Toast to the Future

Hello future 301D students,

Congratulations! If you’re reading this, it means you get to take CO 301D with Dr. Garcia. Put aside the rumors that you’ve heard this class is “hard” or that it’s “pointless” or “it just plain sucks.” This might be the greatest news you’ve heard yet: these assumptions are NOT true, because you have an awesome teacher.

Do not let the syllabus fool you. The workload is not what you think. Take a deep breath and think twice about dropping this class as soon as you get home. During the course of this semester, you will become attached to this classroom and all that is has to offer. The syllabus says one thing, this is what we ACTUALLY do:

-You do not turn in papers. The genre “papers” are actually opportunities for “do-whatever-you-want-so-long-as-its-academic-and-relevant-to-education.” You can paint a picture, make a video, draw on the sidewalk, make a statue out of balloons, create a picture book, write a poem, draw a comic…anything you want! Take advantage of this freedom and get out of your head that this is a composition class and therefore you should be writing essays. NO! In fact, I guarantee you that if you really think outside the box and create some awesome genre projects, it will help you become a teacher far beyond what a stupid-old-essay could. Bizarrely enough, my writing improved from this class even though I really wasn’t turning in essays. I know it’s hard to believe–I wouldn’t have believed it either. But it’s true.

-Blogging is not stupid and actually fun. You get to express your thoughts about classes, education, teaching, books, anything! And it’s personal to you, and your classmates will be able to give you feedback. The blogs can also become target points for class discussion, and believe me when I say talking about somebody’s ridiculous Facebook page is way more entertaining than flipping to page 62 of your textbook and talking about technical writing.

-The texts you read in this class are actually relevant to your future job. It’s accessible and beneficial. Class discussions talk about contemporary, meaningful, real-life experiences in relations to the text. Read it and find out for yourself–you won’t be disappointed.

-The external readings never actually happen. It’ll make the final paper in the class much easier if you do read an education journal, magazine, or article every week, but it’s not exactly necessary. Your blogs can be about you and your reactions to media, writing, or life experiences. Blogs are not critical analysis paragraphs about the articles you look up on Google Scholar.

-You will become attached to this class. Together, you, your classmates, and Dr. Garcia will talk about some pretty important things about your future–kids, students, stupid internet memes, your hopes, dreams, and fears. By the end of the semester, your classmates will know more about you, and you will know things about your classmates, that you never dreamed of. And it’s great. I gained 30 new friends within the course of 4 months–30 friends who share the same passions and futures as me! Not many classes can do that.

-You will watch videos, read articles, lead discussions, and play activities that will slowly awaken your inner teacher. Powerful, enlightening shit!

Now that you know what you’ll be doing, keep these following things in mind. This will help you be successful in this class:

Memorize all internet page URLs related to this class: Twitter, TodaysMeet, WordPress, and the Google Doc.

-Check the Google Doc nightly and don’t skip the links.

-Blog frequently about a plethora of different subjects.

-Go outside your comfort zone when it comes to genre projects. Don’t be afraid to go beyond the expected and a little “weird.”

-Keep in touch with your classmates.

-Keep up with the syllabus and plan ahead–think of your discussion topic way before your discussion day. Same goes for genre projects. Think of an idea long before it’s due.

-Don’t be afraid to talk to Dr. Garcia about this class! Because there’s so much freedom of creativity when it comes to the stuff you turn in, check in with him to make sure you’re on the right track.

-Mark the syllabus on the Google Doc on your search favorites–more often than not, all that you need to know is in that handy-dandy document.

-Try not to miss class. Usually what goes on in the classroom is hard to understand outside of it. You can fall behind rapidly if you continually ditch miss class.

-It’s good to have internet access at home. Acing this class without internet is close to impossible.

-Have an open mind about media communication. Twitter, back channels, blogging…it’s all not so bad, and actually much easier to follow once you get the handle on things. Very rarely will you handle paper products in this class.

 

Hope this helps! Good luck future CO 301D students, and have a blast!

-Natalie

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To the future students of Garcia’s 301d:

So you’ve shown up for the first day of class. You’ve read the syllabus and are trying to fathom how all of this will fit into your already busy schedule. Right about now you’re probably thinking about running away, or burying yourself in sand, or figuring out a way to stop Garcia from getting into the classroom. This is normal.  In fact, you aren’t alone – my whole class was feeling those exact feelings on day one. 2,500-5,000 words per week sounds like 1,000,000. 2 blog posts a week sounds as appealing as pulling your arm hairs out one by one. And twitter…get out of town. Back channels…what is that, even? Plus, who really has time or access to all those extra ‘current event’ readings on top of all the boring required texts we’re supposed to read? Our class spent almost the entire first week in a therapy sesh-type environment with Garcia reassuring us that everything would be okay. And it was. It was all manageable. So relax, let me tell you how we all managed to keep our cool during 301d.

For starters – Garcia, cover your eyes – reading the current event articles never happened. Not once did we go over any of this stuff in class. If you’re interested in current events in education, more power to ya! But if you’re preoccupied over that, its no biggie if you never seek this stuff out. Second, blogs are not as daunting as they may seem. I started out last semester as a non-blogger. I never even thought about writing blogs. After all, who would really want to hear what I had to say? But blogs are actually…kinda fun. You can write about anything! Things that are happening in the realm of education, what you want to bring into your classroom, acronyms, projects for students, anything! The possibilities are endless. On that note, the possibilities are endless for the genre papers as well. Don’t even think about being alarmed at the fact that only one of the genre projects can be a paper. You won’t even want to write one after you get your creative juices flowing! If I could offer one piece of advice to you, it would be to really step out of your comfort zone with these projects. You can learn so much if you have an open mind and jump feel first into an unfamiliar genre. In the process, you will find out a lot about yourself as a preservice teacher and have a multi-faceted amount of fun. Once you get rolling in this semester you’ll likely find that this class is useful, manageable, and enjoyable.

On a separate note: we all dressed up as Garcia for Halloween. He can really become a star of the classroom when you take notice of his ties, tokens of food, and quirky sayings. So don’t claim him your least favorite teacher on the first day of class. His syllabus looks daunting, but he is all bark and no bite with that one. Overall, revel in this class, participate, and keep an open mind to all that you can learn about your future career as a teacher.

“Its Not About The Grades”

I remember a while ago, post turkey break, we all talked about the struggle of how we wanted to be teachers who didn’t make it all about the grades while still preparing students for the world of college where it is, actually, all about the grades.

Have no fear! I have the perfect solution.

My brilliant 350 teacher had a lecture (cough cough RANT cough) about grades today. The question she posed was this:

“If the goal is for students to understand the content and skills, make progress, and meet standards then is it necessary for students to have opportunities to make up work and show progress?”

She then launched into a great discussion of how she views grades. The reason she gives grades is because it shows if a student masters a skill. She says she could give a crap about if they got an A on the first try, she only cares if they understand a skill. For her, to give an F is being a neglectful teacher. You are letting a student show you that they have no idea what is going on, and letting them walk away with that. She always gives the option for a student to do redo work, and gives them a chance to show them that they have mastered the skill. They have to show her what they did wrong, and she will give them a new grade.

She has them show if they understand the skill, and if they don’t, she presents it in more and more formats until they finally do. Her argument is that if all a grade does is show that they know a skill, why not give them a better grade when they learn and prove her right?

My stance was, at first, iffy. I think redo work is valuable but also am very hesitant about giving kids full credit. As a person who ALWAYS self motivated and turned in work on time (at least when I was little :/ ) I didn’t think it was fair when kids who slacked off in class and never turned in anything got grades in the same range as me. I think mastering the work is important, I think kids should be required to replace any zereos, but I don’t think it should be awarded as many points as the kids who actually listened to you and met the deadline.

However, I think the idea of always allowing kids to do redo work solves the “Teaching but not having it be about the grades” aspect. The grades are merely a byproduct of what is important; that you stick with a kid until they master a skill. Because isn’t that what matters most in the end?

I Just Pidgeonholed Two Children.

Seriously, that was my first thought when I got done writing the draft of my final paper.

And then my second thought was “I will say that phrase never again”

And then I typed it as the title. Sorry.

Anyways, for my final paper I am going to interview the highest achieving student in my educ350 class, and the most disruptive boy in my class. I realized when I wrote the draft, though, that me even putting these labels in front of their names was me totally pigeonholing them. I already expected for their responses to be a certain way, and thus emerged yet another thing I worry about in my future teaching career: will I label children, and then never see past the label I gave them?

Here is my paper thus far:

Why is it that some kids hate school while others love it? And as educators, what can we do? I had the phrase “Knowledge is Power” on my mind when I set out to ask two students exactly what I wanted to know: how do they think school can be better?

Before conducting the interview, I had some thoughts about what the kids would say. I believed that one student would have legitimate ideas of what things should be changed in the school, whereas the other, more difficult student would let me know how they perceived that the school was letting them down, wherein actuality it might be that the school was perfectly adequate and the child failed to recognize that it was something on their end that was creating an incongruency.
For example, Cam. Cam is one of the students I was planning on interviewing. Cam is a tough boy, one who continually acts as a distraction for the rest of the class. He does not respect authority and demands constant attention from all those around him. He is a bright, dimensional boy who exists beneath a surface of self protection and roughness. I was so interested in what this kid, who never turned anything in and spends all his time making barnyard noises, would say when I asked my questions. I was interested in if he wanted to go to college, what his parents level of education is, and what place he thinks school has in his life.
Delaney is the textbook opposite of Cam. She is well dressed, polite, and never comes in looking tired and smelling of secondhand smoke. She turns everything in on time, reads at an advanced level, and sits quiet in the middle of the classroom while kids like Cam command the teachers attention. She is well liked by all of her classmates, but doesn’t let her social life affect her effort.  She works hard and has a sweet, patient demeanor. My middle and high school experience was similar to that of Delaney, and so I imagined that her responses would be similar to what mine would be were I to be asked the questions. I imagined that she must find it wearing that the students who goof off get more attention and more leniency than the students who do the work in the first place. I expected her to not think of any other options besides college, and I expected that her parents received at least high school diplomas if not upper level education.
The questions I plan to ask are as follows:
What do they like about school? About their writing class?
What do they wish would be changed about school?
What do they wish teachers would understand about them?
What is their favorite way to show what they have learned?
What would they like to do more of in class? Less of?
Do they plan on going to college? If not, why?
If so, what are some obstacles they foresee?

I have some expectations walking into this of what they will tell me, and I sincerely hope that by hearing their answers I will be able to better understand, as a future teacher, how I can work with students that are at both ends of the spectrum.

Furthermore, I like these kids a lot. They are such dimensional, great kiddos and I only know that because of what I they have shared with me, NOT because of what grades they get.

Me being in this 350 class has been a great lesson for me. I learned that I have a tendency to label kids based on class performance, and I get frustrated with them based on this. So I know it will be very important for me, as a teacher, to get to know them as humans before I get to know them as names in a gradebook.

Presentation Relfection

So Alex and I gave our presentation on Monday. We had started working on this presentation a year in advance, before we even knew each other, and so it was wonderful to see our planning sessions and crazed, whiteboard using all-nighters in the library pay off.

(Picture of one of our bi-weekly plan seshes)

We both had felt that we would be more content with leading a more exploratory type lesson than a large discussion, and so to see the enthusiasm that everyone dived into it with was truly rewarding: I freaking loved when Margot used an accent, and I would pay to hear the phrase “Allegory Shmallegory” used again.

I think my favorite section of the discussion was the wheel of misfortune. Many moons ago, I read about the book Looking For Alaska being banned in Tennessee, and that really got me thinking. When, if ever, should a book be banned?

If we could ban books, I’d have a few choice options.

50 Shades of Gray, because I have seen an uncomfortable amount of women reading it in the waiting area of my hair salon.

Twilight, because I believe that it should be a prerequisite that only when an author understands correct sentence structure should they be allowed to publish a book.

Total Frat Move, because I am pretty sure that it was NOT written satirically.

And, this book. Just as Nostradamus predicted.

 

But, even saying this, I say it as I say most things: Jokingly. You can absolutely read these books, just expect me to love you a little less. (Not joking)

As Alex and I were working on this, I came to the realization that I think that you should be allowed to have access to any book at any time. There is no book that really truly should be banned. I wish that books like the ones written by say, the American Nazi Party, would be banned but everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and books are just an extension of thought and speech, and so subjects like that are going to be unpreventable.

I keep thinking of the idea of putting ratings on books, and whether I like that or not. I think it would be a good way of catagorizing, but no child should be restricted from reading anything.

Its actually been pretty neat for me to realize how open the world of literature really is. Things seem to slip under the radar all the time, and you can read just about anything. Its funny that people have regulated books less than they regulate movies; after all, books have been around for much, much longer.

Finally, one thing that the discussion left me with that I really loved what was Megan said, that it almost says more about society by what books are banned than by what is allowed.

As progressive as I think America is, books like “Hunger Games” and “Looking for Alaska” being banned shed an interesting light on the powers that be.

Thanks again, 301d, for a great day in class. And a big thank you for being angry townspeople, if only for a few minutes 🙂

The Journey of Hope and my Final paper topic

Two and a half years ago I joined Pi Kappa Phi fraternity and immediately became very well acquainted with its national philanthropy, PUSH America.  PUSH America is a philanthropy designed to raise awareness, money, and promote volunteering for those with physical and mental disabilities.  This philanthropy creates so many opportunities for people less fortunate than us.  For example, here at CSU every Wednesday we participate in PUSH bowling, in which every Wednesday we go to Chippers lanes with the kids from Respite Care (a local daycare from children with mental disabilities) and bowl and hang out with the kids for an hour.  The payoff is amazing, just to see how happy we make those kids each week and how much fun it is hanging out with them each week.  In addition we put on many other events such as regional ride, our fundraiser in which participants ride a bike from our chapter house here in Fort Collins to the Pi Kappa Phi chapter house in Boulder.  However PUSH America’s participation does not only exist here at the collegiate level.

Each summer PUSH puts on an annual summer long charity event known as the Journey of Hope or JOH (the inspiration for our regional ride).  However it is not a mere 50 mile local bike ride from chapter to chapter, instead it is a 4,000 mile bike ride starting in early June at the shoreline of the Pacific Ocean in San Francisco California and ending mid-August on the footsteps of the capital building in Washington D.C.  Each day, the rides will begin by waking up at 5 am, riding an average of 75 miles, and then they must have the energy to participate in events that range anything from raising awareness in the local town to participating in a friendship visit similar to our PUSH bowling.  In addition to spending the entire year prior training for the physically challenging summer ahead participants must also spend their time fund raising to necessary $5,500 needed to participate.  All that money goes directly to the philanthropy; the things like water, food, and a place to stay are all donated as riders pass through each town.

So why am I posting about this event?  Well, last week I received the amazing news that I have been selected to become one of the participants.  I am incredibly nervous, as this will be one of the most incredible events that I have ever participated in.  From what I hear it is an incredibly life changing event and I can imagine it will be even more so from the stand point of a perspective teacher.  This experience is something that I’m sure will teach me a lot about things that I will encounter in my future classroom, and I am beyond excited to see what I learn over the course of my next summer.  It’ll be hard but like I said, the payoff will be well worth it. 

100 Words You Could Stay Instead of Swag

Watch this video! It is, by all standards, SWAG.

I think this would be an awesome video to use in an English classroom for teaching about synonyms! Or using a Thesaurus. If you showed this to your students and said, “Go and create something like this for synonyms” what kind of reaction do you think you would receive? How about: “Heck yes! Our teacher is da bomb!” (That is something I always strive for in being a teacher!)

You could also incorporate figurative language and require your students to come up with metaphors, similes, onomatopoeias, idioms, etc. for a certain word. For example: the word “hungry”

Idiom: I could eat a horse!
Simile: I’m as starving as a bear at the end of his hibernation period!
Onomatopoeia: Grumble, grumble
Metaphor: I’m an empty bowl and I just need to be filled up!

Anyways, this video was hilarious and don’t get me wrong, I love the Biebs. Hope you enjoyed!

Swag.