Two Papacies

And Other Important Facts and Fallacies

It’s August. You know what that means. August 27, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — J @ 5:13 pm

Alright.

So…school is back.  I’d like to start a little conversation about that, maybe just with my fellow papacy gals, as I think maybe they are the extent of our readership.

Last week I was really determined to be a better teacher this year.  This week I’m feeling deflated and apathetic.  I reckon this is quite normal, but I’d like to reverse the trend.

To be honest–and I haven’t aired these particular thoughts to the world at large yet, or, more particularly, to my colleagues–I seem to be having less and less love for teaching the 9th graders.  I mean, I think maybe I have a rough bunch this year, which isn’t helping, but I don’t feel any sort of passion for teaching 9th English.  I find this worrisome, but I don’t know what to do about it.  I am trying to focus more of my energies on making their classes better–as in, more conscientious planning, attempting to give better feedback–but it’s almost as though those energies are frustrating me more because they’re not working yet.  I mean, I see the difference from last year, but they sure don’t.

Basically, I don’t know what to do with that.  I do not, however, like the way I’ve been feeling during their classes lately.  And I don’t like how how I’ve been feeling has been affecting the way I teach the class (think giant snowball of negativity).

I needed to get all that out.  I’m hoping to go somewhere positive now, or at least think about going somewhere positive.

But how have y’alls’ years been so far?

 

Meet my friend Fear June 18, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Anne Sutton @ 10:07 pm

Ok. Here I am. Now what? There are so many things that I could write about. I can write about my first, second, or upcoming third year of teaching. I can write about my mundane life during the summer (but how, at the same time, I have a secret crush on Summer….shhhh–don’t tell my husband). I might even possibly write about my fear of writing.

With the exception of my crazy obsession with summer, the topics above have more in common than I might originally think. During the first year of teaching, I lacked a bit o’ confidence, despite the fact that I kept this generally under wraps and kept away like a pile of dirty laundry when company comes to visit. My second year of teaching I became a bit more confident, but still hid away the stray socks of uncertainty. Furthermore, it’s unfortunate that even though I love writing, my fear of critique is intimidating enough that I would wait a good three to four weeks to finally write in this here blog. When company finally comes to visit, I realize that teaching and writing reveal something about my character and that, my friends, is something that frightens even the best of us. Without fear, though, how might anyone ever do great things? How might anyone ever realize his or her true potential?

I’m not so sure that I have much more to say right now other than this: I think I’m okay with this “fear” guy. I think I’ll get to know him a bit more and continue to let my fear of uncertainty drive me to become a phenomenal teacher. I think I’ll keep typin’ words on the computer in hopes of becoming an exceptional writer. I think, I just think, I’ll keep on keepin’ on.

 

Keeping my head June 12, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — wennerth @ 9:41 pm

It was sometime during College soccer when it dawned on me that I had spent over 10 years trying to perfect dribbling, tricks, fast ball movement, passing, throw-ins. I had learned to see the soccer game synonymous to the chess game. It was imperative to be two steps ahead of your opponents–the psychology of the game was all up in my head. What wasn’t in my head–it was somewhere lost between remote drills and learning new tricks–was the goal. The goal. That was it. Forget everything. All I really HAD to do was get the ball in between the metal posts and into the net. That was it. And I forgot about that and believed there was something more important: the way I passed, the dribbling moves to burn past opponents— who cares if I didn’t shoot the ball? I looked like I new what I was doing and the other teammates believed I did as well. I thought I knew what I was doing too.

Here’s my point: I don’t think education is that different. We forget the goal. We forget what we are doing and what for and we come up with silly and fun tricks along the way– some of which are researched based and therefore easily justified in the classroom. But let’s not be mundane–I am not talking about “this is all for the kids” because that sounds not only cliche and phony but let’s face it: it’s about a 95% libel. Education is not merely for kids. It’s for us. Perhaps it’s also for some generations down the road. But right now, it is for you and me.  And that’s why we should seriously care so much about it. My greatest hope is that kids that enter my classroom walk out with a better and more sensible understanding about life and how to live their lives. Why does this serve me? It’s two fold: one, it forces me to question my own way of living but it also plants seeds that with enough nourishment will eventually develop into people that understand what it means to make moral and ethical decisions. And so if education is for us, then what are we doing to ensure that we get what’s right (not merely what we want–higher pay checks, motivated students) no, I think what is right is sitting in that diamond mine — that goal — that piece that is so important. For me, that goal is to teach the students about life and living. And that is all. Every content area, every subject falls under this goal. But if we become distracted by the ball dribbling and remote exercises that look so good and feel so right then perhaps we damage ourselves more so than we think we damage the kids. They’ll learn about life with or without us; they’ll learn about living with or without us. The singularly most important thing in this world is you. You get this one chance to teach these kids life and living. The subjects and content we study today are merely rationales for life-no?

 

Thinking about the fall already?! June 3, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — J @ 12:59 pm

So I’ve been reading and researching a lot over the past few days–juggling books and websites and articles and generally changing my focus about every four seconds.  Surprising (to me, anyway) is the plain fact that the only thing that holds my interest is material that I can connect to the ideas I have for the classes I’m teaching in the fall.  Last summer I couldn’t stand to think about teaching until, oh, August 5th or something, so this is pretty bizarre.

Anyway, I tried researching a little for the 9th grade class, but, unsuprisingly (to me, anyway), I don’t really have any ideas about how to direct that research because I REALLY don’t know what to do with that class!  When will I get better at teaching 9th English?!  I guess maybe I just need to throw down some ideas or principles that I want to try out or keep in mind and then start shaping them, but right now I’m lost–and reading teacher websites that focus on grammar and other same-old, same-old stuff is really not helping me.

Meanwhile, I’m coming up with more and more cool stuff to do with the College Comp class.  I want to try using field research rather than primarily library research to help kids understand basic research concepts like validity, reliability, bias, etc.  There are all kinds of materials on college anthropology websites that are helping me figure out how to support and structure the mini-ethnography assignment that I’m planning to replace the dialogue paper/research synthesis assignment I’ve used in the past.  I think kids will be really excited about being treated as real researchers, and I think the new approach will probably help them understand the difference between sound and shoddy research in a much more direct and purposeful way.

So I guess there’s an idea that I can apply when I’m re-envisioning the 9th grade class: How can I make it more authentic?  More hands-on?  How can I structure things to help them become and feel more competent, more in control, more like they’re doing their work–work they care about and direct–rather than simply jumping through my hoops?

 

reflections from a second year teacher May 29, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — wennerth @ 7:53 pm

There’s this funny idea out there, brought to us no doubt by idiotic advertising campaigns like Mountain Dew, that will delude us all at least once and perhaps many times if we refuse to take responsibility and learn from the happy delusion caused by this seemingly sensical idea. This of course is the notion that “been there” actually means “done that”, and that whatever IT is has been done not only well but pretty much with totally awesome second time around expertise. Perhaps this appropriate advice for someone who is sculpting a creamy peanut butter sandwich for the second time but in terms of sculpting young adolescent rebellious minds: this couldn’t be further from the truth–at least in my humble experience. Truth: I was more like M.C. Hammer’s second album (honestly: too legit, should’ve quit)–admittedly, I sucked more the second time around than the first. Second truth: I still love teaching. I think partly the uncomfortable second year experience has only brought me closer to appreciating the first… As I’ve focused entirely too much on negative aspects this past year (which has done me no good and brought only a split second of self-gratification), I’ve decided  that crap-talk about school has started to bore me and I’m pretty much over it. Also, it’s been recently brought to my attention that I have no control over the past! Imagine that. So I beat on, a small raft against the current, ceaselessly into the past. Or no–I didn’t say that–and I’m pretty sure I like the present a whole lot more. So here’s to new beginnings…and to summer 2009. Amen, sisters.