Refecting on the Semester so far…

I’m personally dedicating this blog to my LL ED block class. I think we’ve reached a point in the semester where we are so caught up in doing homework, projects, readings, and researching that we haven’t had a chance to step back, take a breath, and reflect on what we’ve learned so far. Additionally, we’re dealing with the stress of graduation, the soon-to-begin student teaching, and the massive amount of planning and preparation that must go into the next year of our lives. It’s ironic because, as our professor Elsie has said, we are in a very transient stage between being students and teachers. The frustration we’re experiencing is exactly what our students will probably be facing and it’s a good idea to remember why we’re encountering it, and how, as teachers, we can pedagogically prevent it from happening to our students. So I thought I would help myself and hopefully help my classmates by going through each class and itemizing some important things that we’ve learned, talked about, or experienced. And yes, as you read this try to relax.

LL ED – 480

This class possibly has the most difficult lessons to learn, because we are learning about what we consider the “every day” parts of our life.¬† Sometimes it seems like we’re learning obvious lessons in the class, such as “the media influences young minds.” But part of the class is learning to facilitate a critical consciousness for our future students (as well as creating a consistent critical consciousness within ourselves). It’s easy to let this consciousness slip and let the media populate our minds with opinions and beliefs that can cause emotional and physical harm (just think of the construct of beauty that the media has created). Let me get one thing straight, it is not easy to be aware 24/7 of the influences that are bombarding us. Outside of the media we are influenced by our friends, family, environment, living situation, gpa, and a whole mess of other things. Of course we have a choice in how much the various influences in our life effect us. For instance, I hope that you are letting the music in my first link influence immensely. In this class, we’ve been itemizing and dissecting the influences of the media on us, and how these influences enter our classrooms. We’ve been doing this to raise our awareness so that we can hopefully raise the awareness of others.

LL ED – 420

This class may be getting into the most specific and nitty gritty aspects of teaching a class. I recall our professor telling us to not hand out papers before we discuss the content that is written on the paper. Otherwise, the students would skim over the paper, and the teacher will lose the attention of the class. Every day, we’ve been moving through a science-fiction based lesson plan, which is centered around the novel Feed. In reality we’ve been teaching ourselves this lesson. It’s been amazingly fun to take part in facilitating part of the unit and then seeing my classmates teach other parts of the lesson. I also enjoyed getting specific feedback from my professor on ways that my conduct while teaching could have improved. I know it’s easy to gloss over but getting specific feedback on how to improve ourselves in class won’t happen that often. I was very grateful to Jason, our professor, for telling me to be keep open and interested body language. Without this feedback, I might send the wrong messages to my class while in the midst of a discussion. (If you remember, both LaVenique and I were crossing our arms during the conversation we facilitated). This class has also been challenging for other groups due to spur of the moment changes in lessons. Though this is basically unfair (most groups had concrete plans that did not change), I would urge us all to ask the question: is life fair? The answer is no. As Jason said, changing our plans minutes before a class or even during a class is a possibility and a reality. I applaud the flexibility that my classmates had in dealing with these changes. It’s not easy to accomplish a specific goal when you’re flying by the seat of your pants. Believe me, I know, I’ve done quite a bit of improv acting. But that experience is rich with the harsh reality of real teaching. That reality is that it’s not as easy as Chuck Norris makes it seem! (but then is anything?) We’ve had time to plan wonderful lessons with our peers for these classes, but when we’re actually teaching, we’ll be doing this multiple times a day, five days a week, practically by ourselves! I’m choosing to look at the frustration and confusion that these spur of the moment changes caused and to learn from it. I hope everyone does the same.

We’ve also tackled some important pedagogy topics in this class. More evidence mounts for a student-centered classroom, as we’ve read books by Smagorinsky and Wilhelm. Constructivist teaching methods as well as theatre based activities are some of the topics that are championed by these education theorists. Crafting a fun and flexible classroom can be aided with the information found in these books.

As a final note about this class, it’s given us motivation to read the fantastic novel, Feed. Any class that gets me to read something as profound as that book was worth taking.

LL ED – 411

Last but not least, Elsie’s class. The first thing that comes to my mind when I think of this class is, “including the individual experiences of students.” In high school I often found myself writing about topics that I simply did not care about. However, you can bet that everyone on the planet (including myself) has some degree of self-interest. Therefore, why not use this self-interest to motivate students to write? Have students include their personal experiences in their writing so they can make what they have read connect with themselves. Excuse my language, but who really gives a shit about a whiny prince in Denmark? No one! No one cares about Hamlet (or indeed any character in a play or story) until we connect with that character. For instance, in Death of a Salesman, I connect with Willie Loman and both of his sons. This is because I see so much of Willie in my own father (not the suicidal and depressed parts; just the parts that make his a dad) and I see myself in his sons. Until students see themselves, someone they know, or an experience they’ve had in the text that they’re reading, they will not care about what you have to cover in your lesson plan. If you want your students to learn from a text, connect them to it by relating it to themselves in their writing.

Easier said than done of course. How do you get students to relate their own experience to a text? Lucky for us, our wonderful professor has given us a weekly opportunity to answer that question in our Taking a Stand assignments. We’ve been responding to a rather dry and analytical text called Why Writing Matters, but we’ve been doing it with the purpose of using our personal experiences to relate to it and make it important. I think most of us have drawn on our experiences in high school. Ironically, we’ve used a text on education to critique the education we were given.

My last statement is to reassure my classmates (and myself) that we have not been wasting our time here in Penn State this semester. I would urge all of us to think back to our freshman year here. Could we have critiqued our high school education as well as we can now? If you answered no because of anything that we’ve done this semester, it has been worth your time and effort.

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One Response to Refecting on the Semester so far…

  1. Jason Whitney says:

    I really enjoyed reading this blog, and not just because of all the funny morsels of Chuck Norrisishness hidden in the embedded links! I appreciate your overview of the block and what you received from it. Overall, a really interesting blog!

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