Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Getting Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable

Curriculum Camp

This past weekend I had the opportunity to present a paper I had written at a graduate student led conference at LSU called Curriculum Camp.  I spoke on using dystopian literature with adolescents to explore concepts of giftedness.

It was unlike any conference I had ever been to.  It was small and intimate, filled with graduate students and their ideas. Graduate students shared papers they had written, research they were doing, and ideas from their dissertations. Just about each session tackled thought-provoking and challenging issues. I took a lot of notes of thoughts, questions, and ideas I walked away with.  I have a large list of curriculum theorists and their ideas I want to read more about.

One of the themes I caught throughout the conference was this idea of being comfortable with the uncomfortable.  We live in a world that is surrounded by the politically correct.  We spend hours molding ourselves into boxes, trying to be so many things at once.  I joke about it, but one of things I am highly uncomfortable with is other people's emotions.  I am not even comfortable with my own emotions, so I am highly uncomfortable with other people's emotions.  This is why I have to teach above grade 4.  Grade 3 and below includes way too many tears.  Tears terrify me. I can relate to the quote below. I usually refused to give in to expressing emotion because I felt I had to be strong.

Source: Pinterest

This idea of being comfortable with the uncomfortable is a theme in my life I have been wrestling with all year.  You can see where I blogged about this at Balancing the Backpack in September. It also got me thinking about my students.  How do I help them embrace ambiguity?  We need to inspire students to be creative and critical thinkers.  However, we often frame their learning experiences around questions that have right and wrong answers.  How do we open them to the possibilities?  How do we help them to see how big the world is?  How many ways of seeing there are...

I was reviewing through some old lesson plans and I found one of my weekly reading responses from a World Literature class I took during my Masters.  The themes matched up well to my current thoughts.

Thoughts on Ambiguity from 2010

How does one become comfortable with ambiguity in a text? Should ambiguity just be defined as the act of being uncertain and unclear? What other elements exist in the concept of ambiguity? If the path is unclear, do we stand at the edge of the unknown and gaze upon it waiting for clarity to strike us? Or is it better to venture forth into uncertainty with confidence? We have to decide if our goal is to reach the destination, or if we really just want to experience the journey. In asking myself how I become comfortable with ambiguity, I feel the need to gain a deeper understanding of the nature of ambiguity, essentially wanting to make the notion of ambiguity less ambiguous. Maybe becoming comfortable with ambiguity is not the idea of understanding ambiguity but embracing it. Does everything in life need to be broken down and categorized? At the same time, it is the nature of the ambiguous that makes it so intriguing and makes us want to analyze it deeper. Are we inherently attracted to things that are ambiguous, and it is the events and duties of our everyday life that have forced us to try and compartmentalize the world into easily understood categories? 

As an elementary teacher, I find it fascinating to see how children view the world. They abhor the monotonous and thrive on creativity, anything that stimulates their imagination. I have seen firsthand the difference age makes on the acceptance of uncertainty. You can give a prompt to a fourth or fifth grader and while they may still seek to ensure that they understand the directions or the questions asked, they will enter into the assignment with confidence of their own ability to analyze and imagine. They are sure of their world and their ability to perceive it. Many of my sixth grade students will hesitate to finish an assignment or answer a question unless someone can provide them confirmation that is accurate and complete. I am finding the need to instill in my older students what seems to come naturally to my students only a year younger, that they need to trust their own ability to analyze and verbalize their thoughts. If younger children can embrace the ambiguous, what along the way has caused us to create our own roadblocks? Is it as simple as wanting others to like us, being afraid of making a mistake, a reinforced need to be correct, overwhelming availability of possible answers to every question, or just the pressures of everyday life? If we are to become comfortable with ambiguity in an ever-increasingly complex world, we need to shed our adult-learned hesitations and approach the uncertain with the imagination and confidence of a child. We can make sense of the uncertain path only by jumping into it with the confidence that we may never find all the answers.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Form for Checking and Reflection on Grades - Freebie

We all can dispute the value of grading and what to grade and how to grade and when to grade. At the end of the day though, most of us take grades and hand out report cards or progress reports on some regular basis.  Many schools use some type of online system to track grades, and often parents and students have a way to check their grades.  I have used Engrade the last couple years. It is fairly easy to use and students and parents can have access to check grades. I have been reminding students and parents the last few weeks to check student grades and check to see if they have any missing assignments to get turned in since our grading period ends soon.  With my students being 7th and 8th graders, I think they are old enough to find out what they missed if they were sick and to remember to turn assignments in when they are done.

I decided to make a form they all are going to have to fill out this week.  Despite my reminders, many of my students have not checked their grades and are going to be surprised if their grades are lower than they realized. This time of the year it is easy to have a lot of students with various missing assignments due to cold and flue season. So I am going to make them fill out a form to record their current grade and whether they have any missing assignments.  They also will have to fill out a separate form to track any missing assignments for any class for which they had missing assignments.

You can get a free copy HERE. How do you help hold your students responsible for taking ownership of their grades and getting everything turned in.

Monday, February 16, 2015

It's Monday. What are you reading? #imwayr 2/16/15

I got the flu for Valentine's Day.  What did you get?

I don't recommend the flu, but it did give me an excuse to alternate between sleeping, reading, and watching movies this weekend.  Anyone else admit to watching the Twilight marathon? #notashamed
I did squeeze in some necessary homework as well.  It comes with the territory of being a graduate student.

Today is Monday, so I am going to link up with Book Journeys and Unleashing Readers to share what I have been reading lately.

Adult Fiction Reads

This weekend I finished Dragonfly in Amber and started Voyager.

So far I am enjoying the Outlander series.  I have always loved historical fiction.  I will say I enjoy the series, but at times the books do seem overly long.  Some parts of the plot feel unnecessary or feel like they drag on a bit longer than they should, but overall still entertaining.

Audio Books I am Reading

I spend way too much time in the car, so audio books help keep me sane.  Audible is my friend. This past week, I started Scarlet after finishing Cinder.

I love the idea of a fractured fairy tale for teens.  I felt so inspired by the idea of a science fiction fairy tale that my 8th graders are writing their own version of a fairy tale set in a science fiction setting in class. We just finished Ender's Game, so science fiction has been on the brain.

Teen Fiction I am Reading on My Own

I have been reading The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place.

It is a lovely satire that will make you laugh out loud.  Some girls at a a girl's finishing school find themselves in a predicament when their headmistress and her brother fall over dead at dinner.  They decide to hide the deaths, so they don't have to be sent home.  Still reading it currently, but I intend to read parts of it to my students later in the year before we read Taming of the Shrew.  I think it will make for a fun discussion of satire.

Read Alouds to My Students

We read the first few chapters of Ruby Red and my students were loving it. Ruby Red is very funny, so it really does translate very well to audio or as a read aloud.  I considered reading the whole book, but I really want to introduce them to different books every couple weeks. I want to expose them to different books to hopefully get them to want to pick up some books on their own to read for pleasure.

This past week we just started The Testing.  The Testing is a great dystopian teen fiction read that is not as well known yet, so not many have read it yet.

What are you reading?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

You might be a Teacher and a Graduate Student If...

You might be a Teacher and a Graduate Student If...

Source: Pinterest

  1. You can't remember the day of the week.
  1. Your alarm is an evil monster who hates you.
  1. You ask your students what day of the week it is instead of the other way around.
  1. Your best work comes when you are too tired to care.
  1. You have a different bag for each part of your life. 
  1. You make grocery lists in class in the margins of your notes to capitalize on your time. 
  1. You have favorite pens and pencils that are the only ones you will use.
  1. You spend way too much at Starbucks.
  1. Your barista knows your order without you saying anything or they comment "Ooooh, something new today" when you try something new. 
  1. Your favorite phrase to say throughout the day is "Sanity is overrated."

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