December 8, 2008
During my first rotation, I found myself fascinated by the way each class developed their own personality. These personalities ranged from perfectly behaved students to the class I just didn’t think I could handle. However, just like the students in them, their personalities ended up teaching me more than I could have ever taught them. I think of them every day and decided to write haikus to represent them.
Quiet and Proper
Hands folded on top of desks
Eager to start class
Awake our senses
We are artists and poets
Our minds still asleep
Test us. We’ll test you
Share your love of literature
Teach us. We’ll teach you
Question, what? Question!
We’ll follow the directions
How do you do it?
Teach us to be open
Make us think outside the box
We work best together
December 5, 2008
I wrote this poem as a way to celebrate the unique individuality of my students. All of my students deserve their own attention — to be listened to, and asked —— and all of them ultimately deserve their own poem. For now, this small piece will have to suffice for the collective, though every one of them is a great story. All you have to do is listen.
Birthday script tattooed on her neck, eyeliner smudged at the corners,
as if tears, and the hard, porcelain face she shows them all inked
on her shoulder, and yet
a written journal response to Romeo, soft words, as she states:
“a soft heart,”
he, his skateboard tucked beneath the arm, the usual “’sup” beneath
the straggling bangs,
a connection to the novel, eyes heat up like the lights at the park,
where he throws his wheelies,
and now he’s strolling with the language, kick-pushing his response
in front of the whole room,
she, fresh out of juvie — after a silly brawl in the hallways,
complains about any writing assignment, until she gets the chance
to write her own story,
a heartbreaker, fiction — abandonment, alienation — words
concise, earthy as any writer, years older, would consider,
and another, him not a word the whole semester, a chosen seat
in the corner, sequestered,
hoodie pulled over his head, working on graffiti artwork every period.
saunters to the lectern, confident as if a new character, takes command,
control, verbs as artwork,
and all of them, really, all with names (though withheld, now, for privacy
I would name them, all, individually, every marked up Converse,
every notebook sparked
by colored hearts, every faux spiked wrist, the Lebron James jerseys,
the concert tees,
the shirts and ties on a ballgame’s eve.
Read their stories.
December 5, 2008
This poetic formation is known as a dada poem. Lines from multiple song lyrics are taken out of their original context and pieced together to form other meanings. Here, I have compiled lines from 17 songs to create a profile of one of my current classes. Most of the students in this class have extremely poor lives, ranging from socioeconomic status to harmful, personal behavior; needless to say, I feel as though many of these students feel jaded. Most of the personal pronouns, I and me, refer to me as the instructor.
Hey little dreamer’s eyes open and staring up at me
Seeking more wisdom than I have to give away
For hours at a time
Won’t you please give in?
Then I could figure the damn puzzle out
Tongue gaping stare
There’s no hope in you for me
Don’t lose the dreams inside your head
Here there’s more than is showing up
It’s only teenage wasteland
To hold up my head when my head won’t hold on
Have they lost their heads?
Getting wasted with the greatest of ease
Turns out not where but what you think
They all do it the same way
Oh then complain and pray more from above
Dream, oh I think I can, I think I can
December 2, 2008
This poem is designed to praise the voracious reading I have witnessed by my students. In addition, I am trying to illustrate the transcendence students are able to achieve through reading. In order to emphasize the power of reading, I have attempted to contrast the vast and varied world of adolescent fantasy literature with the domestic environment of Northwest Arkansas. In doing so, I hope to provide evidence of the tremendous value reading has in shaping the imaginative and creative learners I have experienced in my classroom.
Fantasy Is a Genre
There are no dragons
Or handsome vampiric families
In the Rogers/Bentonville metroplex
— just Walmarts and miles
of fast-food restaurants.
There are, however, legions
Of elfin armies, warty trolls, wizards
Magic cities of ember and sparks,
And a bountiful collection of moons — eclipsed,
new, and twilit — unfurling from the pages
of school libraries and from the pubescent
minds of thousands
of emerging 7th and 8th grade readers.
These students ravenously devour
Series after series, novel after novel
To engage the fantastical,
Which their towns seemingly lack.
By stewing their minds in literature
And adolescence, these students
Shirk the apparent restrictions of teenagerdom
For the vastness of imagination.
These students hold-up in throne rooms
Of tentative experience, letting their minds
And imaginations stretch and breathe
As they try on endless personalities,
Struggle through numerous conflicts,
And live full-out on the infinite page.
Every experience is at their fingertips.
These students strain to keep their eyes
Open, long into the night. When sleep
Finally overtakes their reading, their dreams
Are filled with visions as limitless
As the pages in the books they will read.
December 18, 2008
When I first began this project, I set out to write a series of haikus that capture, in some way, the unique personalities of my students. Like the students themselves, the poems refused to adhere to conventional form. With these poems, I wanted to portray some of the heartbreaking challenges and amazing triumphs that these young people are presently encountering in their lives. After writing these poems and reading them together, I believe I have gained a new understanding of how profoundly my students have affected my life and shaped who I am today and who I will become as a teacher.
I owe these students a great deal, for they have taught me so many lessons — lessons I could never have learned from a textbook or from sitting in a classroom as a student. Each of these students has caused my heart to swell and break and swell anew, sometimes in the course of a minute. They have made me laugh and they have made me cry. They have offered me both support and encouragement and have often been the sole reason I have been able to continue on with the M.A.T. program.
Ms. Riley's 2nd Period: The Poetry Unit
The Music of Gwendolyn Brooks
Head and limbs wagging,
he unites body with beat.
His dance brings poetry to life.
She’s been expelled.
Indecency on the school bus.
I hold drafts of her songs in my hand.
He mines the shadows of Seuss,
unearths the hilarity of Plath,
and coaxes us all to think deep.
Low Blood Sugar
She needs the school nurse again.
Diabetes is like a tyrant,
and today it demands she miss our talk of similes.
“He’s a gang member,”
Several teachers tell me at lunch.
“No,” I reply, “he’s a poet.”
Upon Listening to Snowy Woods
Holding Frost with both hands
as one would a robin’s egg,
she tips her head, dreaming.
but no bathrooms or boys today!
She sulks behind her book.
“Why finish high school?”
“I always fails anyway!” — he says
“Besides, what use is there in poetry?”
Quoting T.S. Elliot
“Dare I eat a peach?”
She squints. “What’s his problem?”
She challenges, still flooded by Katrina’s wrath.
“Do you like raspberries?”
“Let’s try to focus on the poem. Okay?”
“But I really want to know.”
Yes, he’s the star quarterback,
but he also crushes stereotypes
with the flex of his brain.
He and I share a mission:
we both strive to accommodate “normal” people
because, sadly, they often suffer from CDD — creativity deficit disorder.
Ode to Beckham
You don’t believe in magic?
Just mention David Beckham’s name
then watch as apathy disappears before your very eyes.
Although tall, she curls into her desk,
making herself small.
I pray for the power to show her that she is beautiful.
December 2, 2008
This poem is written for the students in my first rotation in my homeroom classroom. Homeroom in this class is a little different than the other classrooms. Our class was a “Read 180” classroom, meaning that our students did not receive proficient or advanced on the literacy portion of the Benchmark Exams. “Read 180” takes up first and second periods of the day, so I spent double the amount of time with these students as I did any of my other classes. This poem describes them as learners and does describe some as individuals. They really affected the way I look at teaching and opened my eyes to the serious problem our nation is facing with teaching ALL of our students to read!
See the colors of the Rainbow proudly on display,
Black, White, Brown, we all have things to say.
They have labeled us as the kids who couldn’t pass,
So they stuck us together in one stupid class.
A 180 Degree Turn Around
Terrell’s dad just got out of his gang,
Last night, Calvin heard a great bang.
Jasmine’s mother is selling her prescriptions,
Ricky’s brother is battling addictions.
A 180 Degree Turn Around
So this program is supposed to make reading fun.
But the pages are dead, am I the only one?
My free or reduced lunch plan I try to hide.
I am hurting on the inside.
A 180 Degree Turn Around
December 13, 2008
To the students:
First of all, I want to thank you again for welcoming me into your class. As you know, I am supposed to be learning how to be a better teacher. The added and unexpected benefit of being in your classroom is that I am also learning how to be a better Spanish speaker, language learner, multi-culturalist, listener, and middle schooler. (Yes! It is important for me to remember what it is like to be a student in a middle school.)
Each day, you surprise and inspire me with your questions, your openness to my responses, and your willingness to try new things in what is often a very strange and often awkward place — school — during an often unpredictable, maniacal time of life — adolescence.
I especially enjoyed reading Maniac Magee with you. Even more enjoyable were your letters to me about the book. After we finished Maniac Magee, I wondered if anything else was going to be as much fun — and then, we spent time with Mexican proverbs (dichos.) Listening to you read them aloud in Spanish and English was one of the highlights of my time with you!
As I leave you, I hope you will read this “Ode to Us Maniacs” and understand how deeply I appreciate, admire, and respect every single one of you. You will always have a special place in my heart because of the many lessons you have taught me about what it means to be a thoughtful, fun, and effective teacher — and what it is like to live and learn as a middle schooler. I am now better prepared to have my own classroom because of the life lessons and dichos you have taught me. I cherish your gifts to me, especially your curiosity, laughter, wisdom, and patience. “Ode to Us Maniacs” is my gift to you.
Ode to Us Maniacs
I walk backwards in the classroom, book in hand
I feel you watch my movements: “What will she do next?”
My voice rises and falls, humming with electricity
I yell, I whimper, I cackle, I thunder, I trip, I cower
I smell sweet Butterscotch Krimpets from a nearby factory
My shoulders relax, my eyes settle on Amanda Beale, then . . . .
I am a black fourteen-year-old boy, chomping on chocolate
I am a sixty-year-old white, illiterate man, buying you dinner
My read-aloud adventure careens around curves, dips and dives
I am a homeless teenager, running on a rail
I am an eight-year-old racist-in-training hiding at Valley Forge
My tongue sticks, my ears pound, old tennis shoes on pavement
“Why aren’t you embarrassed when you read like that?!”
You laugh and sigh, warming the moment like Mrs. Beale’s kitchen
You tap pencils, wiggle legs, chomp not-so-secret wads of gum
Your questions and comments are the banter of a Pickwell dinner
You untie this knot with me, our minds nimble fingers
You want more story, you lean into me: “It’s not over yet, right?”
You are familiar with Hector Street, with borders and boundaries
You are actors in this play, too, and sometimes critics!
You try on the voices of the boy, the girl, the old man, the narrator
Your confidence grows, eyes shining, grins cracking into smiles
You lean on each other, support each other, and red hats rain down
You encourage your peers, you try something new, taking risks
Your honesty humbles me, your appreciation softens me
You run the rails of life, too, pursuing new territory
You zip along, train cars, each one unique, but connected to the next
“Is there another book of this? I don’t want it to end.”
Yes, there is. There is another book, and we are its authors
The book of you, of us, going from one side of Hector to another
Teachers, students, friends, savoring the Mars Bar of learning
Our classroom becoming our own 728 Sycamore Street
We shatter the pillboxes that others built to keep us apart
We share our dichos, invite each other to cross boundaries
We hear the voices of our nanas, papis, padres, hermanos y hermanas
We stream across borders, challenge the McNabs of our world
We make our own way, write our own rules, craft our own education
We run, skid, stumble, lift each other up, run again, Maniacs,
into the future
December 2, 2008
I wrote about students from my first rotation because I just didn’t feel that I had developed a meaningful enough relationship with my new students in the second rotation yet. I chose to write a composite profile that includes references to specific students as well as the body of students as a whole. I have never been patient enough to develop my skills in rhythm, meter, and rhyme, so I wrote in free verse. I enjoyed the “Who” and “Whose” pattern that we followed the last time, but chose to play with it a bit in order to arrange my lines in a meaningful way. I tried to move from the shallower to the more meaningful points as I wrote. I do wish, though, that I had written this before I left my first rotation, so I could have shared it with them.
On the First Day of School
"...I had no idea that the kids I met would eventually be my students..."
Whose English classes were the first I ever taught.
Whose enthusiasm for “The Dark Knight” was our first common ground.
Whose lack of enthusiasm for school was apparent from day one.
Whose motivation tended more toward noticing a change in hairstyle
than subjects and verbs.
Who taught me more about the reality of education than I could have
learned anywhere else.
Who introduced me to the hilarious misconception of “Tequila
Who was ratted out by a friend for crying during “The Notebook,”
a source of amusement for all.
Who schooled me never to fight someone with glasses; you don’t want
to have to pay for them, after all.
Who knocked the wind out of me by asking if it would be okay
to stay after school to finish their writing.
Who just couldn’t catch on to my hints about right and wrong crowds
and showed me dangerous loyalty.
Who genuinely apologized the day after a knock-down, drag-out
confrontation and reminded me that today really is a new day.
Whose colorful explosion of a note hangs on my refrigerator as a
Whose faces light up at Wal-Mart upon a run-in and whose
conversation inspires the same reaction from me.
Who made me fall in love with junior high.
December 2, 2008
I created this poem based on the most memorable group of students I had at my first rotation, my fifth period ELL (English Language Learner) class. The poem is a reflection of my students because it gives details about their lives, who they were as learners, and what they enjoyed. I do not tend to consider myself much of a poet, so I usually try to make some funny rhymes and just generally entertain with my poetic writing.
My ELL class truly was an eye opening experience for me. Although I began the semester in fear of not knowing Spanish or how to teach students who didn’t know much English, I learned throughout the semester that even though it is difficult to teach, the rewards go beyond what I can say in words. Thanks to those students, I now feel much more comfortable working with ELLs and have confidence that I could successfully teach an ELL class in the future. I hope this poem gives everyone an insight into how awesome my ELL students were — and perhaps it will make you smile along the way!
My ELLs ... Hasta Luego & Barloyok !
They called themselves brown.
They hardly ever wore a frown.
They volunteered to read but did so where no one could hear
unless you let them read in Spanish
and then you heard them loud and clear.
Who all had some form of artistic ability
but lived with mostly friends and random relatives,
with no mother or father and very little stability.
They touched my heart and changed my feelings.
I made it my mission to let no one fail.
They ate more than their little bodies could possibly hold.
And were always bundled up saying, “Mees, it’s cold!”
A combination of El Salvadorians and Marshallese,
They all loved to joke and laugh and tease.
The Marshallese always sang me beautiful songs
that reminded me of beaches and sand.
The El Salvadorians asked me daily if I was sure
that I was not a Mexican.
Who loved to call me Meees, Mrs. Gannies, and Mrs. Deneese.
Who I got started reading thanks to Twilight and The Uglies.
They learned best from one-on-one attention.
They always convinced me to not give them lunch detention.
Their favorite food was hot sauce on cheetos.
They asked me how much Spanish I knew and I said, “Poquito.”
Whose faces will be stored forever in my heart.
Whose posters adorn my fridge,
and who gave my teaching career the most amazing start.
November 30, 2008
I have seventh graders at a middle school. My mentor was out of town last Friday, the day before our Thanksgiving break. She told me I could do anything I wanted to do with my students. As it was the day before the holiday break, some kids were out, and none of them were focused on school. I decided to use this time to get to know my students on a more personal basis. Each student had to write a poem entitled “Me from A to Z.” First, I shared my own “Me from A to Z” poem with them — one that I had written about myself. Then I asked each student to write one for me about themselves. I read them over the Thanksgiving Break. I have learned so much about my students during my internship, but this activity allowed me to learn a few more “personal” things about each of them. I hope you enjoy, Tonya.
My Students from A to Z
My students are concerned with their appearance,
are very academic, like group activities,
and always have an answer to my questions.
They are very boastful and bright.
It is hard to put my students into categories,
but each is his or her own little celebrity
and champion for their own cause.
They are chatty and clever, and concerned with good grades.
They are developing and dynamic.
My students are enthusiastic and enjoyable;
they are even entertaining.
I envy their excessive energy.
They are an exceptional group of kids.
They are friendly and forthcoming.
As I gaze across my room,
I see that they are a gift to me as an intern,
and it will be hard to say goodbye to this gathering of kids.
They are hysterical.
My students are idealistic, sometimes impractical,
and very often impulsive.
However, they are very seldom insubordinate.
They are joined at the hip with their best friend.
They are knowledgeable.
My students are sometimes lazy,
yet we laugh and learn together every day.
At present, classroom management is marginal.
Learning their names has been easier than I thought.
They are optimistic.
Between classes, my students gather with their peers.
They poke and prod and plan and plot.
They can be a rascal one day,
then reform on the next.
They are smart, yet always sleepy.
My students have introduced me
to a whole new lineup of television shows,
and they all want to travel.
I will never underestimate them.
The majority of my students wear braces on their teeth.
My students have never heard of a Xerox machine,
and almost all of them have had an x-ray.
They yearn to be older.
They love the zoo!
November 30, 2008
When I think of the time I spent at my first rotation school, I can’t help but remember all of the wonderful personalities that were present each day. The students I taught quickly became my top priority and helped me to get through the challenges that presented themselves each day. I came to love those eighth graders I taught (all of them), and wish I was still able to see them on a daily basis. I feel very much attached to those students and probably always will. I could not have asked for a better placement, mentor-teacher, or better kids. While I know now that they were constantly looking to me for knowledge, guidance, and understanding, I realize that I was constantly seeking understanding and support from them.
I am now teaching at my second rotation school and am very pleased with the students I teach there. I love learning about them and their interests and am enjoying building a learning relationship with these new students. However, I have a special bond to those students from my first rotation and probably always will. I wrote this Poetic Profile of those students from my first rotation as a celebration of them and as a personal reflection on a very special time in my development as an educator. The following poem was inspired by those students I love so much, my very first class.
My lovely eighth graders who scared me to death the first day
I ever saw them,
But who I came to love by the end of the second.
They, who love to laugh and love to make me laugh,
Those fantastic thinkers who believe farther than I think is possible,
And are content to talk to me about football, Twilight, or any of our
other endless topics.
They, who don’t have the foresight to understand the importance
But will grow up to be doctors, models, naval officers, and writers.
They, who want nothing more right now than to have a shorter
school day or an all-day social hour.
They, who have such school spirit and support for each other,
Who know they depend on me, but don’t know how much I depend
They, who I want so badly to follow out into their lives to see the amazing feats they will each accomplish.
They, who have no idea how far my expectations and hopes extend
They, who were, are, and will always be,
My first class and a “gi-normous” part of me.
December 5, 2008
The students at my current rotation are to the point. Very straightforward. This poem is, too. It describes the differences (and similarities) among my students.
I have many students who are neglected and live in obvious poverty. I have many students who are well taken care of and come from healthy families. Despite these differences, all of these students respond well to being treated with respect and kindness. They also crave encouragement and cannot get enough of it.
Reading Novels Out Loud
for free breakfast
to write well
occasionally can’t read
Most can comprehend,
but not Melville,
November 30, 2008
In my last rotation, I interned in a middle school. I was able to teach science to about 100 awesome seventh graders. Because I started with these from the beginning of the school year, I was able to get to know them well. I knew both their strengths and weaknesses in terms of school ability as well as their interests and hobbies outside of school. My mentor was constantly commenting on how my biggest strength was my ability to build and maintain rapport with the students. This is connected to Pathwise Domain B2 — establishing and maintaining rapport with students. I am slowly adapting to my new rotation, but I am confident that it will be a great experience as well!
Ode to Seventh Grade
I’ll tell you a story of the time I spent
Teaching 100 seventh graders and what it meant.
Each student was a joy to spend my time with
But boy, oh boy on the whole
They were better than good, they were excellent!
Some aspired to be great athletic stars
Two could become international singing superstars
Most could talk and talk until the end of the day
One would do magic tricks instead of work if he had his way
Several could draw fantastic art
Two were twins who I couldn’t tell apart
Many could capture the attention of a crowd
Most would sleep all day if they were allowed
Several had amazing fashion sense
Many wrote or told wonderful stories that kept you in suspense
One could become the next president
While another was on the track to become an engineer and invent
Most claimed that homework was a chore
They said it was a bore and a snore
There was never a dull moment in the seventh-grade class
I thought there would be no other school that would surpass
I am now in eighth grade and the students are just as fun
Each has unique personality and characteristics
I am enjoying my time in this great, no, awesome class!
December 3, 2008
This poem illuminates the many students I have had the opportunity to work with this year. These qualities have emerged at one point or another in the semester, and they have challenged me as a learner and emerging professional.
S T U D E N T
Student you are inquiring
Student you are inquiring, challenging
You are inquiring, challenging, demanding
Inquiring, challenging, demanding, real
Student you are hilarious
Student you are hilarious, maddening
You are hilarious, maddening, heartbreaking
Hilarious, maddening, heartbreaking, wonderful
December 5, 2008
I wrote this poem about my students at a junior high rotation. I was in a pre-AP classroom during this rotation, so I was not able to interact with a widely diverse group of kids. Nonetheless, my students were absolutely AMAZING! I did not want to leave! These ninth graders were so actively involved with their learning experience. They truly came to class wanting to write and learn almost every day. I never had discipline issues, and I never had to deal with students being disrespectful.
My first period loved debating politics during Channel One. My third period loved Wednesdays when we listened to music and poetically analyzed the lyrics. Several of my fourth hour students had problems at home, so I spent a lot of time reading their journals and answering life questions that they asked me. My fifth period had the student body president, the football captain, and the cheerleading captain. Needless to say, it was fun watching them struggle with one another to be the “leader” of the class. We watched the student-made announcements everyday in sixth period, and several of the students on the announcement staff were in my sixth period. It was cute to watch their embarrassment on the first day and fulfilling to watch that embarrassment turn to delight by the end of my rotation. My seventh period class was the class that dared me to skateboard down the hallway. I totally busted! My bruised backside created tons of laughs and inside jokes, though. It was all worth it! I can only dream about teaching these students again one day!
We are Strong, We are Proud…
We are Warriors!!!
Whose love for the Jonas Brothers extends far and wide.
Whose love for music keeps their iPods readily by their side.
Whose political views and opinions stretch far beyond their age.
Whose writing abilities always kept me turning the page.
Whose extra-curricular activities are too long to name.
Whose faces were so sweet, I could never lay blame.
Whose home life made some turn to school for support and shelter.
Whose humor and love, on my down days, always made me feel better.
Who told me tragic tales that brought me to tears.
Who trusted me with their journals that expressed their hopes and fears.
Who I see all the time shopping with me in the same store.
Who dared me to skateboard down the hall and I hit the floor.
Who made me a better teacher, person, and friend.
Who I will love now and forever, amen!
November 30, 2008
A Reflective Introduction:
While I have nearly 150 students in my classes, these 23 are a part of a very unique group. Each student brings something special to the English class and the student body at their high school. Many of these students have bright futures, and I am proud to teach them. Many others are struggling to finish this semester, and I remain proud to be their teacher because they have a strong individual character. As I wrote this poem, I struggled to come up with just one thought to describe many of the students in my classes. I believe they are much more than what I can say about them in just a few words and much more than what the results of a test might tell about them. They are talented and inspiring. What follows is a poem about many of my students and what makes them special.
Knowing who my students are is very important to me. Learning about my students is not only part of being an emerging professional and part of my Pathwise assessments, but also beneficial to their learning. I have only been in this rotation for a few weeks, but what I have learned about them has helped me to teach them. For example, Felipe, the MC, really enjoyed and better understood The Canterbury Tales when I sent him to a website that has many of the stories in rap form. I know that Oscar is an aspiring artist and will be successful and engaged in learning more as he completes an upcoming assignment.
No Two Students the Same
My students are dynamic, unique, and exceptional.
Each student walks his or her own path.
As seniors, they build their futures with the decisions they make
Derrick, who will play college football,
Michael, who likes to distract and tease Derrick from concentrating,
Taylor, whose iPod is glued to his ears,
Justin, who misses class to judge FFA competitions,
Sean, who is charming and studious, the exact opposite of his twin,
Charley, whose gender makes her different from all her friends,
Parker, whose band plays at George’s on the weekend,
Taylor, — or Parker’s girlfriend — who remains silent while
her boyfriend steals the show,
Slyuter, who moved out of his parent’s house and is on his own,
Kayla, who corrects her friends’ grammar,
David, who skips English class for Calculus tutoring,
Sammy, who is president of the International club and thinks he’ll
work for AmeriCorp next year,
Courtney, who just signed to play golf next year at Dallas Baptist
and thanked her youth minister at the ceremony,
Madison, who works on the school newscast and has a shoe fetish
Zack, who shyly sits behind the much taller Madison in class but
leads the football team’s chant,
Rachel, Raymond, and Nick, who each have to be told to put away
their independent reading when class begins,
Carlie, who asks the tough questions and proudly claims to be
the shortest feminist in town,
Krystine, who humbly makes a perfect on every assignment,
Elisa, who is afraid to ask me questions but thankful when I ask her
if she needs help,
Leo, who is the first to make it to English class because he comes from
AP Spanish Literature, and
Allie Jo, who struggles with school because she wants to focus on
getting into film school.
December 3, 2008
My current rotation is rife with students who cannot conceal their lack of concern with compliance, let alone success. I wanted to share a few of the specific background stories that recently came to my attention and helped explain the more pressing issues in the lives of my Eighth graders. I didn't title or provide much commentary on these sketches because they are still just that to me, mere sketches of complex lives glimpsed through a busy classroom. I knew that I had to write about the first two students' revelations, and the theme and other examples of outside concerns naturally followed. I debated using names for authenticity, but opted for initials in favor of a more respectful anonymity.
R. cooks Thanksgiving dinner for his brother
'cause his Dad is "away."
He eats his potatoes and makes brother's
steak and cake, which
he chooses to forsake;
he's not very hungry.
S. needs to read our class an essay she's written on "Respecting Authority."
Her probation officer requires it,
"So I won't go to jail," she explains to the group.
"This is an excellent 'real-world' use of literacy," I assure them,
but I know that her
makes more of an impression on her peers.
I heard one of my students deliver a hilarious and thought-provoking address at his Bar-Mitzvah,
yet, he slumps down to invisibility at his desk.
One kid is too smart to try very hard and
some are already too hard to even try at all.
Nonetheless, I like these kids and want them to succeed;
to read and write even more than
those who take to it without any problem.
December 9, 2008
I am currently teaching tenth grade classes during my second rotation. This biopoem is about these students. The stanzas follow the order of the classes through the day. First and seventh periods are regular English classes and second, fourth, and sixth are pre-AP classes. I tried to identify and describe the overall aura of each class that I have come to know and care for.
Many quiet, disinterested faces lounge in their seats,
Trying to give off the best nonchalant air possible
Amid few chattering voices eager to make their impression.
Carefreeness is their safety. Closed self-reliance is their home.
Several chattering voices eager to make their impressions
Often ramble about nothingness
From their sweet and open dispositions.
Pleasing is their desire. Stability is their home.
Several sweet and open faces interestedly seek knowledge
To the best ability that their growing minds can offer
In a world where “nerd” and “success” seem to conflict.
Truth is their pursuit. Self-assurance is their home.
In a world where “nerd” and “success” color the same people
These strong faces stare life in the face
With the true confidence of adults surpassing most.
Achievement is their goal. Ability is their home.
With the fake confidence that fades into cockiness upon them
These few faces seek to hide the fear of uncertainty
Under a blanket of tough pride and independence.
Pleasure is their safety. Intense survival is their home.
December 7, 2008
I have a strong belief that a successful learning environment must be one in which each member of the community views themselves as an active participant in the learning process. In order to create such an environment, I asked the students in my new rotation to complete a survey that was designed like Facebook. One of the questions I asked them was, “What is something I can do to make our class a successful learning environment?”
For my poetic profile, I have selected to use a type of loose sonnet form, with the first eight lines composed of answers to that question, and the final six lines of what I have learned from my students.
What can I do?
You can use more games that tie to the lesson
You can use technology and visual aids to keep it interesting
You can be funny — don’t be afraid
You can teach on our level of understanding — we want to connect
with what you are saying
You can avoid using a lot of worksheets or homework
You can be kind, not mean
You can listen to us
You can make sure we are all involved
What I have learned.
I have laughed at myself, as we laugh together
I have used music, because it is a language that everyone speaks
I have realized you want to be treated like adults, and we have had
real conversations about real things
I have recognized that opening myself up makes me vulnerable, too,
but it will enable you to be honest with me
I have felt your support of me because you know I support you
I have felt joy when we learn something together, and smiled all day!
December 4, 2008
I decided to write my poetic profile comparing my two rotations because they are so incredibly different. The students, teachers, academic environment, content — everything is such a huge change from being in an eighth grade English classroom to a twelfth grade English classroom. Even though it has been a couple of weeks, I am still getting used to the dissimilarities.
It is true that most high school seniors are not all that excited about school anymore; getting them engaged in anything other than a nap or cup of coffee is a challenging (but exciting) feat. However, when they are participating in class, their ideas are so interesting and developed, I feel like I can participate in the discussion instead of guiding it toward a certain point. I miss the eagerness of my junior high students, but I enjoy the scholarship of these high school seniors. It is a strange dichotomy, but one that is teaching me so much about how to approach different kinds of learners at different stages in their academic careers.
My Two Rotations
I say something like, “parallel motif”
to 12th graders, and they nod as I speak.
I say that to 8th graders
and they wonder when I learned Greek.
When you’re still in junior high,
there’s so much to learn about.
By the time you’re a senior,
you’re ready to get out.
I really enjoy speaking to students at their academic prime,
but I love being the one to explain “parallel motif” for the first time.
December 11, 2008
My students are unique and interesting. They all have different hobbies, values, learning styles, and personalities. They need a teacher who can recognize these differences and make school a place where every student can learn everyday. I try to incorporate this into my lessons. Sometimes, when I give an example, I will try to use Michael Jackson or the Jonas Brothers because these are their favorites. I believe that if the teacher can recognize their interests and try to incorporate them into her classroom, the students will be much more willing and able to learn.
My Unique and Interesting Students
My students are unique and interesting.
They love to listen to the Jonas Brothers.
They dance and sing to Michael Jackson songs, and
They want me to use “Thriller” any chance I can get.
They read Twilight voraciously, and
The girls claim to be married to Edward Cullen.
Cassie loves Jimmy, and Kelsea loves Ethan.
Randy hates Rachel, who thinks he’s her true love.
Blake dances like Michael Jackson, and
Erick impersonates Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Robert is from South Dakota, and his dad lives on a reservation.
Bridget’s nickname is Peppy, and
Callie wants to be known as Mrs. Jonas.
They have karaoke contests at lunchtime,
And they love making papier-mache pumpkins.
They love free reading days, but
They hate reading logs.
They have tons of school spirit, and
They better not catch you wearing purple
(because that is their rival’s color).
They read at different levels,
They write at different levels,
And they have a variety of interests;
But, most of all, they are all important, and
They all deserve to learn from a good teacher.
Freddie A. Bowles
Assistant Professor of Foreign Language Education
Department of Curriculum and Instruction
University of Arkansas
is directed by Dr. Freddie A. Bowles
Assistant Professor of Foreign Language Education
in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction,
the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.
Planet Gnosis is dedicated
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a developmental website for the Mind and Spirit.
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