Drop By Drop, A River is Made.

Here is my final project! A photo essay on Education in Afghanistan. The website reformatted a lot of the texts and so it doesn’t look as polished as my original, but what can you do.

Heres the link: file://localhost/Users/lexasaurusrex/Desktop/Presentation1.ppt.htm


Here are some pictures not in the essay, if you are too lazy to look. I wish I could put up the photo of me wearing the traditional chaddar (headscarf) and tunic and holding an AK-47 in our host families living room, but I don’t think that one is allowed on the internet….


A Letter to the Next Semesters

Here you are, sitting in this strange rectangle of a room. Prepare yourself, because you are in an intieresting semester. This is Comp 301D, and I am thrilled to be the one to inform you that if you don’t want to, you don’t have to write a single essay this semsester.

“WHAT?” you say, “WHAT? This is a COMP CLASS, lady!”

That it is, but it is unlike most comp classes in this: you get to choose what sort of genre (foreshadowing!) you want your work to be. Prof Garcia also assumes that at this point in the semester you know how to craft a coherent, articulate essay and so now you are allowed to make blog posts titled “I can has Harry Potter now?” so long as they are well written and give reference to education.

Also, I’m sure a handful of you are under the mindset that when you are going to be teacher, you want to be that cool teacher that isn’t “All about the grade.” So don’t freak out when you are suddenly in a class that isn’t all about the grade. Worry less about rubrics and more about passion. If your project is about education and you put enough time and passion into it, you WILL get a good grade. Trust me. So don’t waste precious class time whining about how you just want to know how many words your first genre paper should be, or what he means when he says that it doesn’t have to be a paper if you don’t want it to be. We all know when we have half assed something; just don’t do that on whatever you may choose your project to be and you will be fine.

Here are my top 3 tips:

You will get very, very burned out from thinking of blogs and so ask Garcia for that list of ideas that we came up with of things to blog about. Or have your class make one of your own!

Get creative with your genre paper… this class may be the only chance you get to do something this open ended in college.

If you have a question (a housekeeping question…) about your projects, blog, etc., please go to his office hours and discuss it with him. One thing I disliked about our generation of 301d was that we would spend a good 10-15 minutes every class period talking about things that should have been taken care of by that individual on their own time.

Lastly (yeah I know I said I had three tips, DEAL WITH IT), have fun. Its like the syllabus says… “This is your class.”

Make it a good one.

Cheers! Alexis

Here are the more reflective parts of a reflection that I did on my teaching experience at Conrad Ball Middle School! I think I really found out a lot about myself when I was writing it (…..boy, do I feel cheesy saying that.)

I never expected for my mindset to be reframed as much as it was this semester as it was. There are so many areas that I feel like my thinking has been reshaped by my experiences both in the classroom, and in lecture. I learned a few things about myself. I learned that I sometimes do not respond to serious situations as much as I’d hope I would. I realized that classroom management can take many different shapes and forms, and just because I’ve continually seen one doesn’t mean it is the most effective one. And I learned that classroom climate and culture is not just a good thing to have in a classroom, but it is something that is necessary to instill within the first weeks of class to establish a culturally responsive foundation for the rest of the year.
I learned that I really value that students have a sense of community and responsibility in the classroom. I learned that there is a way that I can phrase things that places the responsibility on my students to respond in a certain way. I have so many great techniques now that I saw modeled in Ms. Vair’s classroom that I can’t wait to try.
One of my strengths is definitely my humor. I know that students really connect with a teacher that can get on their level with humor; for both of my interviews the students said that a teacher that is funny is the type of teacher they connect with the best. I have a sense of humor that is at once self-deprecating and goofy, and so I don’t mind people laughing at me and so I think students will enjoy some of the jokes that I make. Additionally, I know that students really connect with lessons when it is tied into current popular culture, and so I think my handle on that will be able to come in handy. I had a lot of teachers that infused modern elements into the curriculum, and that really inspired me in the crafting of my lessons for the students. Finally, I think one of my strengths is my highly empathetic nature. I want all kids to understand that I will try my hardest to acknowledge where they are coming from. I think that everyone has a story, a wonderful and unique story, and it is of the necessity for me to honor a child’s story and encourage him or her to discover and use his or her voice. I think that sometimes a teacher may be more of an influence in a student’s life than they realize. That being said, we need to be careful to be a positive role model and a source of consistency for children that might not have that anywhere else. And if children do have a stable home life and many positive role models, then our position in the school is a chance to provide positive framing for education.
I think one of my weaknesses is my hesitation in using my teacher voice in necessary situations. I get nervous in situations where I need to assert my authority. My empathy makes me sometimes better suited to be a friend, than a teacher. I am a passive person who likes to be liked by those around me, and I’m afraid those tendencies will negatively affect me as a teacher.
The reason I think I connected so much with love and logic is a way of bring empathy into the classrooms and then hope that students will get the hint that they are supposed to be empathetic all the time. I think it seems pretty much foolproof; I love the fact that it has a lot of ways that even by changing the way you phrase things, you can dump all the responsibility on a student without them realizing what you’ve done. I am excited to try them because use phrases like “In my classroom, I teach when all eyes are on me. When do I teach, James?” James has no excuse because he literally JUST heard the classroom rule and he’s being singled out in a major way, and if he pretends not to know then he just looks stupid, and it acknowledges his behavior in a way that is much less redundant than teach going “focus class! Class, focus! Focus!” I think enforceable statements are golden in that they, unlike unenforceable statements (quit arguing with me. turn your papers in on time. get to work) they have the instructions and limits in the statement. Genius! You never tell the kid what to do, you tell them what YOU will do or YOU will allow. You are in control. When I used them in my mini lesson, I loved seeing how much more kids responded to them than anything else I had seen modeled before. Another problem I had seen in my class was how much kids liked to make distracting noises; I was never sure how to really deal with that, and so the love and logic method of saying something along the lines of “Tell me why I am looking at you right now.” was something that I was really looking forward to using. I was almost disappointed that no kids tried to make barnyard noises while I was teaching.

I think as far is instruction goes, I wish that I had done some things different with my first lesson I taught. I really overestimated the level that middle schoolers need to be modeled something before they try it themselves. I got so used to college style learning that I didn’t properly set them up for the assignment I created, and so I had to spend a bunch of time rerouting them in hopes of creating the product I had in mind, and in a way lost the whole point of the lesson that I was trying to make in the first place. I tried to correct this with my next lesson by keeping the concept of ‘tell by showing’ in my brain when I designed the lesson. It’s like what we discuss in class; if I don’t clearly outline expectations, I can’t be disappointed when students don’t meet them.
As far as being a culturally responsive teacher, I have few ideas in mind from this class, and from other classes. I might crib what Ms. Vair did in the beginning of the year, where she had students look at the topic of empathy, and how they are part of many different communities, like local and global communities. I think when kids realize that they are part of something that is bigger than just them, and realize how much of a stake they really have in everything, then they are likely to appreciate that they have a purpose in the shaping of their personal culture and interactions. I want to have a classroom where we constantly learn about different perspectives and multicultural aspects of every lesson. When I was in Afghanistan, the school system there was completely different than anything I ever imagined. It was amazing for me to experience something completely out of the norm, and it completely reframed how I viewed the privilege of school. I want students to constantly understand that there are so many different voices and views, and what they see day to day is just a very small piece of the pie.

The areas I want to improve upon are my lesson plans, my use of teacher voice, and my shift of a role as wanting to be like to wanting to be respected. I think this semester, with the viewing of two different teaching styles and classroom management styles, gave me a very clear view of what types of techniques I want to use as a teacher. I feel empowered now that I know about things like enforceable statements and love and logic. I look forward to wherever I go next in my schooling career, and I can’t wait to see what things I learn next; I learned more this semester than I could have ever possibly expected, about myself and about students. I used to be totally opposed to the idea of teaching middle school, but this changed my perspective. I see now that these students are in such an influential and malleable point of life: if my mission as a teacher is to help children discover the power of their personal voice, middle school is a perfect place of influx and change for this to take place. I never would have thought, going into this, that I’d walk out hoping to be a teacher at a middle school like this one. This semester has been a great experience for me, with even the negative moments being a positive learning experience.


“And my heart swells to the size of an orchid”

Picture 122 Picture 105 Picture 060 IMG_1626

A little preview of what my final paper is gonna be about. ( if Prof Garcia grants me permssion to change at the last moment. If not I’ll just give facts at some point! But if permission is granted then its full speed ahead) I’ll post it on the blogsy when I finish, but I’ll give you some clues. Education! Kabul! Camels! Sleeping Sickness! and even more EDUCATION!

I really wanted to talk about an experience I had a summer ago, and so I’m really excited for the chance to compose a photo essay of sorts for the final paper. I will go into more detail by next wednesday, but until then I will leave these tantilizing pictures, and also a message….

if you want to make this christmas less about commercialism and more about what its really about, or if you just want to buy someone something that will mean more than most gifts will, i have an idea.

SOZO international (who i went to kabul with) employs widows (many of whom whose husbands were murdered by the taliban), who would otherwise be left poor and optionless, to make hats. they pay them well, they give them a chance to make their own income, and add a purpose to days that may otherwise have to be spent home all day, every day.

then, groups bring these hats with them back to the us (therefore eliminating any shipping costs and making sure as much money can go to SOZO and back to the community as possible), and our church sells them all december. your money goes to funding street schools, health clinics, womens clinics, widows, and wells in afghanistan. could you really get anyone anything better?

if you are interested in helping with sozo, buying a hat, or, hell! going to afghanistan with me (haha. but really. i want to go back right…meow.), let me know and we can make this happen. seriously.

more to come, later.

“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 🙂