Saturday, February 25, 2012

Together Again--For the First time!

Starting Over--again.

Some of you have stuck by me for the last five years or so that I've been blogging. I've been pretty quiet the last year or so. I haven't really felt the groove. Yet at the same time, I LOVED blogging. I loved feeling like I had an audience, like I was heard. And I think that's really what it's all about. We, no matter who we are or what we are blogging for, want to feel like we are heard.

I'm currently back in school. Back in grad school, back in an MAT program--but this time at Western Oregon University instead of OSU. I like it a lot. It came about rather suddenly, so it's been an adjustment for me and my family. To top it off, I started a Junior Roller Derby league about the same week that school started. I'm SO GLAD I did, but it's made for a rocky start. My family's equilibrium was definitely off-kilter for a bit. I think that now, nearly two months in, we are finding solid ground again and getting the kinks worked out of our schedule. I'm grateful that my kiddoes are older. That makes it a lot easier.

One thing I'm doing differently this time is that I am working on an ESOL endorsement. ESOL, in case you didn't know, stands for "English for Speakers of Other Languages," and is essentially, in it's simplest terms, a pedagogical method to help facilitate learning for children who don't speak English as their first language. Not so simply, it's fascinating stuff! I'm surprised at how much I like it--how much I am enjoying my classes in these areas, and how much potential there is for improving my teaching in my content areas (Biology and Music, in case you didn't know). That's part of the reason I'm resurrecting my blog--one of the classes I'm taking is all about technology for ESOL teachers and how they can use them in their teaching. So far, I've really gone beyond my comfort zone and learned about Google Docs, Slide Rocket, Prezi, and more. It's kind of blown my mind. I had no idea that there was so much good FREE stuff out there! I may have even found a new favorite photo-processing site; something I'm grateful for, since my beloved Picnik is shutting down (well, technically they are moving to Google +, so I may not lose them totally).

Our assignment this week was to create a blog. Since I HAVE a blog, albeit a terribly neglected blog of late, I didn't creat a new one, but rather re-acquainted myself with my old one. It's a bit unfamiliar--the dashboard is different, and things are a big dusty; my knowledge of how to use all of the tools and tabs withing blogger a bit rusty, but still--here I am! I can't promise I'll continue blogging regularly, but I can tell you that I truly missed the outlet, and can tell that part of me needs to be blogging.

But how would you use blogs as a classroom teacher? I certainly wouldn't be quite as forthcoming if I were writing this blog with a teacher hat on. I believe that there should be some kind of line in the sand--that teacher's need to maintain some kind of aloofness--especially in this age of prevalent social media--in a time I've heard referred to as the "almost now." Yet I feel that blogs are a powerful tool. I think a teacher could easily stay connected with parents and students--assignments could be posted in detail in blogs. A teacher could give samples of the works he or she is expecting to receive in those assignments. Students could be assigned to write blogs--but be in character. For instance, biology students could write from the standpoint of a famous researcher; history students could be a character in history; and ESOL students could have a rich and varied language exploration right at their fingertips.

I still tutor Korean students in the mornings. Many of them attend English academies after their regular school day is done. These are a version of a "cram school," where grammer and vocabulary are learned by rote day after day, night after night. I think that there could be SO MUCH MORE to the study of the English language. Why not discover great poetry (or even bad poetry for that matter)? Write limericks? Act out plays? I think that ALL of these are better ways to learn and immerse in language study. As a singer, I've sung many songs in languages I do not speak. I still have had to learn a bit about what the song says in order to give a decent performance. Blogs can be a part of that. A student could write stories--even if it's just their own stories--and thereby learn more about the mechanics of sentence structure and vocabulary than rote memorization can provide.

Blogs connect people. And those connections are really what it's all about--whether you are connecting teacher-to-student, or teacher-to-parent, or in any other capacity.