Posted in Blogging for Books, Book Review

Gearing up for School

School is right around the corner. While at some points, I feel as if summer just began, in other ways I am ready to have a purpose for each day. There are so many ideas floating through my head (and hopefully all going into my notebook so they will be remembered) about how to make this school year better than last year. In order to keep myself fresh and restore my motivation, I’ve been reading some teacher books (I know…nerdy). One of these books was Positive Discipline: Tools for Teachers by Jane Nelson and Kelly Gfroerer.

When I first came across this book, I was interested because discipline and classroom management is one of my self-identified growth areas. Sure I can write detentions and write-ups, but that was only effective with some students. As I read this book, I also identified instances where I know I could have responded to a situation with more grace. Mainly this book was a refresher of many concepts I remember being told in teacher training, but those concepts got lost in the stress of being a new teacher. Some of those concepts include giving students the power to make good decisions by asking rather than demanding, having a plan for when students make bad decisions, and allowing myself to cool off before taking action.

One very helpful tool was the Mistaken Goal chart. It identifies four reasons why a student might be misbehaving: undue attention, misguided power, revenge, and assumed inadequacy. The chart identifies how teachers might feel and normally react and then some empowering behaviors to try instead. I think this tool might be on that I post next to my desk as a tool of reflection and growth.

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The book itself is broken into very short chapters with a short tool, some real-life stories, and research to back it up. This makes the book easy to read in short segments which is probably better for reflection and action. Personally, as a high school teacher, I wish more of the examples had been from a high school classroom because I couldn’t picture using many of the tools in a 50 minute period with teenagers. I also wish the writers had provided more clarification about the tools because I often didn’t understand the tool until I read the stories.

Coming in a paperback format and having coloring-book style pages, I think the book does contain useful information and is well-organized. I would definitely recommend it to elementary teachers. I hope that the authors will make an updated version for secondary teachers because teenagers are treated and taught differently than elementary students.

 

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

 

Posted in Life, Remembering

I didn’t fully comprehend God’s plan.

A year and a half ago, I was starting a position in the office where I worked as a college student. Part of me was excited for the work I would be doing, but there was also a small part of me that wondered why I was starting a year-long non-teaching commitment in July instead of seeking teaching jobs.

I didn’t fully comprehend God’s plan.

Fast forward a little less than one year when I started seeking teaching jobs since I knew the end of my time at CELTS was coming. I applied to several public schools because I thought that’s where God wanted me. I had noble plans of being this strong light in the public school system.

Maybe I could have been that light, but once again I didn’t fully comprehend God’s plan.

I was devastated when I learned that the one English position open at that time in Madison County was filled internally. After leaving the career fair (which took enormous courage for me to even enter), I sat in my car and cried. Even though it was only early spring, I felt as if all of my options were drying up.

I didn’t fully comprehend God’s plan.

I kept putting my application out to public schools, and in the meantime I started looking around at other types of schools. My student teaching mentor had just come from OBI, and he had told me all about the school and it’s mission. I had briefly looked at it immediately following graduation, but nothing had come at that moment. On a whim, I sent my application to the school even though no jobs were posted at the time.

I didn’t fully comprehend God’s plan.

I continued worrying and working on applications, so I was pleasantly surprised when the president of OBI called to say they had an English position that might open up. He offered to host me for a couple of days, so they could get to know me and I could see the school.

Long story short, I didn’t fully comprehend God’s plan. In my plan, I would have found a teaching job directly out of college, and it probably would have been in a public school. I had completely written VISTA positions out of my plan a summer before I accepted one in CELTS, but God had a plan in place to get me to the place where I am right now. Even though it has had it’s rough moments, I rest in the confidence that God orchestrated my presence here.

I didn’t fully comprehend God’s plan, but that didn’t make his plan any less real or perfect.

Posted in Life

Oneida

I’ve been at Oneida for over a month now, so it would seem logical that I would have made a blog post by now. Alas, it hasn’t happened. Overall, I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to be here and to serve Jesus.

I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service (1 Timothy 1:12)

I realize that my first year of teaching anywhere would be difficult, but being here is just a little bit better because I am surrounded by like-minded people and I’m able to freely share my faith. I also really enjoy the break after 3rd period for chapel, which definitely wouldn’t happen at a public school.

This is not to say that my time here has not been met with its own share of difficulties. I’ve had to adjust to a different pace of life, learn to live with less internet and cell coverage, find my niche in an established community, balance the demands of first-year teaching, try to say no to some opportunities, build a support system, learn two curriculum, develop tougher skin, and make time to simply rest. If you know me even a little bit, that last one is very difficult for me because I tend to run myself dry.

Through it all, God has provided. I have found ways to communicate with the outside world, learned to appreciate the good conversations and the loneliness, learned to keep the books for volleyball games, given up on creating everything from scratch, listened to student complaints without second-guessing my decision, and found a good walking path. I’m still learning every day and finding that the best advice about the classroom and adjusting to this life comes at the least expected moments.

It’s been a journey thus far, and I expect the journey will continue throughout this year and for however long God keeps me here in Oneida. If you’re looking for something to pray about, ask God to continually give me patience, tenacity, love, and his eyes as I teach these students about English and God.

Posted in Education

I AM a teacher…hear me roar.

I AM a teacher…hear me roar. (I am reposting this from the other blog I write with my friends. It’s quite old, but it made me smile to remember just a few months ago.)

“You look like a teacher.”

It may have been my professional work attire or the fact that he remembered me from children’s church, but I chose to believe it was because there was something about my aura that screamed “TEACHER”. That made my heart warm a bit and settled the butterflies in my stomach.

It was the first night of teaching AWANAS. Middle school AWANAS. I think the butterflies were there for good reason. Middle schoolers can eat a person alive if she’s not careful.

AWANAS stands for something that I can’t remember, but basically it’s a Bible study program for elementary and middle school students that runs on Wednesday nights at my church. They eat, play a game, and do a Bible study together.

This first night I had a lesson planned but I didn’t intend to actually need it. I wanted to lay some ground rules and get to know my students. I had them write out three things about themselves on index cards. Rule #1 was created. No flying objects. I then read the cards aloud and asked them to guess who each card was describing. No difficulty in this activity. I should have thrown in my own card to mix it up. I was pleased when the first thing one student listed is that he is a Christian. Pretty cool.

After that, we laid some ground rules. I let them suggest the rules. They are old enough to know how they want to be treated in a classroom. They got all of the major ones that I would have listed, even if they were written a bit differently than I would have said. One rule says “don’t yell at the top of your lungs.” I quickly added to not yell at the bottom of your lungs either. They laughed at my pitiful attempt at a joke. Success!

I almost forgot to pray at the end, but other than that, the meeting went well. They didn’t even complain too much when I gave them homework for next week. I’m excited about this opportunity to teach. I think it flows in my blood because I just feel so much more at ease when I’m in the front of a classroom watching students think.

Posted in Work

AmeriDay: My Chronicles of Being an AmeriCorps VISTA

I have now officially been serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA for two months and 22 days. Maybe it’s time for a blog post covering what I’m doing here. AmeriCorps VISTA began in January 1965 after JFK and Johnson both envisioned an organization that would provide services to the poorest parts of the nation. Today VISTA volunteers work to build capacity for programs that assist the poor and empower the communities in which they serve. They serve in organizations that focus on illiteracy, health care, housing opportunities, college access, and so many other places. The overarching goal of VISTA is to fight poverty. Unlike most volunteers, VISTAs do not perform direct services, such as tutoring, feeding, or cleaning. VISTAs focus on program development, resource development, volunteer management, and partnership building. VISTAs raise funds, build programs, and develop resources that can be used long after the VISTA has finished her year of service. Since its start, over 192,000 people have served with VISTA all with the purpose of fighting poverty from a variety of angles.

VISTAs live at the poverty level in order to better understand the population they are serving. They commit to a year of service in which they are asked to serve 40+ hours each week in partnership with a community organization. It is a government ran and funded organization through the Corporation for National and Community Service, but it focuses on individual communities.

My service site is at Berea College in the Center for Excellence in Learning Through Service. Officially my title is Training Resource Specialist, and I have been tasked with the goal of improving the effectiveness of the tutoring program. While the tutoring program is not specifically structured to serve impoverished children, many of the children we serve come from homes that are at or close to the poverty level. The hope is that if these children can gain the skills to do better in school, whether those are academic or interpersonal skills, they will either grow up to have a better life or they’ll grow up to be inspired to make a difference in the life of someone else.

Most of my work looks like typical office work, and maybe most of it is. I develop resources for the tutoring program and I’m working to re-vamp the program. So far I have re-imagined the referral process and developed a system for the tutors to assess the students. I am now working on monitoring those practices and looking into changing the program’s structure.

My heart and mind itch to be able to teach and talk about English, but for now I know that I am providing materials for a program that is teaching and bettering the lives of children. I am learning so much about how people learn and about leadership. Hopefully all of these experiences are preparing me to be a better teacher in the future. I am grateful for this opportunity to be back in an organization that has given me so much and on a campus where I feel welcomed.

For more information about AmeriCorps: http://www.nationalservice.gov/programs/americorps

For more information about CELTS: https://www.berea.edu/celts/

*Disclaimer: This is my personal blog, so other posts you may find on this blog may not line up with AmeriCorps or VISTA ideology.*

Posted in Life

Phones

If you’ve been reading my blog for some time now, you know that I have this thing with cell phones. I’m just as guilty as you are about being on my phone when someone is talking to me, but it drives me crazy when someone does this to me, especially while I’m teaching. I’m feeling really old since now I can say, “when I was in school, students didn’t blatantly use their phone in class. At least we had the decency to hide our phones.” These seniors I’m student teaching for all have phones and all use their phones during class. If we were to take away all of the phones that are used in class, which is how phones were dealt with when I was in school, we would have every student’s phone (and the lead teacher’s phone. I really don’t understand why her phone rings during class, but that’s another issue.).

Long story short. Disconnect. If you’re in class or a meeting or church or talking to someone, have the respect to at least look up from your phone. Remember to live in the present rather than trying to live in the cellular world with someone else many miles (or feet) away. As I said before though, I’m preaching to myself just as much as I’m preaching to you.

Let’s all take a minute without our phones. Put it to the side and do something in entirety without checking it. Just see how much faster you can write a paper or how much more meaningful your conversation is without your phone. Or shocker, just see how much more you get out of a movie when you’re not texting. And for goodness sakes, let’s all stop texting while driving. It’s a bad idea.

If you have a minute (or 8:24 as it is), check out this short film:

Posted in Class, Education

The Chitter Chatter Needs to Stop

I just finished teaching the opening to Dorian Gray to a senior English class.  Today I was not super nervous, because I had a plan and I knew what to expect.  Little did I know that I would get there and the teacher wouldn’t be there.  It was a sub.  Okay.  New person to watch me.  Thankfully, this sub was nice, knew the majority of the students, and didn’t interfere too much.  It went okay.

My biggest issue was talking.  I can’t seem to keep them from talking.  I wonder if I shouldn’t have moved some of the students away from each other, but that probably would have caused a bigger battle.

So for those of you who are teachers, have teacher minds, or have seen great teachers, any advice about managing the chatter level in a classroom would be greatly appreciated.

It doesn’t help that some of the students had not read nor did they have they books.

Somehow we made it through the hour.  Now to see how they did on the quizzes.