Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Where I'm From

Last night, in my ED 692 class (Classroom Strategies in First and Second Language for Reading and Writing) we had a workshop presentation that included a lesson based on the work of George Ella Lyon. The lesson included a chance to write a "Where I'm From" poem, based on Ms. Lyon's work. It was a powerful experience, and one that I recommend to teachers everywhere.

Here's Mine (written from the perspective of my childhood):

I am from solitaire cards and chicken foot dominoes.
From dryer sheets and telephones.
I am from the nomadic
moving again and again and again.
I am from the coleus and the Christmas cactus.

I'm from sleeping in Christmas morning and playing Boggle.
From Kathy and "Cap'n Reese."
I'm from yelling and hugs
and from music.

I'm from strength and keep going
and Eensy Weensy Spider.
I'm from Oregon
My brother from Colorado
My sisters from Germany, New Jersey and Washington.
One sister left shortly after arriving.
From slideshows and Schranks
and pictures in forgotten boxes that now live at my house.

Where are you from?

Friday, May 4, 2012

Classroom Memories

One of my "Moodle" prompts this week for one of my online grad school classes asked us to reflect on memories we had in our ownclassroom experiences, and how that experience impacted our learning, and to describe how that experience will help us, as teachers, "create a classroom conducive to learning." Here's what I wrote:

Like others have mentioned, I don't have many memories of classroom experiences in the grade I want to teach. Sort of. I remember when I took it upon myself to transplant all of my Sophomore biology teacher's classroom plants in my free time after school because they were all root-bound and suffering from neglect. I learned the hard way about cacti that actually are heat-sensitive and shoot their spines at whatever they feel is threatening them--even if that's just a hand trying to help them have a better growing experience. It was nice to look back the next year and see the proof of my handiwork--happy plants. I remember an Anatomy and Physiology class in my Junior College/freshman year where my professor simply handed me the top half of a human skull to hold while he pointed out the intracacies of the human brain. I had to get over my squeamishness at participating in cadaver anatomy VERY quickly at that point--or risk dropping the skullcap in my hand. I also remember working for weeks on a genetic experiment breeding fruitflies--only to discover that someone had tampered with my jars at the very end, the most crucial part of my experiment, by damaging the covers of my jars and allowing my fruit flies to mix and mingle with other fruit flies and destroying my data. Not fun. Luckily my professor was understanding.

I also remember being in third grade and being treated more like a middle school or junior high. Instead of staying in one classroom, we went from room to room for different subjects. A glaring exception to the middle school model was that we didn't have lockers and had to schlep ALL of our stuff with us from room to room--so much stuff to carry that it was actually physically painful to my seven-year-old self. I truly hated school that year. I started lying about doing my work--telling my parents I didn't have homework, and telling my teachers that I'd had issues at home preventing me from doing my work--because that was easier than lugging all of my stuff around all the time. (That didn't last long).

So--to create a classroom conducive to learning. I think that sort of classroom needs to be comfortable--but not too comfortable. There needs to be systems in place that SUPPORT learning, not detract from it. And when circumstances arise that are truly beyond a student's control, a teacher needs to be helpful and understanding.Sometimes the best way to get over apprehension and fear in learning situations is to just dive right in and do it. And live plants always make a room a little more pleasant. Unless they are spine-shooting cacti.

Seriously, watch out for the Cacti.