each of these kiddos, who are former students of mine. It was SO MUCH FUN to catch up with them and hear their stories. I can hardly imagine it's been FIVE YEARS since they were in my classroom every day.

I pride myself on being a teacher who can connect well with her students. I think my students know I'm genuinely interested in learning about them as people because I spend a lot of time asking them about their interests, preferences, and experiences. I do my best to use that knowledge to make my lessons relatable and engaging for them. 

Those three girls in the bottom picture? I actually bumped into them while out with the boy in the top left photo last week. We definitely made a scene in the middle of Chipotle with all our excitement, but we didn't care. It was SO unexpected and fun to run into them. 

They were telling me, at our lunch today, about how they still talk about my class all the time (to the point that their other friends get annoyed and tell them to shut up). I asked them if it was because it was fun or because they learned things. Immediately, they all three confirmed, "Both!" and went on to list multiple activities we did that year that they loved. In particular, I was beaming with pride to hear them say how much they LOVED my book clubs and that they've never read so much in their lives. They were even able to rattle of a list of books they read that year and recalled how they used to become obsessed with the characters and cry when they died. Proud teacher moment!

I know many districts have policies against befriending students via social media, so this is a major benefit to me since I'm no longer employed by their district. I have my students in a special group on Facebook where I can control what they see (and really... I just have to approve the things my friends post because I never post anything bad). It's allowed me to watch and cheer for them on the sidelines of life, which is a role I treasure. I love that they WANT to keep in touch and tell me about their lives, and I love that I've been able to be a support to a few students who really needed it.  

On an unrelated note, I would LOVE if you would send some good vibes my way tomorrow morning because I have a second interview for a sixth grade ELA job in my town. I debated sharing this here because I'm afraid to jinx myself, but I think I need all the support I can get! 

July 21, 2014

IMWAYR: Okay for Now

Confession: I started this book like 3 weeks ago and had a hard time finishing it. I wanted to LOVE it because my friend Erin at I'm Lovin' Lit told me I would. At first, I was going to tell you that I just found this book to be kinda... meh, but after writing my review, I realized that there were many parts I enjoyed, so I'm changing my review to say that I liked, but didn't LOVE this novel. 

I'm glad I read this because it's on the Rebecca Caudill list for this year, which means many of my students will be reading it. There were definitely parts I enjoyed... actually, as I write this, I'm realizing that I enjoyed many parts of the story. I loved reading about the dynamics of the family and the pieces of US History that are blended into the storyline. I loved the little love story between Doug and Lil, which wasn't too over-the-top to scare away your boy readers. And, just like in The Wednesday Wars, I loved the writing and dialogue. 

The parts that always seemed to lose my interest were when Doug was at the library learning how to draw the Arctic tern with Mr. Powell. Maybe this comes from my own lack of knowledge - I'm not much of a nature person and don't really care for birds - but I didn't pay much attention to his instruction here and was always waiting for the next scene to start. I mean... I still understood the metaphor behind it... I just didn't care as much.

For me, the interesting parts of a novel have to do with the relationships. I enjoyed reading about how his abusive a father led him to be more loving and compassionate toward his mother. 

The teacher in me really appreciated the recurring idea that there's more to people than what first appears. I really appreciated the moment his brother confessed that feels trapped by the label as a misguided trouble-maker and doesn't want to be that way. It made me wonder if that's true for any of our students, which is why I prefer not to know much about my students before they enter my classroom. I don't like having any expectations, especially negative, about my students before I meet them myself. 

This also applied to Doug's "so-called-gym-coach," whom we learn is also a Vietnam vet who is dealing with his own demons. As soon as Doug learns this about Coach Reed, he's able to see him as a person instead of just an evil drill sergeant. Doug shows great empathy and uses that relationship to help his own brother, recently home and injured from the war, come out of his depression. 

I would recommend this book to peers and students alike because I think it lends itself to some great teachable moments. I think, at the end of the day, there is much to be learned from Doug's experiences, especially related to how everyone has their own story to tell.

As a side note, I actually listened to this book on my OverDrive app in the car with Joel, which I think makes this the first novel he's completed since high school. I'd call that #winning!

July 16, 2014

You Don't Have to Try

Colbie Caillat is a singer/songwriter I've loved for years. He'd probably never admit it, but even Joel has taken a liking to her. When we're in the car, and he can see that I'm antsy, he'll sometimes offer, "Do you want to put on a book or listen to Colbie Caillat?" He's pretty awesome about tending to my needs and wants like that!

If you follow me on Facebook, you've probably already seen that I'm obsessed with her latest video, "Try" and am declaring it my new anthem. I've basically been listening to this on repeat for the past week. You can also read a great interview with Elle Magazine about her inspiration for this song and video. I've already saved a copy of it to use as an Article of the Week (I like to provide multiple options to meet different interests and reading levels) because I think it will bring up some amazing conversations in the classroom or small group. 

My favorite lyrics from this song:

Put your makeup on
Get your nails done
Curl your hair
Run the extra mile
Keep it slim
So they like you
Do they like you?

Wait a second!
Why should you care what they think of you?
When you're all alone by yourself, do you like you?
Do you like you?

I feel personally convicted when I watch this video because I know I always feel more confident when I'm in presentation mode (perfect hair, makeup, cute outfit, etc.). Not that I do this on a regular basis, because I don't, but I definitely notice the difference in how I feel on the inside with my outer appearance better fits the mold. You may recall that I took part in No-Makeup November several years ago with the women of amy Alma mater. This was an eye-opening experience for me because I learned that even though I don't wear a ton of makeup, I'm still pretty dependent on it. When I taught at the charter school, where makeup was forbidden for students, it was much easier to go without because we were all the same (it helped that much of our staff went without as well). It makes me imagine how great our world would be if natural was the norm instead of this glamorized version of ourselves. 

On a similar note, I LOVE this video! Unfortunately, it's not appropriate for school, but I love it anyway!

Not only is that video absolutely AMAZING (I especially love the male dancer), but these lyrics really speak to me:

My mama she told me don't worry about your size
She says like boys like a little more booty to hold at night
You know I won't be no sick-figure, silicone Barbie doll
So if that's what you're into, then go ahead and move along

I can tell you that it's been a VERY long journey for me to learn to love myself, especially because of my size. For the majority of my existence, I've believed the lies from our media, telling me I'm "less than" and "unworthy" because of my curves. And while I wouldn't say that the battle is won, I'm definitely making progress. It helps that I'm part of an amazing community of women who support each other in this endeavor. 

If I could influence my female students in one way, it would be to help them find their self-worth in who they are as people rather than how they look on the outside. And while I wish I could protect them forever from any messages to the contrary, I can certainly help them filter out those messages by telling them over and over that they are wonderful and worthy!
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