Category Archives: Pedagogy

When You Shoved a Desk at Me as I Walked Past You . . .

I didn’t punch you, like any of the teachers in any of the viral videos punched their students.

I didn’t punch you, because . . .

I am an adult, and adults are here on this earth to nurture and mentor young people, to teach you who you should become as an adult, not to teach you who you shouldn’t become. If I had hit you, I wouldn’t be nurturing you or mentoring you. Most importantly, your decision-making skills will not be fully developed for another 10 years. I cannot expect you to make choices like a mentally-well adult, because you are a middle schooler.

I want, more than anything, for you to grow into a wonderful, smart, caring, kind, and loving man, not the sort of man I will read about in the headlines for doing something mean and heartless. I already had to read about a former student trying to murder his girlfriend, including some graphically sordid details that didn’t need to be in the newspaper. I don’t want to read something like that about you.

On most good days I actually enjoy my job, and I look forward to coming into a school where students, ready to learn or not, will get one little glimpse into the beauty of this world and into the theological concept of grace. My goal, each day, is to teach my students one thing that hadn’t ever thought about before.

I am a pacifist, and even if I wasn’t, I want for you to know that your first response shouldn’t be what can I do back to them, when they’ve done something wrong to you. I should model that a response can be forgiveness, love, and grace, not retribution.

I can control my initial reaction, and I can look you in the eye and tell you, “NEVER do that to me again, because a person’s first instinct is to hit back, or push back, and I don’t want you to get hurt.” I mean that. I really want you think through your actions, your words, your behavior, because I want for you to act with purpose, making good choices, not out of impulse, making poor choices.

You are a kid living with (probably significant) trauma in your life. You don’t need me to add onto that, and I probably didn’t think through this one hard enough when I got angry. Instead of talking through your actions with you and helping you to see how many other good and pure choices you could have made, I spoke harshly, punished you and your classmates who were laughing, and then made you work in silence.

I love you, even when you don’t love yourself. Even when your sole mission is to entertain the other kids in the class with behavior that is the opposite of what you know is right and good, I love you, and I want the best for you. At this point, it feels like I love you more and care about you more, than you love or care about yourself.

Situational Paralysis: Make a Good Plan

While I am visiting my parents this weekend, I came here to Gas City to a Starbucks, where I worked during graduate school which seems like ages ago now, to work on lesson plans for school next week. The school corporation where I work uses a system called PAR to evaluate all new teachers and also struggling teachers who have been teaching for a while.

I value this system, because every teacher should have other teachers observe them, and every teacher has room to grow and learn, which is facilitated well by conversations with a good, mentor teacher (I am lucky, mine is fabulous). Conversely I dislike this system, because it requires me to write formal lesson plans every weekend for every period for every class, and sometimes I just want my students to work on a project for a few days, but I don’t know how, in a formal lesson plan, to adequately express where I will be and what I will be doing for those days.

And sometimes, let’s be real, formal lesson plans seem like one more thing when you have a general trajectory for your students’ lessons, like they are taking time away from making the lesson happen, doing a bit of extra preparation for your students, grading their work and making meaningful comments, and all those things that really make a difference.

But, in American culture, what are we without a plan? We start planning our kids’ lives from before the time they are even conceived. We tracks students by their achievements from the time they are in preschool. We guide students forward on their trajectories all through elementary, leaving brown, black, female, financially poor, and queer kids at the margins (if you don’t believe me, a simple google search will prove my point; there are countless scholarly articles that speak to these issues as well). These groups spend far more time out of class, in the principal’s office, in the nurses office, and out of school for behavior or absences, and frequently they are left behind.

We start seriously asking students what are their plans for their futures in seventh grade (I’m 44 and I still don’t have a solid plan), but those same groups of kids (the marginalized) are largely at a loss for guidance as papers (lessons and punishments) are pushed their direction, sometimes in languages they and their parents cannot speak or read, sometimes for opportunities they and their parents do not understand, and sometimes with the lens of a cultural structure into which they do not fit. Twenty-first Century Scholars in Indiana, for example, must be applied for by the end of 8th grade, so students and their parents have to choose to go to college by the young age of 12-14. If they miss the 8th-grade deadline, there is no second chance.

So, yes, plans matter in the USA. And your plan had better be a good one, the right one. As a teacher, my plan had better be a good one, the right one. No pressure.

 

 

Fiction Friday, On Saturday

This week my students read a couple of texts that are worthy of note: “The Women Men Don’t See” by Alice Bradley Sheldon and the Old Testament book of Job. I’m not saying they are both fiction, but we’re studying the bible as literature, so we discussed how Job is part of the wisdom literature tradition. I’m not really going to say much about Job, except for that it was interesting watching church kids really read that text and try to figure out why their ministers or youth ministers had never mentioned Elihu…

“The Women Men Don’t See” is a strange story that, at first, seems to be your run-of-the-mill adventure story where some folks get plane wrecked and some of them wander away to find water or help while some of them stay at camp just in case they might be rescued. However, this story gets stranger and more awkward as it progresses, because the two people who wander away to get water find some other folks out there in the wilderness. The man, Don, hurts his knee on a weird mangrove root, and then it appears as if he also gets stabbed by one of the other folks, though the way Sheldon describes the stabbing is much similar to the way she describes his knee pain, so I wasn’t sure if it was a new injury or the same, just inflamed. At any rate, Ruth, the woman who is also questing for water, makes friends with the others, who turn out to be aliens that look like tripods. The intriguing part of this is that Ruth can understand their alien language, but Don can’t. In the end, Ruth takes her daughter Althea and leaves with the aliens, dumbfounding Captain Esteban and Don and leaving them there by the plain wreckage. See, it’s weird.

My students had an amazing discussion about the way the women in the story are described throughout the story as aliens or others, so they weren’t bothered by the fact the women could understand the alien language. In fact, my students were interested in the ways in which that then turned the tables and marked the two men in the story as other. Since through the first two thirds of the story women are described as interchangeable (Don can’t remember one of his secretaries from another), Other (as opposed to men), or mundane (they behaved by the manual). Once Ruth meets the aliens, the men then become the Other; they can’t speak the language, nor can they understand the customs. And as such, the women leave the men. I was bothered by the fact that the women only ended up having partial agency, because they were able ot then step out of their “manual” interchangeable roles, but only by the empowering force of the aliens. The students loved the idea that language can help turn the tables. Still, the text was a good one, and we’re going to discuss it some more this week.¬† They did an excellent job of using the de Beauvoir theory to discuss the text as well; let’s see how they do with “The Cyborg Manifesto” this coming week.

Summertime and the Living is Easy

Today is the first day of my ten-week summer break, and it’s exactly six weeks until the Muncie 70.3. I have also signed up for the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon on November 2, twenty-two weeks away from today, hoping that I will make it across the finish line this time. I’m a much better runner now than I was the last time I tried, and I will have completed the 70.3, which I bank on giving me the stick-to-it-iveness to make across the marathon finish line. I can only hope for the freezing rain they had last year when we volunteered. I hate being overheated when I run.

While it’s difficult for me to imagine that the last time I wrote here was six weeks ago, I guess the lack of writing on my part is an indication to you that I have been super busy. I’m looking forward to this summer for so many reasons (not parallel listing): no dissertation hanging over my head, reading anything I want, a diversity seminar on campus about inclusive pedagogy, family vacation, triathleting, possibly some art, clean eating, online meditation classes, refinishing hardwood floors, playing disc golf, playing with my animals, and naps.

There are so many things I’d love to write about, that have been heavy on my mind and heart recently, I can’t begin to touch them in one blog post, so I am making it my goal to pick back up with the idea of joy and blogging about my main goals for this year. I hope to write every day this summer, so I’ll no doubt be writing about some current events and things like that, too.

Lastly, for dinner I am making bacon wrapped shrimp kebobs on the grill, and I hope they are delicious. If they are, I will be sure to post pictures of them tomorrow.

 

Dissertation. Paleo & Exercise.

As much as I’d love to go around telling each person who has meant anything to me in the process of trying to earn my PhD the following information, I can’t. There are too many of you, so I am writing it here hoping some people actually read these things¬† and hoping you will not feel betrayed that I am not telling you to your face.

I have made the decision to quit and not finish my dissertation. I am not going to complete my PhD. I am totally and completely okay with my decision. I have not fallen off the academic wagon, and I still feel like I can be a valuable part of the academic community. I am simply choosing to focus on teaching my beloved middle school and high school students, instead of splitting myself between my two loves. I still plan to write and research, but my interest will likely switch from literature and literary theory to literature and teaching literature. Of course, theory will still be a part of that process, but so will pedagogy, methodology, pragmatics, and all of those educational tidbits I’ve been ignoring in my research.

*

I realize I’ve changed my life by eating paleo, and I feel like shit when I eat wheat and corn, so I wonder to myself, “Why is it that you still insist on eating things that make you feel like shit?” There are two pretty obvious reasons: they taste good, and that’s what’s available. I am sure there are other not so obvious reasons, too. On Thursday, at Thirsty Thursday, I decided I had a hankering for a corn dog. Savage’s has corn dogs, so I ate one, and when I woke up the next morning, my belly was bloated, my tongue was swollen and my mouth was on fire. Think there might be an allergy there? I felt horrible, so I decided then and there that non-paleo (or primal if I’m feeling more lax) foods will not be going into my body anymore, no matter how appealing they sound, nor how readily available they are.

In addition to just (sort of) eating whatever I want, I haven’t been exercising the way I want to (or need to). I’ve been sleeping in, instead of going swimming and running. I’ve been couching, instead of going for bike rides or walking the dogs. I’ve been doing pretty much everything to avoid the exercise schedule I’ve created for myself. Because of this neglect, I’ve had to drop out of the Flying Pig half-marathon that’s happening in two weeks. I still have my entry, so I suppose if I feel like it that day, I could head over and make the attempt. I’m pretty sure I could do 16-minute miles for 13.1 miles. Maybe not. Anyway, I haven’t been where I need to be, and as per usual, I decided to “exercise punish” myself. I made up a circuit last night. Four reps with a 3 minute vacuuming break (I was doing housework, too. What can I say?):

  1. 10 air squats with the kettlebell
  2. 25 kb swings
  3. 15 bent rows per side with kb
  4. 15 lat rows per side with kb
  5. 15 overhead arm extensions with kb
  6. 15 tricep extensions with medicine ball
  7. 15 per side side to side crunches with mb
  8. 15 heel-tapping oblique crunches
  9. 15 diamond-bent leg crunches with hands overhead
  10. throw the medicine ball up in the air 15 times
  11. slam the medicine ball to the ground from overhead 15

For dinner last night, I made lamb chops marinated in Bell’s Porter (which is technically not paleo, but I didn’t drink it), broccoli, and sweet potatoes.

Yummy.

I slept so well, like a little baby. When my alarm went off at six this morning, I got up and ran 2 miles to Ball Pool, swam 1.5 miles, and then ran the two miles home. I ate eggs, bacon, a banana, and some tea for breakfast, then walked down to the park to take tickets for the ball game. It was freezing, so I came home and took a really hot shower before I ate squash, uncured hot dogs, and tea for lunch. Basically, it’s been a beautiful couple of days. My body is sore, but my spirits are reeling. I am so excited for summer and for what my future holds. I’m Pollyanna-ing all the way.