Monthly Archives: September 2008

Finding Poetry

My dreams are loud.

That’s something nobody told me would happen when I became a teacher. My brain is humming, constantly, with ideas: How can I present this material? How do I make it interesting? How do I make it interactive? How will I assess it? How will my students respond? How would I revise, mid-lesson, if this fails? Does this really serve my students in regards to the standards? Does it serve them as human beings? On and on, the questions and ruminations run through my mind. And the reason for this, I’m finding, is that I care. I care a great deal about my students–I see them coming down the hall and I can’t help but smile. It is my job to give them the absolute best education that I can. I am commited to that. I am determined not to waste a minute of their time in the classroom.

Starting this coming week, I will be starting to transition into the leadership role of the primary teacher in my classroom. As this begins, so does our unit on poetry. This is exciting to me, because I think that poetry, often sold short (and drab, and impenetrable, and lofty, and overly flowery), is one of the most exciting literary forms. It’s also one of the most personal, intense, and creative. These are things that I know my students will be able to relate to, if only I can get them to tap into it. Figuring out how to do that, though, is producing much of the aforementioned brain humming, through sleeping and waking hours alike. Once I actually get my disorganized, frenetic ideas to settle into something intelligible, I am excited to create some poetry lessons and activities.

This is what I know so far:

*Poetry offers freedom from strict, standard academic grammatical and syntactical rules, yet it also offers a platform for teaching about them in a playful, low pressure way.

*Poetry gives us a chance to use words to describe something that, without it, would be beyond words.

*Poetry = image
*Poetry = music . . . . . Things everyone understands, deep down.
*Poetry = rhythm

*Poetry is not impossible to interpret, but it is impossible to limit to a single, complete literal meaning.

*Some of the greatest literature ever written has been poetry.

*Poetry occur in all cultures. We all have poems inside us.

Diving In…

Here we go!

Well, my first semester of student teaching has finally begun. I am so excited about my placement in an 8th grade classroom at Milwaukee School of Languages. MSL is a 6-12 MPS school for students from the language immersion programs. While the school offers classes in German, Chinese, French, Japanese, and Spanish, I’ll be teaching English in English. (Good thing, too, because I can’t get by in anything else other than Spanish!) I truly couldn’t ask for a better school to be teaching in. There is a culturally diverse student body full of bright kids from many different walks of life. The school environment is positive and bustling. Teachers and students alike are full of enthusiasm, and the respect that they all display for one another is, for the most part, extremely impressive. I’ve already met many great people. My cooperating teacher in particular is an amazing person. I am overjoyed to be working with her.

It’s been just one week, but I am already starting to feel at home in the classes that I am observing and will soon be teaching. The room is sunlit and warm, with teal tile floors and desks nearly wall to wall. The class sizes fluctuate from 23 to 40. This week, I worked hard to learn the names of the students that I will be primarily teaching; there are 57. The kids as a whole are really good and very smart… They are definitely exuberant (a.k.a. full of hardly containable social energy), but the continual teasing and strutting is an unavoidable part of being thirteen. Many of them grew up together, so there’s a sense of community in the class. Of course, this also means that sometimes they just have to bust out into talking or movement—but I’m ok with that. It’s actually quite endearing. It’s unnatural for kids to just sit there like automatons in silence and obedience; I think they could probably benefit from some structured group work. Hopefully I can come up with activities that are effective as well as interactive and fun.

I am finding more and more that I am excited to be in a career where I can be playful and happy, where that works to my advantage. This is something I think that teachers often forget: youth is not just about struggle and hormones and coming-of-age. It’s also about the joy of discovery. I remember when I started thinking about life’s deeper puzzles. I was entranced, absolutely. There’s no need for teachers to stomp out that natural joy. It’s our job to foster it. If I have to teach, if I have to grade and assess, I don’t want it to be plodding drudgery. I would prefer it to be enjoyable, enlightening, and, if at all possible, humorous. Now that I’m actually in a school every day, I see that the classroom truly is a blank slate that a teacher can use in countless ways. We make our own prison or paradise, and we have to use what we’re given to build it.

All in all, I can say that I’m very happy to finally be here. I’ve done so much questioning while following the meandering nonsense that has been my career path. But right now, I feel like I am exactly where I belong. Now that I’m here, I feel things clicking into place. I feel a rightness to it all.

I take that as a good sign.

Non-Linguistic Representation

I recieved an interesting assignment in my Teaching the Composing Process class: using images rather than prose, create a piece that explains how you write.

I found this assignment challenging and fun, and I think that it would be great to use in the high school classroom. The project could be created via animation, collage, computer image applications, or (like I used) good old fashioned drawing. Using visual language as expression not only would address NCTE standard four, but it really forces one to think in an introspective, reflective way about the writing process. Also great conversation-starting fodder for the beginning of the year, for kids to get to know one another as writers and for me to get to know their writing preferences, struggles, and expectations…

See my project below! (Click on the image for full view.)