I never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. It was never important to me, either, the way that it was important to other people. I never stopped to wonder why, really—how could I, when I didn’t really care? I only wanted to wake up each day and do the things that interested me, so I did. In high school, my teachers and guidance counselor were sure that I’d study sciences in college, and convinced me of it, too. A couple of semesters in, though, I realized that I was reading a lot more literature than I was any of my science-based textbooks, and so I naturally started taking more English classes instead. Forced to declare a major, I chose English Lit with a minor in creative writing–another interest that sparked in me somewhere in that time—and before I knew it, I had a BA in English Literature. I started working—technical writer, online magazine editor, legal assistant, and on and on, usually changing jobs every couple of years because of the boredom that would quickly settle in. I knew this whole time that I was most interested in teaching or counseling of some sort–but for the first time in my life, I didn’t follow my interest because of the societal stigma associated with teaching–those people were underpaid and underappreciated. I didn’t want to be one of them.
So I floated on, stringing together meaningless jobs until I finally recognized my fallacious reasoning, and almost immediately applied and enrolled to earn my MAT and finally see if I’d be as happy a teacher as I’d suspected I would be. I’d worked with words and continued reading heavily in my adult life, but I have to admit that I’m out of touch with the canon of high school literature, having opted primarily for non-fiction—historical and anthropological works—for the past ten years. Additionally, as a pre-service teacher, I still feel rather unprepared, pedagogically speaking. Well, of course I’m still unprepared. I did just meet my cooperating teacher (no observations yet) and I found that I understood most of what was being spoken about in the English III PLT meeting, which was good. Still in the kiddie pool, and will be until I’m in the fire. I have a few more ideas about specific ways to run classes, but not specific ways to run specific classes. The PLT made me realize that they have completely different activities for classes of differing abilities that they teach. I think the school at which I am student teaching has pretty segregated classes. You know, by “academic ability.” Hmmm. My favorite texts from the program thus far have been those that offer advice and examples on conducting lessons in the classroom. When I read about them, I think “I can definitely do that,” but I feel like I have to read and compile a good many more in order to be more prepared. I have more ideas for projects, but not necessarily for how to teach them up to the point where they are loosed to start/complete their projects. Must feel more comfortable in the day-to-day.
I am feeling far more confident in my “teacherly” self at this time. While I learned plenty and was moved to think by our activities throughout the course, I recognized the greatest difference in professional sensibility when making the Change Project CCI with my team. I’d never even thought about how to go about making a CCI before, but when we got together with our subject matter, the ideas started flowing, both from the group and from myself. I realized that I was thinking about teaching, thinking about learning, and making them meet for an imagined class. Observing my CT had something to with my rise in confidence, too, to be fair—being around the school and talking to the students made me feel much more connected to the whole thing. I’d have to say I feel more like a teacher now. I went out yesterday and bought some teacher clothes and didn’t feel ironic about it. How about that?
Though I’ve read precious little fiction in my recent history, I had a moment a few weeks ago that bolstered my confidence. I was visiting my family, and took my 16-year-old nephew to the library, where I needed to grab something. He’s never been much of a reader, so we don’t typically talk about literature, but while we were there, he asked what he should read, as he was getting bored at the end of his summer vacation. I surprised myself by my lack of hesitation. I began asking him what he’s read in the past that he liked, and answered his “I don’t know” with good questions of my own. Fantasy, like Tolkien? Detective stories? Mysteries? His lack of experience didn’t deter me, either. We walked through the fiction stacks and I described the kinds of stories I saw. After a few minutes of this, I realized he wasn’t going to have an opinion, so I thought about the right voice for him to read. I took him straight to the Vonnegut section. Writes like a grandfather spinning a yarn. Master of satire and understated morality. “Cat’s Cradle,” I said, handing him the book. “Read the first ten pages and tell me what you think.” A few minutes later, I looked over at him from across the library, and he glanced up. I widened my eyes in question, and I got the double approval—a thumbs up with an enthusiastic head nod.
Young Adult literature was never on any of my reading lists, for some reason, but what I’ve read for this class thus far—Drowned Cities and half of The List—I can appreciate for the simplified themes and reflective natures of the works. It’s just the kind of writing that would appeal to moderate readers and raging discoverers of self, and the themes would actually be pretty easy to discuss for these students, so I am fast becoming a fan. I’ve been reading plenty since, and I am pleased at how my English brain is thinking about the things I’m reading, but I’ve still got some distance to go. This is a lifelong pursuit, I know. But my library still feels small at this point. I certainly have a long way to go and a lot of titles to read, but this is my craft now, and I’m surprisingly grateful to be introduced to this genre at this late date. New fear, after meeting my CT and her colleagues: there is no money for books and the ones they do have are falling apart. They seemed to be content to stick to the classics and what they had, though there was small trove of “reader’s choice” books, of which they had 2-5 copies of each. Starting small is still starting. But the teachers in the PLT didn’t talk at all about trying to expand from what they had from the canon. I wasn’t ranking enough to discuss YA in the fast-paced meeting today. Also, though I remembered very little from my high school reading of Their Eyes Were Watching God, it came quickly back to me as I read it this summer, which gives me confidence as well. I am well-read, even if I don’t remember many of the details, and I have a decent enough knowledge of literature in general to be able, I hope, to guide my students, especially as I continue my refreshers. Again, there’s a path in front of me, and there is much to remember and learn, but I feel ready. Ish. Ish indeed. I’m just gonna keep on reading. And listening to students. Glad I know to enlist the help of teens like the Eva Perry club.
I have surprised myself this semester with how much “for pleasure” reading I did despite my courseload. It’s helped me to realize that I have no reason to be afraid of my lack of overall knowledge of YA literature and my hazy memories of other literature. I can read YA lit quickly, and my “teacher brain” actually works pretty well for picking up themes and the like. It’s happening with everything I’m reading. I’m becoming a “teacher-reader.” I just see things that way now. I still have a lot of knowledge to gain, but I’m unconcerned that I’ll fail to get there. Everything in time. What I’ve learned about listening to students is probably as valuable as any of the books I’ve read.
On the technological literacy front, I feel semi-prepared. I’ve blogged and made videos for years, and I feel great about my ability to explain the use of the internet as a research tool. I’ve taken one edu-tech course, and just started another, and I’m learning more about the Web 2.0 tools that are available to teachers for instruction and creative presentation. I how to use them much better than once I did, but I am still not fully comfortable. I really believe this will change by the end of this semester, but at this point, if I were to ask students to Storybird for me, I’d have to sit right down next to them and approach any question they had as though I had it myself. I’m getting there, but still, there are miles left for me to travel. I need to be introduced to more clever uses of these technologies and vastly build my proficiency with them. Miles to go still. I’ve stepped beyond my comfort zone and feel good about the products I’ve made out there. Still so much to learn. BUT, I’m pretty confident in my ability to learn these things.
With every project, my confidence and creativity swelled a bit, which is great. I feel good about using a good many technologies—and about instructing them. I am certainly aware that when I begin teaching, I am going to feel as though I’m in a time-vacuum, but I will always try to make time to learn new tools, consider their affordances, and how to use them.
In specific regard to my online identity, I am presently unprepared, I suppose. I keep a blog, but it’s not one I want my students reading. I am not really sure how to go about creating an appropriate online presence, either. I know I need to change the name on my personal FaceBook account. Should I build a webpage for my classes? For myself the teacher? I am ready to use technology for assignments, but how much of myself is reasonable to have out there on the web when I have students? I want them to have my email address. I want them to know I’m available. A class Wiki could be really good for keeping everyone on the same page, and I’m fairly comfortable with the prospect of making and maintaining one of those. I’m not sold on Twitter for class use… yet. I definitely have a lot more questions than opinions on this front, obviously. I have plenty to learn before I decide and more fully implement my online identity. Don’t be mad, but I’m still not sold on Twitter. I think that I’m far more comfortable online, but I’m obviously not interested in having my classes meet in SL–so many problems. I see them lessening for us all as we get a few weeks under our belts, but I don’t see how that would do for high school. I do feel that it’ll be important to have an online course page for my classes, but understand the importance of keeping it up to date and compact for sure.
So. I’m still not a Twitter fan. I’m sorry! I don’t mind the concept, but integrating its regular use into my life is unclean. It’s clunky for me–it doesn’t fit into my organization very well. I could spend 5 minutes reviewing it, or it could bloom into 2 hours if I find a handful of interesting posts, and that is difficult to fit into my attempt at becoming well-organized! My blog has made me feel more established, and I am definitely going to do one of these for my classes, perhaps as part of a course website—it’ll be such a great way to keep parents apprised of what’s going on and will widen the community of our classroom.
More than anything else, I want to be better acquainted with the books that I will want to teach in my career. This means wading deeper into the waters of young adult fiction, feeling more comfortable with the catalogue, and knowing what kinds of books will appeal to the varied demographics of my future classrooms so that I can be sure to include a little something for everyone. Shy people, happy people, confused people, angry people, everyone. I also want to know what’s out there to help me include as many different kinds of people’s points of view so that I can help my students to understand that one culture’s point of view is never the right one, and that every culture, no matter how dominant or dominated, has something to learn from every other culture in the world. I feel relatively confident of my knowledge of literature in this regard, but knowing what’s available in YA fiction would be wonderful.
I know more, and I know more resources to find ideas for books for independent reading choices for my students, which is great. Again, I am now thinking about class time and resources. The teachers I met today were only talking about removing things from their courses. They said the administrative decree was to do less, but more in depth. I still want to expand my knowledge, and I will, and I will focus on including readings with many points of view for comparative/empathetic purposes, but I am worried afresh that the “shrinking time” that the teachers I met today were speaking about is going to cramp my professional style and the goals I have. Still—it would do no good to gloss over things so much that the students don’t learn deeply enough from what we cover. This calls for a fantastical balancing act of genius proportions.
I am feeling much more confident about my knowledge, and I think more importantly, about my ability to quickly find resources that contain the knowledge I do not have. That has mostly been a by-product of my education, and if you don’t mind, I’d like to make a plug for it—teaching future teachers how to quickly find quality teaching stuff resources is a great idea! Because I won’t have time to read every book that comes out. But when I know how to find a trustworthy teacher or consortium of teachers who have reviewed it, I can have a good idea of the value of this book to me and my classroom. This is why I want to remain subscribed to the Bookhenge Daily, in fact—lots of great resources within.
Put simply, I would like to expand my knowledge and gain confidence in my use of the pedagogical and technological tools available to help me teach literature to high school students effectively. What instructional methods and web tools are good for helping students compare points of view from disparate texts? How can I help them see the differences? I need to understand these technologies so I can be a more savvy and informed user and choose activities and technologies that are truly helpful, not just neat. I might not have made much progress here, but I think it’s because I’m not yet teaching or designing instruction. If I were to have a curriculum, I think I’d be okay at recognizing the Englishy prospects within each one, and could direct student reading with good questions and things to look for. And I know at least 10 web tools now, and understand their benefits. I can probably figure out how to use them for specific desired outcomes for students. Will need practice. Like designing a CCI. Oh, that’s coming up, you say? Well, huzzah!
How many accounts do I have now? How many projects have I created? How many great ideas have I gathered from my community of learners here? I am amazed at how much more knowledgeable I feel, and how much more I actually feel as though I’m becoming part of a community I have only seen from the outside previously. I feel like I know how to teach—I am aware that it takes my mind far too long to cogitate the ins and the outs of the instruction still, and I’ll need to gain speed with my practice—but I understand so much better the process. I am less bashful about delving into subject matter. I am excited to find more nonfiction to teach, for one thing. Why my brain never really thought that teaching Fast Food Nation was possible in high school English is beyond me. I am far more confident in my ability to choose content and make lessons out of it.
As I mentioned earlier, I would like to more fully form my understanding of the aspects of a virtual self that would be helpful to me and my students and their parents. I want to have a presence for communication and collaboration purposes at least. Are there more uses I should consider? I want to be judicious in my choices so that I am an efficient and helpful online presence, and so that I know where to be to help and be helped by other teachers. I’m ready for instruction in this area so I can begin to form my opinions on the matter. My thoughts and abilities are starting to gel, here, I think. I spoke about keeping a web presence for my courses, and needing to keep them very up to date and clear. I want to do a monthly (or so) email to all parents if it’s appropriate for the kind of classroom I’m running. It made more sense to me before I met real teachers today, and I thought: How would I put these things into an email? Not that everything of which they spoke needed to be communicated to parents. But even just the class updates. Not sure yet. It’s an idea in my mind, and will come to be reexamined as I begin student teaching.
Monthly email? My brain is an idiot! I feel like I’ve had the idea of having a course blog for years now, but I suppose it just came up in the last couple of months. I have projects up at a dozen different Web 2.0 tool sites or more. I can throw a Weebly together in ten minutes. I can create my course on Edmodo and keep my students and parents up to date simultaneously–plus have room for announcements. How strange, this knowledge and confidence and presence came on so sneakily. Even as of my FOKI-Mid, I was putzing around about my presence in web-worlds, but now I feel like I’m quite a part of it.
I am a changed man as a result of this course, my fellow learners, and my work within it and with them. The support here has been amazing—I hope that we can all maintain some semblance of it as we move forward. I’m not really interested in jumping out of the nest yet. Or at least, I would like to return to it after each day for a while, okay? Okay fine, we can just keep together via the thing that brought us together though we be apart. And I’m going to stop now before I start calling Dr. Crissman “mama bird.” Ooops. Too late.