Goodbyes are forever, so let’s stick with “see ya later”

    The Philadelphia Urban Seminar was one of the best experiences I have ever had. I learned so much, not only as a future educator, but also as a developing leader. On Thursday I had my first serious altercation with a student, and I’ve been pondering on how I would verbalize this experience for quite some time. This one student was being extremely disruptive, rude, and disrespectful towards the teacher as she was trying to administer the predictive assessment tests. She was complaining about her unsharpened pencil. I was thinking to myself, “it’s not a big deal, I will gladly give you another pencil!”. The teacher was losing her temper, and she started to raise her voice. I would be lying if I said I was calm and collected. As I offered a new pencil to the student, she took it and I took her old pencil. Now, I can admit that I wasn’t gentle, and I probably shouldn’t have been as aggressive, but it was a time where I really lost my cool…

   The student caused a fit, and the teacher instructed her to take the assessment in the dean’s office. Afterwards, my teacher and I had a conversation that will always be remembered.. She did not tell me I was wrong, or make me feel guilty, but simply explained to me that there will be students that you can’t battle with because you’ll never win. At the moment, I didn’t quite acknowledge and appreciate the substantiality of her argument. After thinking about it for hours, and the ensuing days, I realized that I made a big mistake. The pencil swap was insignificant, fairly negligible, but my inability to control my emotions and remain patient was very improper of me. I realized that I must be calm at ALL times, even when the worst of students exasperate me. I learned that an effective educator manages his classroom by eliminating negative tension and completing the primary objective: teaching the students! I noticed from my practicum experience that students are more attentive, more inclined to participate, and overall a better performer when they have a positive relationship with their teacher. Although I am not particularly proud of this incident, I am satisfied with the lesson learned.

   All in all, I’ve been able to connect what we’ve learned in the classroom and the readings to the real world. I was able to understand that “labeling” may very well adversely affect the learning environment. Perhaps I “labeled” this child as a delinquent, perhaps not. At the end of the day, I do not know what I was thinking, but I wish not to make excuses. Fortunately, I had an experience such as this now, during the seminar, as opposed to when I’m a teacher with my own classroom. Additionally, I need to strive to implement a more effective strategy towards order and discipline. As we’ve all learned, a great educator has control of their classroom. He or she is capable of maintaining order without doing anything unethical, immoral, or improper. I strongly believe that the key to achieving this is to build a healthy and positive relationship with the students. For it not until then that students will trust me and trust that I am making the best decisions, even if it’s one that they may dislike. It is unfortunate that this student didn’t have respect for me, because this was something that had built up from the first day. There were times where she refused to complete the class work simply because I handed the sheets out. There were even times where she left questions unanswered and when I inquired as to whether she needed help, she would simply ignore me. In the future, I will be sure to avoid situations such as these. My gratitude for what the urban seminar has taught me is immeasurable.





“The Show Goes On”

Show Goes On

This song has been the theme song for throughout this entire experience. I have learned that you can only plan so much. In teaching, you never know what could happen; there are things that will happen that will affect and alter your plans. For example, a fire drill or a guest speaker or a disruptive student, etc. As a teacher you have to change your plans within seconds as “the show goes on”.

This song was constantly playing in the car rides and none of us ever seemed to get sick of it. The car rides throughout this experience have actually been extremely valuable. I not only was able to make friends and have fun, but what I really thought was cool was how we always talked about teaching. Its awesome that even when we were outside of our classrooms, on our way to the mall or the zoo, we continued to discuss teaching and our experiences. It is our passion for teaching that has brought us altogether.

The show goes on”…not only in teaching, but in life. I have become extremely close with my mentor teacher. Today, we were talking and I asked if she was the oldest of her family. It was then that she told me her brother, two years older than her, passed away at the age of 22. My heart sunk. My view of her instantly changed and I thought of her as such a stronger individual. I immediately connected with her as I have a brother that is two years older than me. It was at this moment that I saw myself through my teacher. I could only imagine what she went through with the tragic loss of her brother. Just as Mr. Carter said that all students desire love, I think the vice versa is true as well: that all teachers desire love. It is in my critique of Mr. Carter’s speech that I want to show my mentor teacher that I am there for her, as more than her student teacher, but as a friend. I know what she went through with her brother’s death must have been indescribable; however, “the show goes on” and I can see how happy she remains, especially towards her students. I admire her for this strength and truly look up to her as a role model.

As Miss Lundgren is my role model, I hope that I have been the students’ role model. Even though these children may come from a difficult background, facing multiple struggles throughout their short lives, I hope to be their inspiration and motivate them to stay in school and succeed. As the song represents overcoming struggles it tells us that “no matter what you been through, no matter what you into, no matter what you see when you look outside your window, brown grass or green grass, picket fence or barbed wire, Never ever put them down, you just lift your arms higher, raise em till’ your arms tired, Let em’ know you’re there, That you struggling and survivin’ that you gonna persevere, Yeah, ain’t no body leavin, no body goin’ home even if they turn the lights out the show is goin’ on!!”. Even if people may not believe in you or even if people think you can’t succeed, you still can and the show goes on whether they believe in you or not.

Urban teachers know that there is a difference between urban and suburban schools. “…five in the air for the teacher not scared to tell those kids thats living in the ghetto that the niggas holdin back that the World is theirs!”. Teachers should be comfortable to say that they are at a disadvantage but that that shouldn’t stop the students from succeeding. They need to break through the barrier and make something of themselves. You can’t control how the environment is but you can control how it affects you. The teachers need to tell these students that they shouldn’t be “holding back”. The students need to be encouraged that they can push through this barrier and that “the world is theirs”.

I feel that this song truly encompasses a lot of the elements through this urban seminar experience. It has been playing in the background while friendships were forming on car rides. It showed me as a teacher that I am the inspiration to them and I need to encourage them that they can succeed. Although this experience may be coming to an end, the tools and skills we have learned will stay with us no matter where life takes us. “The show goes on”.

Warning: There is Crying in Teaching

I am the world’s biggest cry baby, always have been and always will be ='(  I cry in movies, I cry when I laugh too hard and there is no doubt in my mind that I will cry on my wedding day.  However, it never occurred to me until last Friday that yes, I will also cry as a teacher.  It was ironic that Dr. Staples mentioned during our meeting that sometimes all you can do as a teacher is cry because this is a lesson that I had learned in the classroom only a couple hours before. 

I learned throughout my day on Friday that there are several reasons why teachers would cry.  I feel that the most common causes of crying teachers are proud moments/accomplishments, frustration/stress and sadness.

I was almost moved to tears when I overheard two students talking to each other about their mothers.  My fifth grade students, Dylan and Taiyana were able to relate to and comfort each other about their mothers.  Dylan, has not seen his Mother, whom he does not live with, for four weeks and was talking about how much he misses her.  Taiyana, who is the social butterfly of the class and always has a smile on her face, has a Mother who is sick and dying.  These students both always act cheerful and happy, so it was difficult for me to hear the things they are going through.  Many of the students often call their teachers by the name of mom.  For Taiyana, Dylan and students like them, this can be comforting and help them fulfill their longing for the love of a mother.  Even when a teacher does not know what is going on in the lives of their students, it is important to be understanding to them.  Teachers also need to be sure to get to know their students and learn as much about them as they can.  As a teacher I want to be someone that my students know they can turn to if they are struggling with something and need a mentor or someone to talk to. 

 I am embarrassed to say it, but I have already cried during the Philly Urban Seminar.  I was having an awesome Friday, the perfect ending to a great first week.  When I accompanied my fifth grade class to science, my emotions went on a roller coaster.  The class was stressed because their teacher, Ms. Krupit, told them that they only had 15 minutes to finish up a project that most of them had forgotten at home.  As I circled the class I saw many of them restarting their projects and attempting to finish in only a couple minutes.  ‘I was surprised to see that Deshawn, one of the trouble makers in the class had a beautiful project in front of him.’ <— I admit, this was labeling Deshawn and I have learned the negative effects that this can have on teaching.  My label on Deshawn stereotyped him as not caring about this project and I realize now how dangerous these labels are.  I was so proud of him as he excitedly explained his project to me and showed me what he learned.  As he walked to the back of the room to turn his project in, the teacher informed the class that time was up and all projects turned in were now late.  The look on Deshawn’s face when his project was rejected was heartbreaking.  When I took the project to Ms. Krupit to explain that he was finished she criticized it in front of the entire class and told him that she would not accept it until he edited it.  I was so frustrated that she would embarrass him for his hard work in front of everyone. 

Throughout the rest of the period things did not get much better.  One of the girls, named Shania, was scolded by Ms. Krupit for not turning in her project.  Although I know the teacher had the intention of getting Shania to do her work on time in the future, this discipline had a negative effect.  Shania was near tears when she approached me begging me to help her talk to Ms. Krupit so that she did not have to confront her alone.  She was too scared to simply ask the teacher for a new paper about the project so that she could complete it.  Instilling fear in your students is not a good way to create a comfortable learning environment.  Shania was one student that I really had a hard time connecting with before this incident and I had really been trying to develop a relationship with her.  When I was able to provide her with the comfort and guidance that she was not receiving from Ms. Krupit, a bond was formed.  

The class was really getting out of hand and rather than trying to control the group, Ms. Krupit started to target an individual student.  She started yelling at a girl named Baronna for talking and being out of her seat, which was something that many students in the class were also guilty of at this time.  Baronna did not think this was fair or understand why she was the only student who got in trouble.  She responded to this by returning to her desk, putting all of her science papers away and refusing to work for the rest of the period.  Once again, this teacher’s scolding had the opposite effect, causing a student to shut down and become unmotivated.  When I tried to talk to Baronna I realized that she was crying because she was embarrassed and upset by this teacher. 

At this point in the class my heart was breaking.  I felt so sad for these students and wanted to take control of the class and give all of them the love and attention that they were trying so desperately to earn.  Some were seeking this attention by being misbehaved and others like Deshawn by doing their work, yet none were getting any positive attention from Ms. Krupit.  I tried to put myself in their teacher’s shoes and be more understanding.  She was definitely exhausted, frustrated and sick of trying to get the students to turn in their projects; however, I don’t think that this justifies her actions.  She uses a strict teaching style and although some days I have seen this work and keep the classroom under control, today was not one of those days.  This made me realize that I will definitely need to find a balance between being nice and strict.  I could not handle seeing anymore of the students sad and it was quickly making me upset and wanting to cry with them. 

Then the emotions in the classroom took a complete turn around and things rapidly got better.  First, the teacher changed her mind about Deshawn’s project and told him that although it could be better she felt that he was deserving of a 95.  His eyes lit up and he smiled at me from across the room.  I look forward to having even more satisfying and proud moments like the one that I had with Deshawn when I become a teacher.  After this, Ms. Krupit turned to me and thanked me for being the best student teacher that she has ever had.  She also praised a trouble maker named Christian and told me that the work he did during class was the best she has ever seen him do.  I was so overwhelmed as the tears of sadness that I was trying to hold back turned to tears of happiness and pride. 

I always knew that I wanted to be a teacher.  I love being around kids and enjoy helping them learn new things.  The passion that I felt for these students and for urban education in science on Friday made me cry.  I left room 122 knowing that this urban setting is where I belong.  I want to use my passion for teaching and love of students in a place where I can leave the biggest impact.  I want to take on the challenges of urban education and I look forward to building relationships with students who need a caring and loving mentor in their life.  In a large group meeting, Mr. Earl Carter discussed the impact that teachers can have on the lives of students.  He described the role of teachers as teaching the whole child including physical, emotional, social and intellectual needs.  Teachers need to be committed to meeting the needs of their students and showing them love.   

The feelings that I had in science class were so strong and overwhelming to me; sadness, pride, happiness, frustration, exhaustion, discouragement.  These are all emotions that are commonly felt as a teacher.  The proud moments in teaching, when you see the love of learning in a child and the impact that you are having on their life, make the difficult moments in teaching, when you feel like giving up, completely worth it.  I learned on Friday that I need to be prepared for a roller coaster of emotions when dealing with children and that sometimes, all you can do is cry.          

There is a difference between my tears from last Friday and this Friday.  Last Friday, my crying was a mixture of my sadness for my students and their difficult lives along with my rapidly growing passion for teaching.  This Friday, my tears will be for a different reason, I will cry because this course is over and I will not ever see these students again.  In 8 short days we built relationships in room 114, learning together and from each other.  I will take away more than just pictures from this experience as these students have reinforced the lessons I have learned throughout this course.  I have learned the importance of flexibility, classroom management, good communication and being understanding.  The 6 good teacher qualities from What Urban Students Say About Good Teaching Qualities are a good summary of the lessons learned.  Effective teachers push students, maintain order, are willing to help, explain until everyone understands, vary classroom activities and try to understand students.

I have also learned life lessons from my students.  Hearing their difficult stories about their everyday life makes me realize I need to be more thankful of my awesome family and many blessings in life.  I definitely take the love I have in my life, that these students desire so much, for granted.  This is motivating to me, and I want to be able to share my love and blessings with these needy children.  The class also taught me the importance of laughter, even when my teacher seemed stressed.  Being able to laugh with your students keeps the love teachers have for education alive and helps them to make it through the difficult times.     

Although the course is over, my experience in urban education is just beginning.  My tears tomorrow will also be tears of joy and excitement.  I cannot wait to use everything that I have learned throughout the Philadelphia Urban Seminar in a classroom of my own in a couple of years.  When I walk out of room 114 tomorrow, it’s going to be so difficult to hold back my tears.  I will need to try to dry up my tears and keep a smile on my face as I continue on my amazing journey towards becoming a teacher.

All You Need Is Love

Please excuse the profane implications in the following blog; do not continue reading if you’d be offended by profanity:

 (Pictured Left, with me: Thomas)

“F*** this! F*** you! F*** this school and everyone in it! Ya’ll don’t know what’s goin’ on at my crib. All you see is a 16-year-old in Grover Washington Middle School, and you’re all trying to get me in trouble! Everyone hates me here, and all you do is try to get me into trouble!”

^This was what Thomas, a 16-year-old, African American boy, said in my first period English class in 8th grade, after being asked to move his seat during the Predictives, a standardized test given to all 8th graders. He preceded the quote with flipping his desk and walking out into the hall to stand there while shouting, disrupting the four nearby classes as well. It was really hard to empathize for Thomas as he stood in the hallway crying, for reasons I couldn’t entirely fathom.

Prior to this outburst, Thomas was responding to the morning writing assignment well, by raising his hand and engaging in great discussion. All it took to set him off into a disruption was a small request. This leads me to the question.. How much of the way students react to requests is because of things happening at home and how much of it is because the requests asked of students is inappropriate?

Although there is no straightforward answer for every child, it is definitely important to recognize all of the factors that make up the reactions of children. Did Thomas simply not want to take the exam? Did he feel that his score would not be good, so he wanted to make an excuse for not having to take it? Does he want attention at school, even if it’s negative, because he doesn’t get any at home? Are there many stressors that Thomas has been ignoring lately that all came out at once?

I spoke with my mentor teacher one-on-one later in the day, and she said there are a few ways that teachers deal with students who act out like that. Some yell, some ignore them, and some try to speak calmly to get them to settle down. She said her method is to speak softly to get them to know you are listening, instead of trying to yell over them. Also, she said agree with them, so they know you’re not simply there to argue with them and tell them they’re wrong.

An example she said is, “Thomas said, I’m in 6th grade and everyone hates me. Ms. Rodriguez, my mentor teacher, said she responded with: ‘Yes, Thomas, you are in 6th grade.'” She said that she hardly had to say anything in the 10 minutes she was out in the hallway with him, talking. He let out everything, and she just listened, which may be all he needed/ wanted.

Blog #3 Those who can teach, should

When I was in tenth grade, my uncle, a person I look up to and love, asked me what I wanted to be when I got older, and what college I wanted to go to.  I responded with confidence and excitement, “I want to be a teacher”!  Now, my uncle likes to joke around and have fun; however, his response, which I view as a joke, really dug into my skin and angered me.  He said, “Ashleigh, come on.  Haven’t you ever heard the quote, ‘Those who can’t do, teach’ ”?  Because I did not want to back talk my uncle, I brushed off his “joke” even though it hurt my feelings.  I have wanted to be a teacher since I was young.  I am sure I am not alone, but I used to play teacher with imaginary students in my basement.  I have mentioned this to a few others in this seminar, but I am pursuing a duel major in early education and speech pathology.  Even though I have another interest in mind, teaching has still been my passion since I can remember.  I will be honest; I did not think that teaching was as demanding, exhausting, and challenging as it is.  I never realized what I was in for when I decided to enter college as an education major.  Teaching is NOT easy, and not everyone is fit for the job, just like not everyone is fit to be an engineer.  There is a fire inside me wanting to talk to my uncle and to prove to him that the quote is absolutely, one hundred percent false.

Through this practicum experience, I have learned that teaching is not just regurgitating material so that students can write it down and try to learn it.  Teaching is a continuous, eight hour presentation every week day, where one needs to be prepared, have a lesson plan or agenda of what needs to be done in a certain amount of time in the most effective way, find strategies for a controlled classroom, have effective classroom management, and much more.  Teachers do not just recite information.  They have to speak in a way that students can comprehend and learn.  They have to be creative and think of various ways to teach the information, so that students do not get bored, fall behind, or swerve off-track.  Thinking of lesson plans that are creative and engaging is difficult, and takes a significant amount of time.  It is a very rigorous job that I believe many people, especially the students and parents themselves, take for granted.  Without teachers, there would be no such thing as receiving an education.  There would be no such thing as having a degree to get a job.  What do you think the world would be like if there were no teachers, or if there was not someone to teach kids how to read, how to count, how to solve problems, etc.?  I think the world would be in chaos.

As I have been in my classroom this week, I am beginning to realize more about myself as a person, and as an adult.  I have tried to do “check-ins” with myself after each school day, and I think to myself, “Is teaching all day, everyday, what I want to do when I graduate?”  “Is my heart in it?” “Do I feel comfortable controlling thirty kids at one time and being responsible for teaching them to learn?”  “Can I use the skills that I do feel comfortable with in a more effective way other than teaching, such as speech pathology?”  By asking myself these questions, I have really tried to dig deep inside of me for the solutions.  Right now, my thoughts and feelings about whether to continue to double major, to just stick to education, or just choose speech pathology, are all over the place.  Not only do I not know where my true feelings about my future lie, but also, by being in the classroom setting, I have come to realize how shy, nervous, and anxious I become when my pre-service teacher asks me to teach the class.  I think my anxiousness is coming from the fear that my students will not understand what I am relaying to them, and in turn, I will fail at doing my job of teaching them.  I know how important education is, and I do not want to fail them.  I also know life is about taking risks, but then again, I have to think about myself, my true feelings, and my life.  I need to find where my heart lies and I need to be able to answer the question, “Am I happy with what I am doing with my life?” with the answer “yes”.

Mr. Earl Carter’s speech the other day was very powerful to me.  He asked the group in his speech to “raise your hand if you are willing to give one hundred percent of your time and effort to teaching”.  I did not raise my hand.  I am trying to reflect on why I did not raise my hand, and I have concluded that I do not know if I am far along enough in schooling to say whether my heart is in teaching or not.  Ultimately, I do want to make a difference in young children’s lives, I just do not know if teaching is the way for me to do it.  Although my thoughts are still scattered about what I want to do with my life, I do know that this experience has truly changed my life, and I am happy to have taken part in it.  No matter what I decide to do, the lessons and experiences I am taking away are so special and valuable.  I will cherish them for the rest of my life.

Beneath the Surface

It’s surprising what I realize about my class after just a couple of more days.  With this said, I also realize that a mere week and a half period is not enough for me to really know the class.  Regardless, I now see that much more learning actually occurs than I originally thought.  I’ve watched my fourth grade class diligently work, and remain rather quiet, for over forty-five minutes.  At first impression of the class, I didn’t believe that time span to be possible.  Even what I considered to be the lowest learners were working independently, and yes, they were actually working.  My mentor teacher still became frustrated as some students were getting out their materials slowly, or veered off track for a short time.  The more I thought about her “stress,” the greater the teacher I considered her to be.  As basically an outsider looking in, I considered the day they worked so effectively to be the best day yet.  The kids were unusually quiet, and actually doing what they were told, for the most part.  Her stress showed that she still wanted more, she still wanted to push these kids as far as their abilities would reach.  I could finally see that the students knew what was expected of them (even though they don’t always meet the standards.)  Beneath the surface, the majority of these students really want to learn.

Yes, my mentor teacher often speaks in a stern tone as she awaits for a child to turn around, or stop poking his neighbor, but by no means is this her only tone.  For example, when teaching poetry, she read the couplets in accents for the kids’ amusement…over and over.  She’ll occasionally use the students’ lingo, only to arise giggles and jeers from them in her failed attempts at being cool.  She’s brought them in her leftover desserts from the weekend’s party to reward the kids for behaving well in the morning.  What I admire most about her relationship with the kids is how she receives a hug from one of them, after she raised her voice at that same child earlier in the day.  She’ll scold, remind, and reprimand, but she won’t forget to love.  From what I observed and interpreted, both ways are key for quality teaching.

Like almost every other urban classroom, many of “my” students do not have the ideal home life.  Some come to school wearing the same filthy shirt for days in a row, or have a mother who won’t celebrate their birthday in any special way.  These are things I never was concerned with as a child, nor were most kids form my small, rural town.  Despite these differences, I really do see myself in these ten year old African Americans.  After they were done their work in computer class, they were allowed to play games.  Sanaii asked me how to spell Barbie, so she could go on the website.  I couldn’t even tell you the countless number of hours my friends and I relished in Barbie snowboarding/ rollarblading on my computer screen.  Dionna was also playing a game that I used to be addicted to.  After I got over the shock that the game was still around, I realized what we shared.  I was once also this ten year old easily amused by how far the penguin could slide over the icebergs.  Yes, their skin is much darker than mine, their hair is full of intricate braids and beads, and when I look out their classroom window, I view a city skyline, as compared to woods, but beneath the surface, we share the same interests and likes, or at least the same as my ten year old self.

As I’ve mentioned in my last blog, this class covers the spectrum of students’ academic and behavioral levels.  We have extremely gifted girls, who do nothing but what they’re asked, and actually encourage the other children to do their own work as well.  We have students that tell stories that are so bizarre, you can’t help but laugh.  And of course, we have boys who spend the majority of their time with their behinds not in their seats, always restless…  Then I thought about it, through out my schooling, didn’t my class always encounter these same types of students?  No, we may not have had as many kids getting out of hand with these behavioral issues, but God knows we definitely had them!  Beneath the surface, the classes that I grew up with, and this class now, have many shared characteristics- negative and positive.

I still want to be a teacher after this experience.  My passion to help has been heightened, along with my fears and nerves, and I think that’s a good thing.  Being able to see myself in these kids helped me to understand that they are all teachable.  No doubt will it be challenging, and I will certainly stumble, and even fail, in the beginning of the process.  The key thing is having the strength to get back up, and I believe I have that within me.  For some of them, they have no real support or positive role model, and I want to be there for them, the one that cares.  Some of these students have rough lives, unimaginable, to many, for their age.  Others have a loving and nurturing home life.  Whatever the case may be, they all have similarities with one another, and I with all of them.  It may take effort, but if you look deep enough beneath the surface, you will find these likenesses.

empathy in the classroom

em-pa-thy– noun 1.) the intellectual identification with or the vicarious experience of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.

going off my first entry, i wanna write about empathy and the power it has on education. as i said before and as we learned in class, empathy is key in understanding others and seeing from others’ perspectives. it doesn’t mean that we HAVE to have had experienced a situation before, it just means that we have the ability to imagineourselves in someone else’s shoes. 


personally, it was very difficult for me to imagine myself as an urban student. even just remembering myself as a 5th grader was really hard to do! throughout my time in urban seminar, my empathy skills have been put to the test because i knew i needed to see from a student’s perspective in order to understand the student on a deeper level. today, my class was doing a math worksheet comparing years of education completed and salary. one of my students, Zoey, was just sitting at her desk, chatting with her friends and clearly not doing the work. when i asked her why she wasn’t doing it, she simply said, ” i don’t want to do this, it’s boring.” of course i tried to encourage her to do it being that the lesson was about higher education=higher salary, but even with that she said, ” i don’t have to go to college, i can get a job without it.”

honestly, i was just very confused with her response because it seemed like she didn’t care. how could i possibly imagine myself in her shoes and see from her perspective when i thought she was being absurd! but then i realized that i was already judging, i wasn’t keeping an open mind, and i was most definitely not trying hard enough. as i tried again to be a 5th grade urban student, questions started popping up in my head…“what does she even want to be when she grows up?” “did i even care about college when i was in elementary?” “does she know a lot of people who have gone to college?” i concluded that maybe she hasn’t really thought about college or that no one has pushed her enough to make her want to go to college or think that she can succeed. if i were her, i would not be thinking about my salary or my math worksheet, and like she was already doing, i would rather be chatting up a storm than doing a worksheet. (i hated math when i was in elementary!) even just these little moments of empathy made a huge change in my thinking. it made me want to encourage Zoey that her future is important and that she is capable of succeeding.

empathy is something that i think is important for students to learn as well. it helps create a stronger bond between students and the classroom community as a whole. last week in class, i had a group that was constantly bickering and they all wanted to separate and join other groups. when i asked why they were all fighting, they said that some members were picking on them and they just weren’t getting along. then i asked each of them if they liked being picked on and of course, they all replied with a ‘no.’ after their responses, i told them that if they don’t like being picked on, then they shouldn’t pick on others. i guess it must have clicked in their heads for that hour because for the rest of the period, the group started getting along and actually ended up finishing their project. maybe the kids haven’t had much of a chance to learn or think about a lot of social skills such as respect or empathy which may lead to all the bickering there are in classrooms.

as observers in a classroom, another aspect of school we have to try to show empathy towards are the teachers. in the beginning of my urban seminar experience, i was to disappointed because the teachers were all so mean and punishing the students left and right with lunch detentions and taking away special privileges. now that i’ve been attending the school for a week and a half, i am able to have a better understanding on the way a teacher must think and act towards urban students. i almost feel silly now thinking back on how i thought all the teachers were being so harsh because now i can be that way too!

random funny photo i took...students kept pronouncing the word judicial as 'JUH-dih-cal' instead of 'joo-DISH-al' during their presentations no matter how many times we corrected them! and they kept spelling it wrong...haha

to keep it short and simple, bringing empathy into an urban classroom can make a huge difference. it can bring out respect and understanding from observers (me), teachers, and students. i guess the question of how exactly to teach empathy is an issue too, but i believe that just by taking time to think and reflect on your own behavior AND others’ behavior and having students do the same as well, we can all learn to identify with others in a more meaningful way.

Blog #3: Touched My Heart

I have so much I would like to say in this blog that I genuinely don’t know where to start.  I really want to share some of my experiences within the classroom, but I feel like I have shared everything within small groups.  I really want to talk about my reflections on the classroom environment my teacher has created and critique it to my best ability, but I feel like that would lead to a lot of rash decisions and judgments th

at I am not yet qualified to make.  I would also really like to discuss the various experiences outside of the classroom that have impacted my growth throughout this experience, but I feel as though that might be slightly boring or dragging.  So, while typing all of this and thinking this through, I believe that all of my desires would be sufficiently represented by expressing how much I’ve learned about my self as not only a teacher, but asa person.

I started out this experience being very frightened to be teaching in an urban setting.  However, throughout these past two weeks, I have realized that some of my fears are minute to all the riches that also live within the city of Philadelphia.  I have realized, for many different reasons, that I would definitely be able to teach in this setting.  I am excited to be able to make a big difference in children’s lives that might not be able to get the same opportunity from someone else and I was thrilled to see myself engaging students and forming relationships within just this short amount of time.  Although there were many rough times throughout this experience, I believe they were the most rewarding in my growth and development as both a teacher, and a person.

During the two weeks in the classroom, I’ve had the opportunity to teach very often.  Two lessons I taught were in history and math.  I tend to think of myself to be very good at understanding and teaching math, and for history, I am usually able to find fun and interesting activities or analogies in order to engage the students into wanting to understand.  However, I have only taught first graders before.  I was very confident teaching that age group because if I made a mistake or if they did not understand right away, I always seemed to be able to find new techniques or explanations to explain to them in smaller terms.  They also did not necessarily have the knowledge to tell me I was wrong and catch me off-guard.  With this group of fifth graders though, I was very nervous that the class would not be responsive to me and/or I would not completely be able to control or maintain order while trying to teach.  I was rough to start out, but within a day, the students started to act positively to my teaching and ended up really engaging in every lesson.  I learned that I CAN be a good teacher and I WILL be a good teacher as long as I don’t forget to be confident in myself and my ability to portray lessons to those who are younger than me.

On Wednesday of this week, I finally had the opportunity to teach kindergarten while my fifth graders were testing.  I realized in this short three hour time period that I really do want to teach younger students.  Just looking back at my reaction to my teacher telling me she was sending me down to kindergarten tells me this.  I love being able to say silly words and names and how they react to it in a way of which you become a stand-up comedian for a few short seconds.  I really feel myself light up when I’m around them.  However, I would not change my placement for one second.  I am very glad that I got the opportunity to find out what grade I actually want to teach and why, versus just going with the grade in which I am most comfortable and familiar with.

This experience has really opened my eyes to more of my own strengths along with placing me around people in which I have many similar interests and ideas with.  One of the more rewarding things for me during this seminar was being able to be surrounded by college student who also believe in teaching as much as I do and as just as passionate as I am.  It is really discouraging to continually get the negative response of, “oh” after telling someone my major is elementary education.  I would never had guessed how many people almost frown upon those who choose education as their major.  I feel as though I am almost looked down upon by others who are not in the major.  It was very nice to see not only the rewards in the classroom that keep me going, but also how this experience opened my eyes to the types of conversations I can look forward to with those who share my interest and love of teaching.

I like to describe my teaching style as one from the heart, and the many friends and colleagues I’ve been able to interact and connect with during this experience have definitely touched it to immense depths that I can not even begin to put into words.

The Sad Reality of Urban Education

Tuesday, May 24th~Willard Elementary School

I entered my classroom and waited for Ms. Yeager to arrive.  Little did I know that the whole school was becoming undone in front of my eyes.  The door to my classroom opened and Ms. Davidson, a fellow coworker and close friend of Ms. Yeager came into the classroom.

“Did she come in yet?”

“No, she’s not here yet” I said.

                 “Well, I was trying to catch her before she got her kids.  One of her previous students got shot yesterday and I was trying to tell her before she heard from anyone else.”

There it was—a teacher’s worst heartbreak.  Even though I didn’t know the boy that was shot, I felt some emotion I couldn’t describe.  Ms. Davidson proceeded to tell me some details about the shooting.  From overheard conversations and school gossip, I got the gist of the story:

John D., now age 17, was one of Ms. Yeager’s students when he was in 2nd grade.  He was one of the kids that had severe behavior issues yet you had a special place in your heart for them.  As John grew up, he changed his act, pulled himself together, and got into a really good high school.  On Monday, May 23rd, John, his mom, and his siblings (who also attend Willard) were outside along with many other young kids that go to Willard.  Around 4:10, a car came down the street and started shooting at the family.  John’s one-year-old niece was shot in the shoulder and John himself was shot in the face.  After the drive-by, the block was in complete pandemonium.  John’s mother was hysterical, thinking he was dead on impact.  Neighbors ran out and resuscitated him, and he went to the hospital.  He had to have one eye and part of his brain removed; and it is very likely that he wouldn’t ever walk or talk again.  Rumors of his status ranged from he was brain dead and the family was waiting to pull the plug to he’s stable but in critical condition.

After Ms. Davidson shared what she knew of the previous day’s events, I didn’t really know what to say.  It is always sad to hear stories about shootings and young teens getting killed; but to be honest it’s nothing new.  I wasn’t shocked or surprised by the story because I have lived it every summer growing up in Philly.  I remember last summer between the months of June and July, my friends would tell me about someone they knew getting shot; Everyday on Facebook there was a new “R.I.P.” status.  Yeah it’s sad, but here in Philly it’s life.  So to hear about the shooting which occurred close to the school, it made me sad but I was not surprised by it.

I felt pulled to look at it not as simply another Philly shooting but instead from a teacher’s perspective.  Even though I did not know the boy that was shot, I felt myself begin to almost cry.  I remember that morning after hearing the news, looking out the window at the kids coming into school.  I remember thinking to myself, “Here are these little kids with such hope for a bright future, coming to a place where they think they are safe, and they expect us as teachers to be their guides teaching them what they need to know.”  I watched the little girls with their curly hair; I watched the little boys with their too big backpacks;  I watched the kids that ran to the front door; I watched the kids that walked to the front door.  As a teacher, when these kids from different backgrounds, of different races, come into our classroom they really become our kids.  They want to learn and we want to teach them . . . but you can’t change the environment or the world we all live in.  As a teacher, we put so much into our children, especially the ones with behavior problem, and we have so much hope for their future.  And then you hear that they got shot and in the back of the head you wonder–Why?  What’s the point of investing so much into a child for them just to end up shot.  Thinking these thoughts, I could only imagine what was going on in Ms. Yeager’s head. . .

I wish we lived in a different world. . . A world where kids could play outside in any part of the city and be safe.  But people are going to choose to shoot and their going to choose to steal life and their going to choose to hurt people; that’s just life.  I know that if I do decide to go into urban education, losing students is something I am going to have to prepare for.  I know that in my mind but I also know that no matter how many students I lose, my heart will cry like he or she was my own child.

Note: Here is a news report of the shooting and the updated report of John’s status in the hospital.  Please pray for his family.

Metamorphosis of the Mind

The past 7 days in the classroom have certainly been interesting to say the least. I went from being extremely nervous and excited when I arrived, to enthusiastic when I first met my mentor teacher and students, to discouraged when I was exposed to the downfalls in urban education, and finally encouraged to become the best teacher I can possibly become and the best mentor for my students. This transformation has solidified my desire to become a teacher and I am now sure that I will do whatever it takes to constantly improve my teaching practices and my pedagogical framework in order to best fit the needs of my students.

Much of this transformation is a result of the practical knowledge my teacher has passed on to me throughout the past week and a half. I honestly could not have asked for a better mentor teacher. Mr. King would probably be one of my favorite teachers if I were still a high school student. He practices an authoritative style of teaching where he demands much from his students, but at the same time listens to their input and works with their needs. His most effective attribute is definitely his humor. Mr. King incorporates humor into every aspect of his classroom from the time students walk in the door and shake his hand to when the students are diligently working in small groups or individually. I think that it is this unwavering sense of humor that allows him to truly connect to his students and gain their trust and respect. Humor is his own personal means of creating close relationships with each student, which allows him to gain insight into their lives outside of the classroom. As a result, Mr. King knows his students very well and is able to cater to their needs while still effectively teaching his class.
I truly admire Mr. King’s relationship with his students as well as his colleagues and I hope to incorporate his methods of using humor to gain trust and further relationships in my own pedagogical framework. I love to laugh and use humor as well so I think that by combining this quality with an authoritative teaching style that encourages academic progress, I will create a positive learning environment where kids are excited to learn and have fun while doing so.

Another aspect of my individual transformation throughout my involvement in the Philadelphia Urban Seminar is my realization of how truly unique urban students can be. As I got to know each of my students better, I noticed just how unique and individual and strong each of them are. My students were always joking and always having a good time in Mr. King’s classroom. I found this amazing because I was informed with the problems that many of these children face at home such as a single parent household, little to no food, a parent or sibling that is in jail or even teenage pregnancy. The fact that these kids can go from such unstable and sometimes depressing home lives to such a positive and lighthearted environment really says something about their characters. I also noticed that despite the heavy social influence or peer pressure on all of these students, none of the students I had seemed to conform to a norm or an urban school stereotype. These students are not hesitant to reveal their talents and abilities especially in the open environment that Mr. King created in the classroom. These kids persevere through so much and I admire their strength. I truly believe that with the right teaching practices, any teacher can reach out to these students and unearth their strengths and gifts.

I am so fortunate to have involved myself in the Philadelphia Urban Seminar because I really think it has encouraged me to become the best teacher I can possibly be. This program has opened my eyes to the reality of urban education and the struggles of each and every urban student. I now feel energized and inspired to enter into a career of teaching and I can definitely see myself in an urban setting. Going back to the first article we read for this class, Note to Educators: Hope Required When Growing Roses in Concrete, it is our job as educators to “collectively struggle to replace the concrete completely with a rose garden.” I know I am up for this challenge and I hope all of you will join me as well in a journey towards educational attainment and equality in all schools.