Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Sesame Street, Poetry, & Kids with Incarcerated Parents

I'm teaching a writing and editing course for novice writers, students preparing themselves for college level composition clothes. Some students are this close to being ready to join a college level class; others have come less prepared. 

Many haven't been in school or years. Most come to class anxious about taking English. And the majority are first-generation college students. So I feel extra pressure to make sure I don't overwhelm them with logistics, especially on first day.

I doubt that taking attendance, adding and dropping students, and reading the syllabus substantially settles peoples' nerves. Minimally perhaps. But for students excited about the first day of school, too much "teacher talk," regardless how important, might dampen their spirits.  The ones already not looking forward to English? Spirits further dampened. 

I did make sure to point out important passages they'd need to know right away (texts, contact information, major projects),hopefully enough to ease tensions for those who require that sort of information right away.Luckily, I was able to protect a good two-thirds of the class to diving into actual work. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

SWCBLogger Challenge #4: First Day of Class

It makes sense that the first blog post for this semester's SWCBlogger's asks us to reflect on opening moves or ice-breakers we used in class. I was inspired by the keynote speaker of the Opening Day Professional Development Program, Jeff Duncan-Andrade (I wrote about the opening day in another post here.) He is a professor at SFSU and teaches high school in East Oakland.  The above clip features an abbreviated version of the talk he gave to staff and faculty. 

Duncan-Andrade reminded us of the significance of Maslow's hierarchy of needs theory. Students - everyone! - needs a modicum of love/belonging and self-esteem before they can operate at a level of self-actualization where optimal learning takes place. Duncan-Andrade lit a fire under me to find ways to teach skills and concepts that help students build their sense of efficacy. I've got to layer lessons that help students gain the confidence to see themselves as thinkers and writers. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Renew & Reflect Challenge #2: What Makes my Teaching Unique

Today's question posed by TeachThought's Renew and Reflect Blog Challenge is the kind of the that work my nerves: "What do I consider unique about my teaching?" 


The question bugs me for at least two reasons: 1) I don't think my teaching is all that unique, which taps into my insecurities about being an impostor; and conversely,  2) questions like this make it super easy to dissemble answers that make me look like a better teacher than I am, compelling me be "that" knows it all. The question rankles like job interview questions where I avoid short-selling myself and overstating my skills.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

A New Season of Love: Spring 2015 Opening Day Program

One by one, individuals sprung up from different parts of the auditorium, striding toward the makeshift stage. They bellowed from the top of their lungs, struggling to be heard above the buzz of the 400 or so students, staff, teachers, counselors, librarians and administrators waiting for the for the formal beginning of the Opening Day Professional Development Program for Spring 2015 semester, 

At first, the random strollers’ words were unintelligible over the voices of colleagues getting reacquainted, rushing to sign attendance slips proving they deserve credit for showing up, and clambering over each other to get keys for the classes and offices. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Reflect & Renew: Challenge #1 - How Students Learn Best

Hooray for the blog challenges posed by TeachThought's online community!  The challenges have been so, so helpful. And so I accept the January's Reflect and Renew in 2015 challenge. Perhaps not every day or every question. But I've come to appreciate keeping a commitment to writing and reflecting. Big time.

The first prompt asks, "What are my beliefs about how students learn best?"  I'll answer in a list, with the caveat that these are stated ideas and values. Applying and practicing these beliefs requires  daily commitment. A work in progress. Here goes: 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

SWCBlogger Challenge #3: On Reading and Recharging

Our fledgling blogging group's final challenge last semester asked us to consider what we plan to do to recharge. After four weeks, I'm finally meeting the challenge! 

I kept putting off composing that post for a bunch of reasons. Grades were coming due. Holiday happenings happened. And then inertia set in, and instead of writing about rejuvenating, I dove into my favorite hobbies: reading books and watching movies. 

So instead posting what I planned to do, this entry recaps one thing I did to recharge. It turns out my that all roads, even attempts at rejuvenation, meandered back to teaching/learning applications! 

As is the case with many of my teacher friends, I fell into the trap of doing double-duty, thinking I could read for recreation and prep at the same time. As of now, I've read three single-author textbooks (two memoirs and a novel) that I will teach next semester, zig zagging between reading for pleasure and contemplating how to leverage lessons. Though while I was in effect doing "work," I thoroughly enjoyed studying, reminding me of the best times of grad school and summers off. 

One book, Marivi Soliven's The Mango Bride, particularly engaged me. Her novel traces the stories of two Filipinas' journey from the Philippines to the United States, and the surprising connections they share despite their class differences.