Let's Get Digital

A blog by a student, for the student

Wrapping It Up — December 3, 2018

Wrapping It Up

As the semester cleans up, it has come to my realization that I have not only taken my last semester of real classes before student teaching but that I have also read more books and accomplished more firsts this semester than I have throughout my entire college career. So in this final blog, I wanted to discuss myself as a reader as transformed throughout college and throughout this semester. It has really been a great semester, but it wasn’t my new found love, new friends, or the purposeful lack of a job that made it so great, it was the accomplishments that I have had in school.

The first accomplishment is the number of books that I have completed in full this semester. This is a big one for me because I was never an independent reader. This semester I read the following list of books from front to back. FROM FRONT TO BACK.

  1. Amal Unbound
  2. Stitches
  3. Memories of a Teenage Amnesiac
  4. Sheets
  5. Mrs. Dalloway
  6. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
  7. How Fiction Works

Seven books and that’s it. That is my biggest accomplishment. But if this is not a teaching moment for myself and teachers, I am not sure what is. I will be in your class. There will be a younger me running around waiting for someone to take them under their wing. You will have students who aim to read 100 books in a semester but you will also have that student who will aim to finish just one book.

Another accomplishment that I want to discuss is the idea of reading one book in a day. WOW. Who would have known that reading a single book in a day would have been one of my biggest accomplishments? Who would have known that a book would be so riveting and enticing that it would keep me engaged for a whole day? Well this book did, and it shocked my passion for reading into overdrive. The book “Sheets”, a graphic novel, inspired me to become a reader. As soon as I established my reading career through this book, I began buying all sorts of graphic novels, and an interesting book on the Walmart shelf. It ignited in me a passion not only for reading but to get others reading. It made me realize the importance and fun that reading has and that any student, no matter how far gone can become a passionate reader.

My final piece of this year that I wanted to share was my discovery with the classroom as a whole. It has come to my attention that education is changing. It changed last year, it changed the year before, and it will continue changing for years and years to come. It is becoming less of a burden and more of a goal, but more of a search for knowledge and less of an adaptation of the individuals learning. It has come time that we focus on the individual, that we praise the learning that one student can do and that we teach the student and not the curriculum. If we can make good and moral people, who can hold a conversation, communicate and collaborate, then we can truly engage more students and create a better tomorrow.

The Real World — November 14, 2018

The Real World

The hardest part of going to school to become a teacher is listening to the former high school teachers express to us their teaching skills, opinions, and ideas. While this may seem like a beneficial aspect of schooling, it is impossible to know what idea, opinion or skill is the best to take on. We choose to trust our teachers because of the verbal success they have shown us. But the truth is when we hop out into the real world. the ideas, opinions and skills that our teachers have taught us take a back seat. They have had their own personal experiences, and their personal experiences will be nothing like what we see in the classroom. We come in a different time, to a different school, in different societies, and with different skill sets. We could take all that we are taught, organize it into a powerpoint, and refer to it when anything goes wrong, but I would guess that we would only be able to use those lessons for so long before they become irrelevant to our individual situations.

I have found that the best way to learn how to become a teacher is to observe the professors who are teaching me. There is an on-going mental list running in my head: No-no’s and That’s It. I like to watch as they teach, see what they do that intrigues the class, see where they lose them. I watch the resources they use and decide which work and which don’t. Every once in a while, a teacher will do something, and I will swear to myself that I will never do anything like them, and then a teacher will come along who inspires me to be a better teacher than I had even planned to be.

I understand that our teachers have a lot to give us, and I have learned so much more than I ever expected that I would, but the one thing I am most afraid of is that everything that I have learned is going to go out the window when it comes to the very specific and individualized situations that I find myself in. But it is also so exciting to think that in a few short months, I will have a classroom of my own. I will begin teaching many new little readers and I will discover myself as a teacher and realize that my professors are not here to teach me how to teach but to teach me to be confident, creative and passionate.

While I may not be able to take everything away from my college classrooms, the one thing I know is that I have become a better and stronger learner. This has taught me how to teach a higher variety of students, and how to navigate a classroom of all type of learners. My classroom may not seem perfect, but I have been taught how to create a perfect mess of passionate, individual and educated learners who want to learn, know how to learn, and most of all, have a passion for my subject, and their education.

The Power of Mini — November 3, 2018

The Power of Mini

One of my biggest fears when it comes to teaching is preparing lessons. Lessons that are effective, time-sensitive, and engaging. As a student, we used to spend class periods on nouns, sentence structure and whatever other little parts of the English class the teacher felt necessary. I worried that my classroom would just be another boring part of the student’s day…until I was introduced to the mini-lesson. The mini-lesson is a 5-10 minute lesson on the chosen topic that explains 1. Its importance, 2. How to use it, 3. When to use it, 4. How to do it correctly, and 5. Has the student do it on their own. This lesson is short, sweet and to the point. It does not require much of your time, and it can take such little time that the students don’t have the chance to lose focus.

After teaching the lesson, you should bring it back up for about a week after and then again whenever it may have relevance. This repetition makes sure that the students remember the lesson and know when to apply it. Now you may be wondering how effective the mini-lesson could possibly be, and how do you fit all the information into such a short time period?

First, the average adult’s attention span is only 15 minutes. Meaning that a high school student would have a much shorter span. This means that you have your student’s full attention for only about 10 minutes. After that, they begin zoning out, thinking of other things, or dozing off. So your teaching on any given day is actually only effective for 10 minutes at a time, but many lessons that we teach are 30-45 minutes. We are asking the impossible from our students. If they are only retaining 10 minutes of information, we should keep our lessons to 10 minutes.

As for information, I understand that many lessons have more information than can fit into 10 minutes. There will be times where you need to go over 10 minutes. When this happens, give your students a break, change of the method of teaching, or have them discuss for a minute. This restarts the attention sequence and allows students to focus longer. If you find that you have multiple lessons that will need more than 10 minutes, think about how you could split up the lessons. By the time period, author, topic, theme. Any way that you could spread the lesson over a week or a few days would be a great way to use mini-lessons. Remember to always review to make sure that students are making the connections necessary to the lesson and are understanding the topic as a whole.

Mini-lessons are not used widely but are beginning to show up in more and more classrooms. They may not work for every teacher and every lesson, but attempting to make them a more prominent aspect of your class could improve student moral and get kids thinking and applying themselves more than if they were sitting in a dest for 45 minutes. Mini-lessons also give the teacher more time to answer questions, help students with school work, and more time to plan small efficient plans rather than bulky boring lessons.

 

Becoming an Independent Reader — October 25, 2018

Becoming an Independent Reader

This past week, we have read about the difference in Independent and Dependent readers. This was a new concept for me, and I began to really think about what it means to be an independent and dependent reader. I am an independent reader. This means, no matter how slowly I read, I am able to work through a reading without any outside help. I can use context clues, prior information, and examples from the text to better my understanding and help to familiarize myself with the information that I did not know. But many readers are not independent. They need someone to sit with them to help them work through words, to help them understand wording or ideas they are not familiar with, and to help them move fast enough through the reading. One large issue with dependent readers is that the student cannot read fast enough to understand the information in the text. If the reader is concentrating solely on getting through the text, they are not focusing on what they need to take from the text. This may require the teacher, para, peer or parent to need to read the text aloud to the student and have them take notes. This way they can focus more on the information given and not trying to get through the text as fast as their peers. I remember being told to read an article in class. I would read as fast as I could because I was a slow reader. When I noticed students around me finishing up their article I would skim through the reading and pretend that I had finished. I would have been an independent reader who needed more time. But a dependent reader would have not only needed more time but also needed someone to sit with them to help them understand what they are reading.

So, is a dependent reader also a student with special needs? I do not believe this. A dependent reader has every capacity to become an independent reader. With time and help, a dependent reader can easily become independent. While some students may struggle with dyslexia or other reading disorders, not all dependent readers have a learning disability. In fact, I would bet that most dependent readers struggle most as slow readers. I have always been a slow reader. This has been a struggle for me since I was young. It took time, but after a while, I learned how to read at a faster pace to understand the text. The issue with dependent readers is not that they need extra help, it is that they need the practice. Students need to learn to struggle through their reading. They need to learn how to build on the blocks they are given, not the blocks that someone has built. No athlete can become a great athlete without struggle and pain. Likewise, no reader can become a great reader without addressing their struggles, dealing with them and learning how to overcome them. It has taken me 21 years to develop myself as a reader. And I am still struggling through books. But each book I finish is an amazing personal accomplishment and those are the baby steps that turn a dependent reader into an independent reader.

Standards — October 7, 2018

Standards

This week, we have been talking about Standards, how to follow them and how to ensure that our students are getting from their lessons what the standards set them out to obtain. Standards are one of the most annoying AND essential aspects of teaching. They are restrictive in a way that you need to follow them but so wide and open-ended that they can be applied over various lessons and concepts. Standards are helpful in guiding our lessons and they are restrictive in making sure we are teaching things that we may not see as important or essential. Certain standards are easier to follow as they are not specific to a certain lesson or reading, and others are more restrictive in how they can be applied and used in the classroom.

When I decided to become an educator, I did not know the extent of the issues in the education field. I grew up just fine as a student, so it seemed that things could not be “that bad”. But the truth is that we as educators, board members, and a society have completely lost touch with the meaning of education, and why we educate our children. Not all teachers are like this, and many board members know the issues and are trying to fix them, but many…all too many education affiliated members have lost sight of the purpose of education, and it is my goal to bring light back to the real reason that we educate our children.

Education has come to terms with settling for less than the best. Way less than the best. We are turning our students into robots of learning who will create robots that will take over human interaction, contact, and jobs. While it may seem like we are creating inventors and forgers, we are simply creating humans who do not know how to interact, how to be good and moral people, and how to affect those around them in a positive way. How can we fix it? Is it too late? Can individual teachers change the school system within the set guidelines of our already broken education system?

The truth is that we can fix it, it’s not too late, and yes, a teacher can change inside the confines of our system. I am still young, I have plenty of mistakes yo make, but I have seen the education system torn and broken, and I have seen plenty of teachers who refuse to settle for that system. They refuse to give into the assembly line and stray from the path of the easy, summers off, weekends off cliché. Teaching can be one of the most difficult jobs on the planet if we make it that way. It can also be one of the most rewarding and most effective jobs on the planet…if we make it that way. If we take the time to reform our individual classrooms into classrooms for the students, for their future, and for our future, we will change the system one student at a time. It does not take a national change to cause a ripple through the entire community. It takes one teacher affecting one student and that one student affecting the whole world.

 

Fluffy Bunny — September 23, 2018

Fluffy Bunny

Today, I received an email informing me that I was nearing the completion of my Bachelor’s Degree. I had already known that College Graduation would be coming up in May, but this was the first time it had really felt real. I am going to have a lot of decisions to make coming up here in a couple months, and it is not going to be easy, or fun. But the one thing I know for sure is that I am so excited to finally become a teacher. These past four years have both dragged on and flew by. I have no idea what happened to the last few years, but I feel like I have been living them forever at the same time. But as of right now, I have never been so sure of myself and my future career.

It is easy to say that you are excited to be in your career when you can’t stop thinking about your future students, your classroom, and your life in education. I have two Pinterest Boards made for teaching…and it is safe to say I will need more. So why now? Why am I so ready to get out there? It is because I have finally figured out the key to success as an English teacher. The funny thing is, when Dr. Ellington told us that the key to successful students was independent reading, I laughed. I thought she was a total fluffy bunny. I wasn’t really sure of my profession because I had always assumed that an English teacher would be glazed over reading Hamlet for the 300th time asking the students to compare and contrast the main characters. But I was wrong, and once I figured out that Dr. Ellington was a fluffy bunny, but a fluffy bunny who really knew what she was talking about, I totally changed gears. I have learned that the key to a successful English Classroom, and really any classroom, is reading, and reading a lot. And the only way Dr. Ellington could get this through my head was to teach me to LOVE reading.

While I am still working out the kinks, I have already seen the benefit of reading and taking the time out for reading in my own life. I have found a passion for it that is just starting to burn, and I cannot wait to see how I can share this newly found passion with my students and fellow teachers.

The great part of this profession is that not only do you have the power to change the future, but you also have the power to change little lives each and every day. We can change these lives by giving them a base in learning and a passion for reading. This base can be established with the proper teaching of reading and the understanding that one must take form reading, and then creating the passion through sharing books and connecting with your students. Students will only have a passion for learning if they see that we have one too. Thus, with my transformation into a passionate reader, my students will become passionate readers and learners.

 

Reading is Essential — September 15, 2018

Reading is Essential

The reason I went into English Education was due to my understanding of one thing, and one thing only. Reading and writing are the only obvious lessons that you will build on and use the rest of your life. Reading and writing are two aspects of life that we use absolutely every day and continue to develop every day. I had a great English foundation through High School and was excited to continue building on that foundation.

Throughout college, it has been proven to me over and over again that reading and writing are the most important foundation to sprout learning. Reading is essential to human function and life. Without reading, we are confined to the space that we exist in, and cannot grow and develop further.  One thing that I took from our readings this week is that reading is so essential that we don’t even realize when we are doing it. This about day to day life. You read a billboard on the way to work, various texts and emails throughout the day, the back of a Mac & Cheese box, and many other tiny examples. We are constantly reading and decoding. Now imagine if you took that essential foundation, and built a fortress around it, then a mote, a warship, added an army, a king, and all the king’s horses? This is the developing and building of that foundation. Without this foundation, we are confined to only knowing little parts of other content areas.

Reading is the building block for each and every content area. Without this essential skill, we cannot advance into other aspects of our learning…so it only makes sense that when we enhance our reading skills, we indirectly enhance all other skill areas. When you learn to decode, use context clues, and understand, you can spread that skill throughout your content areas. This is why it is so important that we help kids build that foundation early. If we miss the chance to develop those reading skills, the chance is also missed in other areas.

It is also important to coordinate with fellow educators. You should be on the same page as the math, science, art, music, history, shop, etc. teachers in making sure they get their kids reading and writing as well. Your English class should not be the only place that students are exposed to reading and writing. They should be reading news articles in history and writing reflections and responses in science. They should have to write creatively for art, and research new musicians bios in music. They should know how to use their reading skills to decode a math story problem, and Mr. Hanson in the shop room should have them read all instructions before starting and wrote a reflection of their work at the end. If we can get all of our students teachers to engage in reading and writing, we will bring up confident and intellectual students like we have never done before.

I believe in the power of reading because I have seen it change my personal and school life. This is something that I cannot wait to implement in my classroom, and I hope I can get my colleagues to do the same/

“It Worked for Me” — September 3, 2018

“It Worked for Me”

My mom, a former English teacher asked me how school was going in the first couple of weeks. I told her “just fine”. She then advanced to a new conversation about my little sister and her new English teacher. She is a junior in High School and after who knows how many years, the former English teacher retired. This teacher was all about the “classics”, repetition, and pounding grammar into heads like it was as essential as blood flow. While I learned the most I have ever learned in her classroom, her style of teaching is slowly fading away, and it is time as future educators to decide what is best for our students. While I now have a better understanding of grammar, Oddysues, and Hester Prinn, is that really of value to me in this day and age?

This is honestly one of the hardest questions we have to answer. The common answer to this is “It worked for me”. Which isn’t really a definitive answer, but its the truth. We are all thriving as English majors and teachers having been taught this way, but could we be excelling in a different way had the focus been in reading for personal growth, or writing to get to know yourself as a writer? The only way to know this answer is to be the guinea pigs and try it out. Can we throw away the “classics” and replace them with something that the students might actually benefit from, and can we ditch the worksheets on punctuation and gerunds and have the students write, and write, and write? Well, the truth is that we can, and we are. Teachers around the country are skipping the long homework assignments, ditching the bell ringers, and showing Shakespeare the back door, and giving kids books and writing assignments that they will enjoy. And while joy is not the purpose of education, it is internally linked to the retention of something.  When was the last time you heard a High School hallway conversation about Hamlet’s monologue? But when is the last time you saw a group of kids huddled over Kimmy’s new Harry Potter book, or a classroom filled with kids hunched over a book, lost in the pages? Change is coming, and it is a freight train about to hit a majority of classrooms in the world. Why? Because when students start to read and enjoy reading, the results aren’t just noticeable in the English classroom, they are radiant in the halls, influential in math, science, and history, and they are apparent in all areas of testing.

Reading for passion is the only known and effective way to enhance students learning and retention visible on state testing. So why are we forcing kids to read books they don’t like, and sending them home with hours of work? The answer is right in front of you. It’s John Green’s “The Fault in Our Stars”, and that sports novel you said you were going to read, and that memoir about the girl who lived during the Holocaust…not that textbook full of poems and short stories. The time for this book is over, and the new way of learning comes in all forms and genres and it is going to change the way that we learn.

Book Love 8&9 — April 24, 2018

Book Love 8&9

This week, we read from Penny Kittle’s “Book Love”. What I liked about this weeks reading was the focus on the growth of the students as readers. I was never a strong reader, so growing was really exciting and sometimes frustrating for me. I loved to read, but could never find the passion. Kittle talks about book logs and journals that help her navigate where her students are as readers. This tells her what books they are reading, how fast they are reading them, and how well they are understanding them. It is important for students to see that you are taking an interest in their learning/reading lives. I really liked the section on determining difficulty. Students should be challenging themselves to read harder and larger books. If students are reading from the same genre and same difficulty level, they will never grow as readers. One thing that I do not agree with is the reading rate. It should not matter how many pages they are reading or how fast they are reading. This is one of the biggest reasons that I disliked reading was due to a pressure to perform.

But besides that, I really like Kittle’s idea to make a community of readers in the school. Students should be able to book talk a book without looking like a nerd and should be able to share their books with others. She talks about a schoolwide reading break which I cant see happening simply because some teachers do not want their time interrupted, but I think it would be a great idea. I think it would be a good idea and great student project to have a pinboard outside of your classroom with book recommendations for the students. Each student takes a week and posts their recommendation on the board. The student will get credit based on how well they recommend the book, and all the students can see that the class is reading and sharing their experiences.

Summer Reading —

Summer Reading

So it is the end of the semester, and now we have to decide what we will be doing all summer long. For me, reading has never been a summer priority. There are always many more things to do. I spend all school year in the library slaving over a computer, or in my bed rushing through my weekly reading. I do not want to spend my whole summer face-deep in a book. While I have discovered a new passion for reading, a book a day or ever book a week seems too ambitious when I have so much to accomplish for myself over the summer. My summer reading plan will be to finish three books. This is a pretty realistic goal considering I will have a full-time job on top of working out, socializing, spending time with family, and taking advantage of the summer heat.

Three books will give me the motivation to finish, but not to rush, and is a great goal for myself as a reader. I actually have a few books in mind that I would like to accomplish over the summer. Those are either The “Fifty Shades” series, or “Thirteen Reasons Why”, “As You Wish” and “Love, Simon”. I bought these three at Walmart the other day, and I have been waiting to dive into them. For my summer reading, I plan to stick mainly to YA literature as it is the most interesting to me, but I look forward to moving into some adult literature in the future. I hope to keep collecting books, and making my classroom library as this summer progresses.

Even though I do not plan to read much this summer, I hope that I can continue the good habits I acquired from this class throughout next school year and the rest of my life.