Tuesday, December 24, 2013

First Week of School/First Writing Assignment

What would you like to do, if money were no option? How would you really enjoy spending your life? What do you desire?

I am always imagining and daydreaming about the first day of school as a real teacher. What should I do or say to start off the year in the proper way--a way that will encourage students to do amazing things and give their very best throughout the school year? 

I think the above lines, from Alan Watts' "What If Money Were No Object?," would be an astounding prompt for a first writing assignment. That is if students took it seriously. And I believe that they would. Especially if I shared my own response first. The resulting write-ups could serve as motivation and a feasible goal for students. It would also serve as an authentic way to get to learn who my students are. It doesn't get more personal than learning an individual's secret desires. Even better, I'll be able to more accurately relate English content to students' interests and life goals. Score!

See the entire clip of "What If Money Were No Object?" below. It's definitely worth watching.

As for me, if money for no object, I would love to spend my time reading and gushing over discussing books. It couldn't get much better than that. When I chose to become an English teacher, I believed that was as close as I could get and still be able to feed myself. Otherwise, I would love to visit bookstores (as I backpack all around the world!) and make random recommendations to strangers. "Hey. Heeey, pssst! You don't want to put that one back. You'd be missing out. It's a really good one. Let me tell you. It's about this girl, who . . . "

Friday, December 20, 2013

Saying Goodbye . . . Officially a College Graduate

The ride on the metro north train from Pleasantvlle to Fordham . . . possibly for the last time was strangely emotional today.

It's officially over--my undergraduate career, my time at Pace University, my place at the Writing Center, my connection to my boss, professors, and close friends are over.

I finished my last shift today at 2pm and for an hour I was torn between pride at my endless accomplishments, glee at finally leaving Pace, and sorrow at what or more accurately who I was leaving behind. Saying goodbye to my boss (aka the.best.boss.ever) was more difficult than I could ever imagine. I hadn't realized how important, vital even, my position as a Writing Consultant had become to me. Not the work itself, which was incredibly meaningful, but the feelings of being a part of such a special group of individuals.

As I looked upon the Pleasantville campus for maybe the last time, reminiscing at how much of the last four and a half years of my life had been rooted there, I became defenseless against the tears. As much as I complained about Pace, I can't deny that I met some amazing people there; I became a more confident me there; I became a leader there; I became a teacher there; I grew up there--into the adult me ready (mostly) to tackle the world in hopes of making it a better place. For that, I sincerely thank everyone I've had the immense pleasure (or displeasure) of meeting during my time as a dual Adolescent Education and English major at Pace University, Pleasantville campus.

A bittersweet adieu. It's been real, yo.


Applying for Certification

It's happening people! I'm soon going to be a certified English Language Arts (7-12) teacher in New York State.

Maybe . . . I hope!

I can't seem to get a handle on the process. I wonder why it's so darn complication. I just want to teach. I want to help guide the youth of America to success without too much scarring (for both them and me). Is that too much to ask?

First, I created a TEACH account. That was the easy part. I completed the application process making the indications that my School of Education folks instructed me to do. Then, I waited because I'm the typical poor college student and didn't have the $150 at the moment to pay for certification and fingerprinting.

Once I received my next paycheck (the same day, actually), I logged back on and made payment. That's where problems arose. I wasn't able to PRINT the payment confirmation for the fingerprinting that needs to be mailed to Albany with your fingerprints. Oops! Not to mention that neither the TEACH nor the New York State Teaching Certification sites actually give you information on WHERE to get fingerprinted. And living in the Bronx, but student teaching in Westchester doesn't help because NYC has its own fingerprinting process. What this means is that fingerprints in the city aren't readily accessible by NYS and yet another form is required.

The biggest issue however is that I have YET to receive the fingerprinting cards that are necessary for me to actually get fingerprinted! I called the Fingerprinting Office in Albany on December 9th and asked where the heck my cards were (more politely of course) and I was told they would be mailed out next day. But I have STILL not received my cards!

The plan now is to call them again, asking that they send me another set and I'll take it from there.

I'll keep you posted!


Sunday, December 15, 2013

TEDTalks: Response to Ken Robinson's "How Schools Kill Creativity"

In an entertaining and profound TEDTalk, Sir Ken Robinson discusses how our schools are killing creativity within children.

Why this TEDTALK is awesome?

1) He's a knight! I think. . .  I mean, why else would he have a "Sir" in front of his name?

He is! He was knighted in 2003 for his services in the field of education, according to his TEDTalk profile. Nice!

2) And he's British! The amount of charm that oozes into my ears each time a Brit opens his or her mouth makes me want to swoon each. and. every. time. Add to that a sense of humor and an important discussion on educating students and I'm paying attention.
          - He makes a joke about Shakespeare being in an English class as a child. The video is worth
            watching for that alone!

3) Lastly, Sir Robbie (may I call you Sir Robbie) makes some really interesting statements that I think all educators should hear, ponder on, and decide what their next steps should be.

Sir Ken Robinson essentially argues that children are educated out of their creativity. What this means is that throughout their educational careers, they are made very much aware of what skills and fields of knowledge are most valuable. Sir Robinson also says that perhaps the purpose of education seems to be to produce university professors and when one thinks of what the most important subjects in all schools are--English, Math, Science, and History--he seems to have a point. Additionally, the subjects that are seen most useful are those that will allow students to find "work" in the future. It's the reason that universities are teeming with business majors, while visual art programs are being cut or down-sized. This happens after years of talented, intelligent, and creative people believing that they are not so because everything they were ever good at was never valued or was even stigmatized.

The statements that stood out most starkly to me as a future educator is the fact that we have molded students into being positively terrified of being wrong. Mistakes have become the worst thing that a person can make. Young children are not initially afraid of making mistakes; "If they don't know, they'll have a go." They're not frightened of being wrong. However, an education system that penalizes harshly for mistakes has succeeded in educating people out of their creative capacities.

If we believe, as Sir Ken Robinson does, that "creativity is as important as literacy and should be treated with the same status," what can we do to change the way things are? Do we start grading for effort? Do we incorporate more creative tasks into our units? I believe that the root of the answer lays within creating a different classroom and school culture. From the very first day of school, students should be re-acclimated to a new way of learning. One that is exploratory in nature and based on inquiry. In this way, students can begin to re-discover their creative natures and we can lessen the stigma of making mistakes. By creating comfortable, caring classrooms where students can be at ease to make mistakes, we can guide them down the path to creative discovery.