Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Last Day of Class

Today was the last official day of classes for the fall semester, and I must say, so much of it was overwhelming. I can't believe how quickly and slowly everything went.

I made poetic presents for all of my cohort. I hope they're able to use them in a future classroom.

There are two professors that I am going to miss seeing on a regular basis (and they're not even actual professors but Ph.D students)--Tom Friedrich and Dawn Hansen. Tom taught the Teaching Composition class and Dawn taught the Young Adult Literature class. I have to say that I have learned so much from both of them; I especially have learned that caring about your students is one of the best ways you can get your students interested in getting things done. I felt much more urgency to get homework done for them then for other classes (ah-hem, especially Technology Tools for Educators) and I appreciated the time and work they put into every class period. Both are genuinely interested in our futures as teachers and both urged us to stay in contact. I intend to do so.

Another thing happened on the last day of my Young Adult Literature class that I thought was important--a group of us stayed afterwards to talk about a Multicultural Workshop that a large number of educators attended that was apparently awful. I was unable to go, so I heard all of this secondhand, but apparently the speaker, Dwight Watson (who is the chair of Urban Education at Hamline University) gave a little talk about the word "urban" that inflared one of the members of the class (Marcia, who teaches at Roosevelt High School and happens to be the only black member of this class).

Apparently, "urban learners" is a word to replace "at risk learners." He also equated urban to be a dangerous place--drugs, prostitution, etc. Later in the presentation, he talked about how "urban" was another word for "black." Huh. Marcia said she took him aside and called him on it, which is definitely good, and I'm sure he had some good points to his presentation as well. I'm just concerned at his perpetuating a stereotype and regionalizing a word like that. According to what she said, his response was that semantics were getting in the way. (!)

Marcia said some things that clicked for me. For example, we need to stop holding puberty against kids. Just because some thirteen year old black kid who is six feet tall looks like an adult, doesn't mean he's an adult. Don't feel threatened (an adult, or a kid, but especially not a thirteen year old) and let them know that you're really invested. Be understanding. Some students don't have access or the affordances that others do. She spoke of how she was the only black person in many of her classes and how she was looked upon to be the spokesperson. Sometimes when she was riding the bus and some drunk black person got in, people would look at her like she needed to help him. These kinds of groupings are dangerous, I think, and as educators, it's important to not categorize people in this way.

I think that's one of the things I learned at Crosswinds. Some of those students drove me nuts when they were in a group. One boy seemed so rude and so indifferent and was probably on the verge of challenging us just to show off for the others (I speak of the intersession experience rather than the Thursday groups), but when I talked to him one-on-one, he was really interested in writing poems (he had a great sense of rhythm) and was inquisitive. I know it will be harder for me to remember the good in every student when I'm doing this 180 days of the year, but it's important to emphasize that every student has value in a classroom (and sometimes it will obvious and sometimes it will be a real stretch to find it!) and let them know what that value is and how they can use it to become a better person and a better student. Encouragement, I guess is what I mean. And avoid that whole fear thing.

I think it's all easier said then done.

And I think we all categorize people, whether we like it or not. I personally HATE that I categorize people--before and after I meet them. I hate that I enjoy putting myself into boxes too. I need to learn how to shed these sorts of things, especially before I enter the classroom.

For example, there was one student in our poetry intersession class that had an IEP. We had to meet with the intersession principal, who happened to be "the special ed. guy." He said, "Oh, XYZ, well I have a book you could read on him!" I think Mandy and I were a little nervous at the idea of a student would could potentially be that much trouble. And yes, sometimes I felt like I was baby-sitting when I tried to keep him from getting into the inventor's workshop projects (they met in the same classroom as us--and XYZ, with an IQ of over 160 and some emotional and behavioral issues, loves to touch things and interact with things... the intersession principal, Mr Parker, said that anything that could be taken apart and looked at, this student would want to do so) but most of the time he was a valuable edition to the classroom. He knew what a cinquain was before we even warned that we would teach it! Even when he was distracted, he was great... (the kids love writing on the white boards) he had taken one of our markers and kept drawing different head "forms" (a space helmet, a cat's head, a devil, etc) and putting his own head into the circle. I suppose you had to be there, but it was really clever, and yes he wanted attention, but I couldn't help but laugh! Of course, I told him to be respectful of the other students giving presentations, but his cleverness was nice.

Well, this may have been one of my longest posts yet. I have a lot on my mind as we're closing up shop, so to speak, and I'm going to miss the regular meetings that generated ideas and questions about teaching. I hope to remain in "teacher mode" over break so I can actually get some things accomplished. I still have to write two units (I will probably do one on To Kill a Mockingbird and the first two weeks of the Journalism class), so I'm not completely done yet, but I'm very nearly there!

By the way, if anyone has any comments about anything I have to say--like "I think you're wrong" or "maybe you should look at it this way...," please feel free to email me (mollyteaches@yahoo.com) or better yet, leave a comment! (Then everyone can see what you have to say!)

No comments: