Thursday, May 24, 2007

Final Reflection

As yesterday was my last day at Sue Cleveland, I thought it would be appropriate to post my final entry from my teaching journal. Some of you will recognize several of these points from my previous "Things Learned" list. I've been keeping it going, and here it is in final form:

Things I've learned through student teaching:
- children will lick any envelope given them.
- two excellent composers of children's choral music: Andy Beck, Linda Spaveck
- all solemn men in paintings are presidents. Most likely George Washington.
- glue guns and Post-it Notes are your friends
- the floors in primary classrooms are tile for a reason: summed up in one word, "moppable"
- the inventor of the laminating machine is worthy of a Nobel Prize
- there's a such thing as a task analysis, and consequences when you forget it
- they're always watching. Always.
- they always copy you. Especially when you hope they WEREN'T watching
- love the secretary and janitor-- they are very important Friends to have.
- your first name is "Miss"
- Squidward plays the clarinet
- explosions and natural disasters are the best motivators for boys starting in 4th grade. maybe before...
- children find routine comforting: if you don't give them a routine, they'll make one, even if it's something as simple as saying "bringit around town!" every time they warm up their bodies for singing.
- children are people. Small, yes. Incomplete? no. They have feelings, backgrounds, opinions, likes, dislikes, fears and hopes just like anybody else.
- kids tune out talking. but they're ALWAYS watching (see previous point).
- "ta ta ti-ti ta" is a universally shushing rhythm
- anything you say in class can and will be used against you :)
- you have the right to remain silent.
- laughing is infectious, and SO much fun
- just like everyone else, kids want to know 1) that you know what you're talking about and 2)that you care about who you're talking to
- no one likes to be shouted at
- teachers ask their kids for a lot of humility and teachability. I need to acknowledge that I'm asking them of them, and model both traits.
- tell a kid a story, you've got his attention; listen to HIS story, you've got a friend for life
- (the core belief of our school's Multi-Age classes:) "Tell me…I forget, Show me…I remember, Involve me…I understand!"
- they say teaching never pays enough, but they also say that no amount of money could buy the influence and reward a teacher gets. I've seen that both can be true... but more than either, I've learned this: a teacher must work for a Greater "well done, good and faithful servant." The kids won't know, can't know how much they should appreciate, and sometimes the burden will be too great to carry and the teacher will fall. Without a Higher Judge, there will be no room for grace, and a huge thirst for thanks that could never be satisfied. I'm aiming for that Greater Smile, and choosing to see it in the face of every student I have.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

It's so me...

My fiancé sent me this, saying it reminded him of me... HAH.

Those of you who knew me freshman year might recall the little music video my roommate and I produced... to a certain song... But I would never analyse a pop song as I heard it, certainly not out loud.

Ok... maybe I would on occasion.

Ok... maybe I do on occasion.

Ok... maybe I should just take out the maybe and occasion.

Ok... I'm a music major, what do you expect!?

Pop songs are musically boring, anyway. All those I-vi-IV-V progressions...

My beloved knows me well. That's reason to grin. =D

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Professional Discouragement

The past two days have been rough. I think part of it is that both Robin & I are going long stretches of time without seeing our significant others. :) I'm slightly used to it by now (not that I like it any better), but she isn't. Today I think I succeeded in finally cheering her up a little. :) I've been "counting down the days." The kids always wonder why there's a giant star on May 18th on Miss Thompson's wall calandar...

Day 43, Tuesday May 8th:

It's wonderful to once again watch Robin teach. I learn so much just watching her, especially now that I've had some experiences of my own. Today was the start of a new instructional week, and I dropped 1st and 2nd grades. [...]

As a teacher, I'm personally discouraged. I feel like I'm getting worse and worse instead of better and better. I'm just so completely tired, all the time, and I think it's affecting my teaching. I honestly don't think it's that I'm not preparing or's like I can't remember everything when I get in front of the kids all of a sudden. Mentally I sort of freeze. And even getting ready takes me twice as long. Then I have to go back and correct or re-do half of it anyway because in my fatigue I did it wrong the first time. I can't keep functioning much longer on this little rest. I almost wonder if it would be better for the kids for me to just go to bed, and make up whatever we're doing the next day, when I can actually process up to speed. I know I can't do that, and I certainly won't. I think the worst is passed-- everything is done for this week, and next week I'll just be doing K5, and that lesson's already planned. It's so hard to plan lessons, teach all day, get lessons ready, and attend school-related functions, especially when I have to work two other jobs on the weekends and fulfill numerous responsibilities. It's letting me know three things: that in my first years as a teacher under no circumstances do I want to teach full-time and do ANYTHING else; that since the teaching internship consumes the energy of any full-time job, it should be PAID as such; and that planning lesson units (if no more than skeletal outlines) while NOT teaching (summer!) will relieve so much pressure!!

Maybe I'm just being harder on myself as I go, I don't know. I want to do right by these kids, by Robin, and by Furman. least there's only two more weeks to go.


Again from my journal:

Day 41, Friday May 4th:

The variation in the responses of different children to the same "system" is remarkable to me. One student got a low grade on his assignment, largely through lack of effort, and spent today's class working as hard as he could. Not only did he make up last week's assignment, he also did well on today's and was able to receive his reward-- time on the laptops (doing more work- they just didn't know that's what it was). Another student likewise received a poor grade, but spent the entire class period walking around looking at other people's grades, moping when his was lower than theirs, and doing absolutely nothing productive. Was the difference simply the personality of the child, or maybe each's environment? If one comes from a home with consistant consequences, with appropriate praise and appropriate disapproval, but one does not, that might make the difference. I know that the first student understood that his grade was fair. The other one should have known that, but I wonder if he somehow missed that. I know I would find it quite demoralizing to have to work under circumstances I deemed to be unfair. ...

Most mystifying of all to me were the students who did really well on last week's assignment, yet put forth NO effort to similarly succeed this time. One boy, "Josh" got a perfect score on last week's assignment, but spent THIS class period lying face down on the floor. I answered his questions as patiently as I could (which was difficult!), and after class Robin told me she'd also worked with him twice. What had been the problem? Looking at what he had written, and after talking to him, I think he just didn't want to take the time to erase the first things he'd written (which he then realized were incorrect), and he didn't want to wait his turn to get his work checked by me. It shocked me a little that any student would be so lazy, to his own detriment! I would never have thought of such an attitude at his age! But... all in all the lessons went well today. I love it that we get them to work really hard for a reward of more work! And they love it! :)

Grace in Teaching

From my teaching journal. I joke about how I never knew God's grace often resembled a steaming dark liquid until I started teaching. :)

Day 40, Thursday May 3rd:

Today was proof to me that learning, or even successful lesson-flow, is NOT dependant on how well I, the teacher, feel coming into it. I woke up this morning absolutely exausted, not quite sure how I was going to make it through the day on zero energy, much less teach all day! Maybe it was the cup of coffee, maybe it was just grace, but lessons went great. I think I hit on a good way to maximize the time in our class, minimize my talking, let the kids hear their compositions, allow them to revise their first drafts, and force them to compose! The laptops became a motivating tool-- never knew what a handy trick it was to turn an ends into a means! I also liked how this showed the students who didn't take the first assignment (or me) seriously that I DO mean business: the standards of expectations are high, and that their choice to do less than their best had very natural consequences. They were the ones who had to spend the whole class revising rather than going straight to a laptop. But it also gave them a second chance, one they took gladly. Robin gave me high praise on the way I ran the class, with students working on their revision, then coming up to me at my desk to check off their work (or more often, to guide further correction), and then moving to the laptops where they had a "map" (written instructions). It was a bit chaotic-sounding, with kids queuing by my desk, but it was worth it. "Not every class can be that way, but for composing, it really NEEDS to be that way" she said. I think it was learning noise :)... the students seemed to benefit from the individual "conference time" they got when they were up at my desk. I don't know how I would have done it if Robin hadn't been there to monitor those at the computers, though! I said that to her, and she said I'd have recruited some of the students to help. Likely I wouldn't have allowed as much noise, either. Anyway I enjoyed teaching despite my bleak outlook on life in general when I rolled out of bed this morning.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Books Illustrated

It would seem that Jacqui and I have developed a habit of illustrating photographically the books on engagement/marriage which I'm currently reading. And being otherwise random, hehehe...

Here we were imitating the cover of Wilson's book Reforming Marriage. Great book, but the cover leaves one somewhat doubting the book's effectiveness. We hope the couple on the front is in need of a reformed marriage, not the result of one!! They're either so completely bored with each other that they've fallen asleep, or so utterly overworked that they can't sit down without collapsing. Either way...not so much my ideal for marriage! :)

The following could constitute a photographic tutorial in how to subtly show-off a hypothetical (engagement) ring. The ideas are from Dazzled to Frazzled and Back Again, by Ginger Kolbaba. It was a gift from my Mommy, which we have greatly enjoyed, and which I highly reccomend! :)

The famous and effective "Adjusting my contact" technique

"Pondering deeply and often"

"Just tucking my hair behing my ears"

last but not least: "Becoming easily and overwhelmingly excited"

Oh. That's just Jacqui being random. :)
Engagement showers do strange things to you.

Friday, May 04, 2007

They're Here!!

A large box awaited me on my return from school yesterday afternoon. One look at the return address and I knew exactly what it contained: invitations. 350 of them. To my wedding.

Talk about a milestone!

I sat down at the table, hesitant to open the box. What if I didn't like them? What if they turned out horrible in the printing? What if there was some mistake. What if Mom hated them? What if... what if... "Mom, I'm a little scared to open these," I said as I put knife to tape. In a strange role-reversal, she said "Just do it!" And there they were within: my name, Ryan's name, our date, our faces... waiting in all their glossy, correctly lettered beauty. :)

"Mom, this is my wedding invitation! ...Oh dear, I better not cry!" She gave me a questioning look. "No it's not that I don't like them- I love them! ...Mom, this is really happening. These are real. People are going to get these and really come to a real wedding-- and it's not for someone else this time! ...This just makes it all seem real...."

Yay!! I'm getting married! :)

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

So Quickly Moving...

From an email conversation regarding the paradoxical, strangeness of feelings that accompanies the end of one's "Senior Year:"

End-of-term is sure comin' up fast! I can't believe I'm about to cross off 'May 2' on my school calandar. Today I have exactly three more weeks here! (and only 16 more days until I get to see my Ryan! =D) I feel like things are progressing so fast that I don't have time to feel strange about being one of 'The Seniors.' I'm just taking it one step at a time, and I know those steps will land me outside the familiar world of Furman, with a new strange title of "alumna." But I don't have time to really think about it, because the next step is coming so fast!!

I'll be so glad to be done with school, to be done with being responsible FOR school (aka student teaching)... and most of all, to be able to take time to enjoy where I am before I'm gone. Nicole got home yesterday -- her freshman year is over! Anna's senior year will be ending at the end of June, and I want to enjoy them both, while we're all together. But so much is happening! My kids sing their closing concert Friday night, and we compete in Carowinds' Choral Competition Saturday. Anna's giving a senior recital soon...Mom & Dad are hosting a Graduation Drop-in for the both of us... End of May also means big party with lots of family comin' in, and Ryan!!!

About that- please pray for me: the distance and prolonged separation wears on me... I'm glad, though, that I have someone so wonderful to miss! :)