Tuesday, October 29, 2013

TEDTalks: Response to Rita Pierson's "Every Kid Needs a Champion"

The first time I saw this video was in September during the Superintendent Conference in my student teaching placement. My first response was "WOW!"

A few days ago, I discovered TedTalks (where has this site been all my life?!) and re-watched Rita Pierson's talk on why "Every Kid Needs a Champion."

I want to begin by saying that my goal for becoming a teacher (in addition to geeking out about literature with 12-18 year old who could care less) has always been to be a champion for students. I've always wanted to be someone they could depend on, someone who would care for their well-being, someone who would guide them as they grow up into successful individuals. So, I agree with Pierson whole-heartedly.

Pierson's comment that "children don't learn from people they don't like" is so simple, yet so profound. Why does it seem as if educators forget what it meant and felt like to be a student themselves. Once they find themselves on the other side of the desks, do they forget all of the things they loved, hated, and felt neutral towards as students?

"The best teacher is one who never forgets
 what it is like to be a student."
- Neila A. Connors

When my mentor says that one of my strengths is that I allow students to see my real self, that I'm authentic in the classroom, I feel both proud and saddened. By mentioning this observation in the first place, it shows that being "real" isn't the norm and teachers often maintain a solid barrier between themselves and students.

My last day of student teaching made it obvious how important human connection is. When you have students wishing you luck and making you cupcakes to say they'll miss you, it feels good. I hadn't noticed that I was so well-liked. While I consider myself very friendly in the classroom, I still pushed students and made them work hard. What's even more important than students "liking" me is that they respect me. They place value in what I have to teach them and/or suggest about writing and becoming better writers. A student did poorly on a essay about The Beatles. After sitting down with the student to go over how to revise her paper, she came back the next day to say that she actually liked her draft. And when I read the revised version? It was so much better! That, my friends, is what makes it all worth it.

Human connection and relationships aren't only important for students to learn, but also for teachers to teach. I think we can say that teachers don't teach students they do not like as effectively. That is not to say that an educator should ever be unfair; no student should ever feel that he or she is disliked. However, I believe that we can all agree that it's easier to go the extra mile, to wake up in the dead of night/early morning for students who are pleasant, friendly, polite, and eager.

From now on I'm going to ask myself at the beginning of each school day, maybe even each period: How will I be a champion to my students?

Friday, October 25, 2013

Last Day of First Student Teaching Placement

Today, was the last day in my first placement in the high school as I'll be going into the middle school next week. It was quite a bittersweet day filled with endless surprises.

We could say it began the night before when I receive a text from my mentor teacher: "J__ has a little crush on you....!!" J__ is her cutie-patootie, 7-year-old son. He and her husband had stopped by yesterday morning to drop off her forgotten coffee (that, my friends, is real love) and had stayed for the first few minutes of Period A.

This morning she tells me the whole story of what he had said exactly: "Fatuma, didn't look the way I expected." Well, how did you think she would look? "I don't know, but I like her voice. What else did she teach besides the word of the day? She's in college? To be a teacher? What is she doing this weekend?"

Two words, folks: Life Complete.

Then, a student stops by before first period to drop off cupcakes . . . that were made for me! Apparently they'd said "We'll miss you," but she nearly dropped them as she was leaving this morning and the frosting message was smudged. Come one, everyone, say it with me: AWWWW! I was so pleasantly surprised. Astounded. Flabbergasted.

Even more so, when my mentor teacher turns around and pulls out a pink gift bag . . . again, for me! Inside was a beautiful faux leather bound journal, also in pink, accompanied with a beautiful card and the following message: Dear Fatuma, It has been a pleasure mentoring you--you are a terrific teacher with so much potential! Be sure to take time along your journey to record your thoughts and feelings. Stay in touch, H___. Be still, my heart, be still!

Next, towards the end of the first period, my mentor teacher makes the announcement: "Everyone say thank you to Miss Hydara." The Class: "Thank you, Miss Hydara--wait, what? Today's your last day?" "Yuuup," as I look up sheepishly. "Why didn't you say anything?" Because I hate goodbyes and I was planning to just slink out of here and send an email this evening. "Because Miss Hydara doesn't like goodbyes and didn't want to make a fuss." Amongst the "Going to miss you," "You were a great teacher," and "Good luck. You're going to be an amazing teacher," one student came up and stuck a hand out, "Thank you for everything Miss Hydara; you were an amazing teacher." "Thank you; the pleasure was all mine," I replied as I firmly shook this incredibly young man's hand.

Each period was this way, with students sad to see me go and wishing me luck. You could have knocked me over with a feather, I was so stunned.

My student teaching experience in the high school ended the same way it started and has been for the last seven week; an absolute-freaking-pleasure. I had a blast with my mentor teacher and the students. They were such a great group of kids and my mentor teacher was so supportive in giving me the freedom to grow into myself as a teacher. My time there has been reassuring in that it has not only confirmed that "Yes, I can do this," but that "I freaking adore doing it" as well.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Lesson on Argumentative Writing

As I go through some of the lesson plans I created for past Education courses, I can't help but put a palm to my face.

For the past five weeks I have been teaching persuasive writing to 9th graders at my student teaching placement and I never once thought to look at my past lesson plans! Today, I was randomly going through my computer files and I found this fairly strong lesson plan for teaching argumentative writing. The frustration.

Click the link below to see all files for the lesson, including the formal lesson plan, the PowerPoint, Do Now and Video Analysis Handouts (both regular and modified versions), a formal argumentative writing task with accompanying possible topics and rubric, and student outline/persuasive essay graphic organizer.

I begin the lesson by presenting students with the following Do Now prompt:

Define “Persuasion” and “Argument”. What’s the difference? 
You’re making an argument about being old enough to make your own decisions.
How would your argument change depending on why you’re writing (what decision are you making), and to whom (who needs to allow you to do so)?
Come up with 1 or 2 different scenarios as examples. Prepare to SHARE. (10 minutes)

Next, are these learning objectives:

An argument can be made even more effective when the writer keeps his purpose and audience in mind….

To be even more convincing, he can use persuasive techniques, such as .... 

(Keep the objectives in mind during today’s lesson, you’ll complete the statement at the end of period.)

Then, I give a brief lecture on the parts of an effective argument and some persuasive strategies that are often used, with examples.

Student are asked to view three YouTube videos and to identify the purpose, audience, claim, reasons, persuasive strategies, and the other side, which are to be then shared with a partner.

Finally, class ends with students completing the learning objectives as an exit ticket.

**Files included in Argumentative Writing Lesson:
  • Arguments in Media Lesson Plan
  • Argumentative Writing Lesson PowerPoint
  • Arguments in Media Do Now Handout
  • Arguments in Media Modified Do Not Handout
  • Arguments in Media Video Analysis Handout
  • Arguments in Media Video Analysis Handout Modification
  • Argumentative Writing Task/Assignment
  • Argumentative Essay Rubric
  • Argument Topics

Wake-up, Wake-up, I Say! (Dealing with Sleepy Students)

Today, I shocked my students by yelling in class. They were looking all droopy-eyed and lackadaisical (previous Word of the Day reference). It was the quiet Period G, 10th grade co-taught class that is right after both my and the students' lunch. I was feeling pretty sleepy myself and I just couldn't take it anymore: the asking of the probing questions and the receiving of the blank stares and silence was driving me batty. So I verbalized my frustration in the only way possible: "Asdhddjdjdbeosjh!!! Guys you're killing me, wake up!" They jumped. Some at least two feet out of their chairs, but my sudden shout woke them up and after some laughter--nervous and slightly frightened from them and amusement from me--we continued our riveting discussion of Jack Finney's Contents of the Dead Man's Pocket.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Mean Teacher Pants? Check! (Dealing with Chatty/Off-Task Students)

Today, I had to put on my big-girl-mean-teacher -pants for Period E Freshman Writing Seminar. Yesterday, students were doing in-class revisions of their persuasive essays. As they worked on revisions, I called students up one by one to discuss two major concerns or questions they currently had about their essays. As I was trying to do this however, the rest of the students were going out of their ever loving noggins! Side conversation, giggling, and distracting behaviors galore, as if it was going out of style. My mentor teacher had to step in with a, "You think she's bad cop? Well, I'm worse cop. If you need even more work to do, I can certainly give you some," as she preceded to do so.

However, today I wanted to take matters into my own hands.

While my mentor teacher wasn't in the room (total coincidence, promise), I gave the students a serious talking to:

"Your behavior yesterday was completely unacceptable. The constant side conversations need to stop NOW. These one on one conferences? I don't have to do them. They're to your benefit. So, let me tell you what we're going to do today. We're going to continue revision and conferences. However, if I hear a word out of any of you, I. Will. Skip. You. Not only that, you will lose points on your final paper. What that means is that if by some miraculous power you turn in a perfect paper, you'll still be starting from a 95. Do I make myself clear?"

A "Yes, Miss Hydara!" was heard from each student. I think I made some of them piss their pants.
Me? I was shaking in my damn ballet flats! The Libra in me absolutely abhors confrontation, even with inept 9th graders. (Inept was our word of the today today inspired by Period E's shenanigans the day before. Nothing is more brutal than subtle English teacher revenge). But guess what? They were absolutely silent during the entire period as I continued conferences. So there!