I need to raise $50 for Pre-K Celebration ASAP, if anyone is interested in donating via paypal or chase epay let me know!
The need for funds is a long story, but know it would be going to our 3 Pre-K’s celebration on the last day of school. We’d like to buy a small spread of food and some resources for the kids to take home.
Please e-mail me positivelypt (at) gmail (dot) com or use fan mail!
After Three Years
I have devoted the past three years of my life to developing my practice as an educator. It has been extremely challenging trying to maintain my personal work/life and my job here. That being said, I have been very appreciative of this experience. I cannot even begin to count all of the profound lessons I have learned about all sorts of things through teaching. I have learned so much about myself, the things I am capable of, my limits, boundaries, and my seemingly endless capacity to love. I learned a lot about my own values, what I truly believe in, the way I think students should learn. I have questioned beliefs that I have held for most of my life about education, schools as institutions, young people, and myself. I did not know, going into this, that I would encounter so many challenges and so many blessings. One half of my heart truly resides in teaching.
I wonder though, with all of the challenges in public and private education, what purpose schools really serve. Are they here to really educate youth? “Educate” here meaning: the cultivation of liberated minds through the acquisition of a diverse range of knowledge bases as well as the skills necessary to navigate and lead through and in spite of the systems of oppression. Do we do this with school? Or is there some other place where this happens? Or is it a culmination of school as well as other lessons learned? Who is responsible for this knowledge?
Or are schools places to train workers? To grow The Citizen of tomorrow, The Employee of tomorrow, The Wage Slave of tomorrow? While it is true that not everyone will grow up to be the CEO of a huge corporation, a professional athlete, or a movie star, we teach our children, somewhere along the line that if they work hard enough, that all of their wildest dreams will come true. So when you ask an eighth grader what she wants to be when she grows up and she says “A model” but has no idea what skills models need to possess, or when a boy responds with “Basketball player in the NBA” and believes that if he wants it bad enough and “does okay in school” that he will achieve it, what are you, as the educator supposed to say back? When we teach our students only to be obedient and follow directions and complete assignments, but then we ask them to be critical thinkers (critical thinking being a rebellion against the status quo to begin with) and they are pained by it, what do we expect? We cannot use school as a tool of oppression to keep children quiet and then in the same breath ask them to change the world for their futures. I struggle with this paradox constantly. We need to teach students to be good people, yes. But in that teaching, in learning social norms, niceties, and “rules”, somewhere along the way, we also teach them that unless they are quiet and obedient, that they will never get anywhere in life.
This generation of students struggles with this challenge more than I have witnessed before. At home they are told to “speak their mind” and to “be themselves” but are not given boundaries either. This is for a myriad of reasons. Some of my students live with relatives other than parents, one parent, parents who work 3 jobs, no parents, are homeless, are in transitional housing, are raising their younger siblings, are struggling with mental and socio-emotional disorders, don’t have food in their homes, experience violence inside and outside their walls, self-medicate, etc. This is not an exaggeration. The numbers are staggering, actually. So how, when nothing about their educational experience or childhood has been “normal”, do we teach them what “normal” looks like or why it’s important to present as “normal” in the rest of the world? When a person does not grow up experiencing love, consistency, and care from their families and communities, it becomes very hard for them to accept any of those things as they become teenagers. We as educators try to give them these things in school, but it often takes a lot of practice for them to accept that love, consistency, and care.
This seems to be the thing I struggle with the most as I crawl uphill to the last two weeks of school, the last two weeks of this chapter of my teaching career.
Court is Adjourned!
Guilty! Or was he? That has been the big question in my classroom for the past three weeks. As the last unit of the year, I like to hold a court trial in my 8th grade classroom that incorporates all of the LA standards of reading, writing, listening and speaking. It is such a fun way to end the year before sending them to high school.
The trial has to do with a boy being hazed in order to be part of a “gang.” As part of his initiation, he has to jump off an abandoned bridge into the water that is 60 feet below. Unfortunately, one of the boys doesn’t make it, and now the leader of the gang is on trial for manslaughter and hazing.
To start the unit, I tell the students about each of the parts; the beauty of this unit is that there is a part for everyone. You can be a lawyer, the judge, a witness, a reporter, a videographer, a newscaster, etc. They write down their top choices, and I put them in a part based on what I have observed all year. Then they receive their confidentiality sheet with some information on it, but for the most part, they have to make up most of their own story. The lawyers have the toughest job; they have to question all of the witnesses on their own before the trial. During this time, the witnesses are writing trial journals each day to help them think through their characters and storyline. I also teach them about hazing in real life; I want them to be prepared about how to handle a hazing situation if it ever happens to them. (Did you know that the third most popular time that hazing occurs is at church youth groups?)
Two weeks later, the trial starts! Parents and staff members come in for three days to be the jury members. Each period, the entire trial is run by the students, and they amaze me each and every time. There are students that I would seriously think about hiring as my lawyer right now. They write their own opening and closing statements, and wow, you should hear them object and argue! It’s also fun to see our students “dress up” for court for three days.
One of my colleagues, Ms. T, wrote an email to the rest of the staff after being a jury member; her email meant so much to me:
“I just want to say that I have had the pleasure this week of seeing 21st Century education at its finest! I was priveledged enough to serve on the jury for Judi Holst’s 6th period class. I will admit, I was a little hesitant as it meant giving up three plan periods this week. :-) (Lol) Can I just say this was such an amazing experience as an educator to see students take their learning beyond the classroom. EVERY SINGLE student was prepared, serious and honestly professional with the trial process. Nothing was scripted and the amount of critical thinking displayed was astounding!
If you ever get a chance to serve on Judi’s Jury :)…take the chance!!! “
Now that court is adjourned and it’s time to pack the gavel until next year, I always find myself a little sad. It means that it’s soon time to say good-bye, to pass my kids on to the next stage of their lives, and to wish them well. I always hope that they will look back on the court trial unit as one of their favorites because it is definitely one of mine.
Why I'm not attending my masters graduation
I’m supposed to graduate from Johns Hopkins this Thursday (does it count as my graduation even if I’m not going?). I’m not going. There are a number of reasons for this, though I kind of regret not registering. Yes, I am still getting my diploma from Hopkins with a 4.0 GPA and my graduate degree in Urban Education. But I’ve had serious issues with the entire masters process since I started my coursework. Essentially, I didn’t work that hard. Not as hard as I would’ve liked. School work, academia, and intellectual stimulation are some of the only things in my life that have really brought me joy and illumination throughout my entire life, and having known what it was like to graduate from a school that I LOVED, that meant everything to me, the idea of sitting through a ceremony at a school I didn’t even particularly like seemed hypocritical to me. Frankly, since most my friends in the program seemed to feel the same way about it, I was surprised to figure out that I seem to be the only one not going. The program didn’t mean that much while I was doing it—I’m not going to pretend it does now.
I delivered my class’s undergraduate commencement address. I walked across that stage in front of all the people who loved me in the world (almost) and the idea of stumbling along it in robes of an unfamiliar color after listening to an irrelevant address by someone else to get a sheet of a paper that, while prestigious, doesn’t mean anything compared to one I already have, seemed silly. I spoke to my undergraduate advisor about it a few days ago and he asked me if I thought I’d look back on this and regret the choice not go, and I said no, and we both laughed. Basically, the only thing I’ll miss is the requisite instagram picture of me in another robe.
My time in TFA and at Hopkins has definitely solidified one idea for me—right along with our PK-12 education reform, we need higher ed reform just as badly. I hope to walk across a stage again in a number of years to get my ph.d, after faithfully working towards that goal.
My Final Formal Observation - Lesson Ideas
Okay, I’ve been planning my lesson and here’s what I’ve got. I will have about 45-60 mins of observation. The entire lesson will take longer than an hour, but admin will see enough to understand.
The lesson is for third grade, and we will be reading Diary of a Worm.
After reading the story and using Questioning the Author strategies throughout, students will work on a sequencing activity. At their group tables, they will be given an amount of sentence strips with the events of the stories written on them. They will need to put the strips in order. I don’t want to spend long on this, so I might make it a race amongst tables. I might scrap this part altogether.
Then, the students will begin working on their own unlikely diaries. We will discuss point of view, and review the parts of a letter. Students will have to create their own ten day diary from the point of view of an unlikely character. We will discuss how the author used facts about worms in her writing, so students will need to research facts about their creature of choice to put into their writing. I’m not sure if I will have pre-printed articles about various creatures OR if I can reserve the laptops for students to do research on. It will take extra planning for the pre-printed articles but will run smoother in class - however the laptops will give students more choices on the creature they want to research, though it will cause some “downtime” while handing out the laptops which my admin would probably comment on.
Thoughts, comments, suggestions?
I’m curious about your goals/objectives. If the sentence strips don’t fit your objective, I would definitely scrap it.
Edit - My Goals:To survive this lesson since it occurs in a TWO DAY week (Monday and Thursday are field trips, off on friday) and on tacky day. But - since my curriculum is done, I’m just reviewing things we’ve learned from the year. So, sequencing could fit in. The main focus is obviously point of view and parts of a letter for the journal aspect, with some science crossover with the research. I think I’ll have the sequence thing ready depending on how fast we get through reading the story.
Edit Edit: I’ve scrapped the sequencing, though I will have it available for early finishers. I need to create some templates (suggested by mrsjdr) for the diary for time’s sake. I’m scrapping the laptops and will have the information sheets available to students. I’ll need info on maybe 10 different creatures so students can pick. Does anyone know of kid friendly animal info sites that I could use?
I cried at prom last night
As much as these kids drive me completely crazy sometimes, I’m going to miss them. A lot. It’s finally set in I only have a month left with them.
I feel like it’s this weird parent-like instinct that’s taking over. Sure, most of them are only five years younger than I am, but they still feel like my babies. I’ve tried to explain this to my non-teacher friends and they don’t understand why I’m so upset about it. They don’t understand why I’m still giving all I have despite the fact my contract wasn’t renewed.
I could ramble on for ages about that, but ultimately, it boils down to this:
I go to school everyday with a smile and do the best I can (even though it hurts like hell) because of those kids. Right now, I don’t work for the administration. I work for my students. Period.