I have been blogging for a few years now personally, but decided to start this blog which has a dual purpose.
First, to share my assignments and experiences as a Rio Salado Teaching Intern expanding my knowledge of the theory and practice of education (pedagogy). Second, to share my experiences in the classroom as a full-time reading teacher.
As my 3rd semester is coming to a close, I am reflecting upon the last 8 weeks and how my blog became an innovative outlet and way to keep me engaged. I clearly identify with my students when it comes to requiring meaningful learning experiences. Blogging allows me to be hands-on and continually thinking about my next subject. I can cast vision, keep my writing saw sharpened, educate, and uplift – all from my keyboard.
This semester I learned that our youth have ever changing brains (neuro-plasticity) and their sensory input, attention, emotions, and esteem are all impacted by the environment they are exposed to. Their language, ability to read well, solve math equations, and relate musically all has to do with what they are exposed to and how they are treated along the way. The adolescent (specifically male) brain can be impulsive and irrational if not supported in a safe and structured environment.
I will continue to blog beyond my internship.
A future goal (once I am teaching writing) is to develop a classroom blog that my students can showcase their work and parents can read it online, or an online classroom newsletter solely produced by the students. There are so many ways to incorporate technology in the classroom and I see blogging becoming more commonplace in the near future.
As a mother, I feel fairly confident about preparing my teenage son for adulthood. I consistently warn him of the pitfalls that teens face which land them in adult situations too soon. I say, “You are 18 now, you can not date girls that are younger than you.” Another popular one, “No, you can’t drive without a permit or license!” Of course, I go on to explain why and what the consequences are if he chooses not to listen. Most importantly, I provide “real world” examples. Most times, he listens.
After reading and pondering the debate about teens lacking adult reasoning capacity, yet being held to adult consequences, I realize my responsibility to educate my students as I do my son. There are many ways I can do this; such as incorporating real world scenarios in my lesson planning which leads to having candid discussions when there is an opportunity.
Recently, a group of girls were planning to “jump” one of their classmates after school because of gossip and misinformation. I decided to get them together and facilitate a ‘sitdown’ meeting. I believe it was successful because of the level of awareness I brought to the table. We discussed their intended actions as well as the potential consequences. Given time to process it, they decided to work it out. Today, they are all friends and doing well. They continue to meet with me because they appreciate the opportunity to have an outlet.
It is researched and scientifically proven that the teen brain is not mature enough to help control impulses or respond rationally; which means they often make snap decisions or judgements and act on them to their own detriment. Parents, teachers, and other community members exposed to these teens are obligated to pay attention, be available if needed and continuously educate them about potential pitfalls.
Until this lesson, I had no idea these two were married – Music and Math.
As a student, for years I listened to classical music while studying. I always said, “It helps me concentrate.” I really had no idea if that was scientifically accurate or not. Perhaps it is something I heard or read and instantly adapted to it. I believed it; therefore, it worked. When I listen to soft classical music, I remain focused and do well academically.
Now, as a teacher I am learning how to effectively incorporate music in the classroom while instructing students. This is great because I enjoy music as much as my students do. In fact, this has created a bit of a bond between my students and I. We discuss music frequently – even different genres.
The core subject I teach is reading. I have always told myself that I am not ‘good with math.’ I also believed this to the point of being math averse. I co-tutor students after school. The majority of the students need assistance with math homework. I am usually avoiding those students like the plague! It is not my subject.
The text for this course, “Brain-based Learning” taught me that music and math are married in the sense that they share the following concepts:
Ratios/Proportions and Equivalent Fractions
Although, I do not teach math, I certainly find it useful to understand the connections between the two. By taking the opportunity to engage my students both mathematically and musically during reading instruction – I will benefit them by enhancing their ability to learn and find meaning in what they are learning.
If I knew then, what I know now…My son’s academic standing could have been vastly different. I am certain of it!
The good news is that I have years ahead of me to make a difference with hundreds more students who will cross my path.
There is no way for me to go back to early childhood and “redo” anything for my son or my students in the classroom. The only thing I can do is be aware of scientifically-based research that supports methods to improve the language and reading skills of my son and students.
I am particularly concerned at this point with my student’s growth in ability to read and communicate.
I know that before the age of 3 years old, my students needed to hear the language spoken to them frequently (even as early as in the womb). They needed a lot of words spoken to them, even complex sentences that they may not have understood then, but would definitely understand later on in life. I also know that they needed adults to expose them to pre-reading skills – such as, picture (flash) cards, ability to group by sound, and sound for meaning. Playing word games, singing nursery rhymes, reading books with children, asking them to read aloud, and monitoring their overall progress is essential to them doing better later academically and exhibiting a higher IQ.
So that was in the past. I am tasked with meeting my students in the present and helping them into a better future.
That means, in my classroom, I lead and encourage my students to:
Read as many books as possible (at home and during school hours)
Share aloud what they have read
Expose themselves to longer more complex sentences
Make connections between what they see and what they say (letter – sound)
Play word games
Use poetry and song lyrics to make connections
Because the brain is always reshaping based on what the students are exposed to, it is essential to continue to create enriching opportunities that will only enhance their knowledge and keep them sharp as they grow and mature into adulthood.
Yesterday , I took my midterm exam at the college. Initially I was in total panic mode because the amount of information and types of questions that could be on the exam seemed infinite. Studying for it even increased my anxiety level for some reason!
The very first essay question threw me! I was staring at the screen in a paralyzed state thinking, “Huh?! I didn’t see that in the study guide…!”
Then, I thought about my students taking their AZ Merit and Galileo (State Standardized tests); and how tough it must be for them. In my empathetic mood, I took a deep breath, smiled, and resumed testing – because in that moment, I remembered why I was there – for them.
After a few more questions, I went back and answered the first one that stumped me.
As a kid, I loved to read. Every opportunity I could get to read aloud in the classroom while coming up was golden to me. I believe it was because I knew I was good at it. My self-confidence was extremely high in the academic realm because I was such a great reader.
When the teacher asked me to read, I always hoped to be able to read pages at a time. I use to ask to read the entire story even though my classmates deserved a turn at reading. Now, as a teacher, I see the students in my class that are the same way. Although I want to hear from everyone, I love to feed the ego of those who love to read! I know the doors that will open in the future for that student because he/she is not afraid to communicate. That’s right – great reading leads to great communication skills! That’s my opinion and I am sticking with it!
So, in addition to the A to Z Challenge I am doing on my personal blog, I am going to take the challenge on my education blog this month and blog daily (except Sundays) on reading literacy.
One of my favorite movies is “To Sir with Love”. In this movie, Engineer Mark Thackeray arrives to teach a totally undisciplined class at an East End school…He starts implementing his own brand of classroom discipline: forcing the pupils to treat each other with respect. Inevitably he begins getting involved in the students’ personal lives, and must avoid the advances of an amorous student while winning over the class.
I cry every time I see this movie because I love the relationships he develops as their teacher. When I decided to teach, this movie came to mind several times. I could see myself coming into a tough school situation and winning the hearts and minds of the students with a goal of improving their lives – not just academically, but all around. It’s a tall order – but one of the most important jobs you could have.
It means the world to me to be relational with my students. I work to have their trust and confidence while fostering their growth and development. Yes, it is entirely possible to do this and still hold them accountable to stay on task and do what it takes to learn. Not only do they need relationship, they need structure and guidance too.
While I’m no Sir…I love it when my students say, “Ms. Lyons…?”