Friday, October 26, 2012

I Would've Remained Ignorant if It Weren't For You

I love drawing, too.

I love this blog, and it has given me a new love of writing. I really enjoy writing for myself and other people at the same time. I can't tell you the amount of times that I have come back to this site and read old posts in order to examine how I have changed and how this blog has affected my life and potentially the lives of others. Just yesterday, I went back to a blog I did earlier this year just after finishing John Green's The Fault in Our Stars. This post ended up being a runaway hit, which is a icing on the cake that is my personal love for it. I really enjoyed writing that post. When I finished rereading, I scrolled down to look at the comments and found this:
"Today I found my copy of TFiOS again, and realised I never really understood the meaning behind the front cover. So I googled, and found your write-up of the book. And then came the waterfall of tears. Maybe I'm just not a very deep thinker, or maybe I was too engrossed in the plot to realise the amount of intricacy present, but this beautiful piece of writing evoked all the memories I had of the book and more. So many feelings never felt, so many thoughts never thought. Thank you so, so much. I would've remained ignorant if it weren't for you."
 This post had a huge effect on me. Recently, I began to feel a little bit of discouragement. My grades are great and I love all of my classes, but I was beginning to have doubts that maybe I was not cut out to be a teacher. Sure, my heart is in the right place, but I am a very disorganized person and I like having too much on my plate, something long-time friends and readers already know about me. Sometimes it feels like I am fighting fate by fighting these traits I have, but usually it all works out fine and I can always overcome them and perform well in whatever it is I'm doing. Sometimes, though, I feel like my opinion does not matter or people do not see me as knowing what I'm doing when it comes to teaching. Right before I read the above comment, I was in a class where we were basically asked to come up with ways to help students achieve and get motivated. One of my ideas was literally laughed off before I could half-way explain it. I felt stupid. But it was humbling, and I think I needed it. Besides, I don't think the person who laughed at the idea meant it in an offensive way. Still, I felt that my ideas may not matter.

This anonymous comment immediately made me feel like I made a difference. Like my thoughts really do matter. Not only that, but these were thoughts I had and skills I applied that were very directly tied to teaching English. In that post, I basically gave a lecture about symbols and motifs in a work as well as describing the significance of the art on a book's cover. To think that I had actually opened someone's eyes to the value of close reading, to the value of looking under the surface of a work of art or a work of literature to find something more meaningful, is a truly powerful feeling.

I am reminded now of the notes I took in my Marching Tech class last year.
Effect is everything, and hands-down the hardest effect to have on an audience is to make them cry.

It is so wonderful that someone took the time to build me up like this, to call something I wrote beautiful, to say that it made someone cry. I honestly did not think my writing could be that important to someone. My tutoring experiences in my middle school placement have also made me feel like what I do in the world is important. I tutored math! Not only did I help young scholars arrive at the answer, they learned how to get other answers as well! Now I know the feeling Mrs. Reilly described to me once in high school. When I was first considering a major in English Education, I asked my English teachers different questions about it. I asked Mrs. Reilly what her favorite part of teaching was, and she told me that it was seeing the lights go on in students eyes... seeing it all come together in their heads.

Thank you for letting me know that I make a difference, my anonymous commenter, friends, and family.
I would've remained ignorant if it weren't for you.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Weekly Response: LGBTQ Students

So that last response is a day or two late, but this response will luckily be just short of a week early!

This week we've had visitors from UD Haven so that we could hear the coming out stories of some of its members. These were very normal people who learned something about themselves that they did not want to have to hide, and have been very strong in their journeys to where they are today. I heard stories about wonderful friends and school faculty that supported them, and "friends" and faculty that did not. Our speakers are human beings, who were mistreated by other human beings. I heard stories of faculty using the word "fag" and of students who did not have many places they could go. A classroom should be a safe place, and to hear that a teacher could insult a student in such a way, especially at a public high school, hurts. to hear.

It's a tricky subject for my background, especially since I expressed interest in possibly teaching at St. Mark's later in life. When it came to my Catholic high school, I learned just how divided people are. The majority of the student population that I knew supports gay marriage from what I have seen. That's just a fact I've observed, and it is happening everywhere. I read a news story a while ago about a talk given at another Catholic high school in the country, and when the speaker changed the subject to why non-heterosexuals shouldn't marry, the student body stopped listening intently as they had before, and erupted. The crowd yelled and booed and if I remember right, weren't quieted until the man left the stage. The Catholic Church, from what I've heard, accepts homosexuals as children of God, but calls them to a life of celibacy. Many members of the Church do not know about this stance, and I have heard of so many parents who started ignoring or speaking so hatefully to their own children. I don't remember St. Mark's as an institution ever really talking about this issue, and so students often asked teachers about it during classes. As far as the student body knows, the school just doesn't really want to talk about it, and I would give an educated guess that it is because the faculty all have different personal opinions, and even though the school probably does have an official stance, don't want to anger or offend anyone. With a student body and a lot of parents that mostly support gay rights and a church and other parents and some students that are very much against it, the school is left in the middle, which I can understand.

Can we just ignore something that affects students so intimately though? I could understand being caught int he middle and not wanting to say anything for fear of less enrollment one way or the other, but I have heard stories that some teachers don't like to hear "fag" or anti-homosexual remarks in the classroom or hallways, and that some other teachers either ignore it or are flat-out okay with it. Even if it is decided that the school cannot be in support of gay rights or anything, I don't think it can just ignore bullying. And maybe to some capacity it doesn't, but if that's true, it certainly does not match the stories I have heard from friends who have had to deal with it with little-to-no support.

The world is changing, and no matter what your stance is on current issues, you can't ignore them as an individual teacher, because these issues already do and will continue to affect your students for the rest of their lives.

Weekly Response: Those With No Future

This post is a little late, but it's something I have difficulty thinking about. I came from a home and school environment where college was expected of me. I'm not even sure if I know anyone who ever told me they weren't planning to go to college before we actually graduated. St. Mark's has some ridiculous rate of students who go on to college. I want to say it's somewhere in the range of 96-99%. I have been looking to this future my entire life along with all of my peers around me. To hear in this class that there are so many that simply don't think they will ever go to college for one reason or another, some not even wanting to be in high school any longer than they absolutely have to... Just floors me. I knew kids like that existed, and that there were a lot, sure, but I never realized the scope of this problem and how local it was. Since I began to consider teaching, I always imagined teaching in an environment like St. Mark's, or mostly just St. Mark's itself. These are environments where even if the kids complain that the teachers are too strict or expect too much, that still drives them to college. Even the ones who didn't seem to care at all went to seek a higher education afterwards. Motivating kids who just have no desire to even try is a challenge of teaching that I just never thought about. That's one of the reasons I am so thankful for this class, and one of the reasons that I am excited to continue doing our intervention projects.

Those outside of the class: The "Intervention" projects for this class are papers that are between three and seven pages depending on detail and formatting and the style you write in. They focus on finding a problem in the area of diversity that affects students outside of the classroom and will affect their performance in class. We discuss the problem in the first section, and then set about attacking different aspects of it in our lessons while still teaching the material in the other sections.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Life in The SAST Lane

Bacchus Theatre is located in the Perkins Student Center in the basement. The door is directly to the right of the Hen Zone. I will be in "The Devil Inside Us All," playing Henry, a broken man who finally has a chance of returning home and leaving his personal devil and other self, Edward, behind forever. If you want to see my descent into madness, please come out to see us!

All of the plays are great, so I really recommend you make a night of it, even if you don't know any of the actors. It's just plain entertaining stuff. We go everywhere from the cartoonish comedy of "The Chest of Deceit," to the suspenseful and emotional "Overtones" to the unnerving "The Devil Inside Us All" to the blast of comedy and choreography that is "Our Pop Culture." (See if you can spot me as an extra in the background of that last one.)

Total running time: 60 minutes

Click to enlarge! People did a really great job with these posters!

Come live life in the SAST Lane with these four incredibly entertaining one-acts!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Weekly Response: First Tutoring Experience

This week, the students in the class I would normally be observing were taking a test, and so I was sent elsewhere. Just down the hall and to the right, I came to a small room with a small handful of students and a teacher. One student was using a computer, one was finishing up something by herself, one was getting some help on an ELA (English Language Arts) worksheet, and one was working with graph paper. When I explained why I was there, I was asked to sit down with the one drawing the graph. His name was Daniel, and he was graphing from a table in his textbook. Oh, crud, math, I thought to myself. Luckily, I'm better with visual math than I am with the more abstract stuff. This is when all that "professional disposition" stuff came in. I figured I should be professional, that if I showed confidence that I could help him out, he would have confidence that I could, as well. If anything went wrong, I figured that I would just do the equivalent of calling the manager when I have a register problem at the drug store, and ask the other teacher for assistance.

Everything went great! I helped lead him to finding his mistakes and fixing them while making sure he knew why he was making the changes. One question asked which axis the independent and dependent variables would go on, and I wasn't 100% sure myself. So we worked it out together logically and came to the correct conclusion. It was a very rewarding experience, and I hope I was able to help Daniel in a way that sticks. Unfortunately, I probably won't know if I did, since it looks like my placement time slot comes just before his math class. Maybe I'll get to see him again and ask, though.

He was extremely cooperative and well behaved. Every time I go into this middle school, the students continue to defy the harsh stereotypes other teachers seem to give them. It seems like anytime a professional has talked to one of my classes about middle school kids, he or she will focus on how crazy and moody and rebellious they are. I guess I can definitely learn a lot from the teachers at the school I'm placed in, since they're obviously doing a lot of things right.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Weekly Response: Great Expectations

One huge theme that just runs throughout this entire Diversity in Secondary Education class, my classes as a major in a field relating to education, and my entire career as a student, is great expectations. My teachers have always expected a lot from me, my professors have expected more, and in my future, I may be expecting a lot from other people for a living. It's a huge responsibility. Mr. Esquith, our speakers, all the people we're reading about and watching videos about all achieve success at least partially because they expect so much from their students.

We should always expect more from each other. When we expect more from ourselves and each other, we meet those expectations, we make the world better. In a marching band, for example, if the band director expects nothing from the students, the students will expect nothing of themselves or each other, and all of them will get nothing in return. That also leads to ripple effects. The audience at a football game, the school's administration, the football teams themselves, other bands in the area... All of them will come to expect nothing out of this band. It is the same for students. If we do not expect a lot of students, they will not expect much of themselves, and the nation will expect nothing of Delaware. It's an important lesson, and I am so glad that this theme is so prominent in my studies. I have my own strengths and shortcomings, but they are getting better and better because my parents, girlfriend, friends, and professors expect so much.

Expect more of yourself, help others, and I'll see you next week.