Keeping the Student’s Voice in the Classroom

As part of my LLED 420 class, we’re required to select a novel and create a unit plan for fifteen 40-minute classes, focusing on a theme present within that novel. After some careful searching and selection, I chose the book Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. Keep in mind, I had never read this book before, but I’ve only heard excellent feedback on it’s messages and storyline. I’ve found that this is an amazing book that I’ve absolutely fallen in love with and one that I was sincerely depressed to finish. (Obviously, I highly recommend this read!!) The theme I’ve chosen to focus on for this book is the idea of Identity, and gaining your voice, specifically as a teenager or young person. This theme is constantly present throughout the book, especially as the protagonist’s biggest crisis comes from loosing herself and her identity. From a teacher’s standpoint, one of the scenes that stood out to me the most came from Melinda’s (the main character) interactions with her Social Studies teacher, Mr. Neck. I really don’t want to give away any parts of this story, but I took special note of her scenes with him because, even as a teacher, he was constantly suppressing the students’ voices and opinions, destroying their views and any kind of interaction he could potentially have with the class. He would begin debates and arguments among the students, praising those who took his side and viewpoint, and promptly ending the debates when things started to not go his way.

This particular scene, though obviously exaggerated and displaying the extreme instance of what a teacher could be, left me with a sense of dread and worry… could I ever really suppress my students’ voices this much? Even more importantly, will my students ever be afraid to share their ideas and thoughts? In thinking back to my own experiences in high school, I can recall specific teachers who were so determined to remain the ultimate authority on matters, that they left no room for student input. Day after day, they would come in, teach their material, test us objectively on it, then start something new. Students never had the chance to speak out, bring their own insight, or even argue presented ideas. Often, were actually too afraid to address their own thoughts in these classes, because speaking up would put you on the teacher’s bad side and would make the rest of the year with this instructor miserable as you were marked as a “bad student.” After dozens of very liberal college classes, I’ve come to see what little was gained from these classes. Until students can relate the material to their lives and personal experiences, they really can’t appreciate it. Furthermore, giving them an opportunity to reason and argue set ideals and ideas exposes them to explore topics more and gain a personal interest in them. If no one ever questioned ideas or theories in education, nothing could ever be discovered or gained.

I understand that this is kind of a broad area and it’s easy to say “I’ll let all my students have a voice, I want them to discuss their ideas.” But, I am slightly fearful of what comes with this idea–getting past your own ego to accept others’ opinions and ideas. It should be easy to get the students involved and discussing our topics, but how do we get past our own egos and the “I went to college and intensely studied this topic for four years, so I’m the expert” idea to actually take into consideration what our much less knowledgeable students have to say? Though this might not be a personal problem for everyone, I know it might prove to be a challenge for myself, especially because of the insane amount of time I’ve put into learning about this material I plan to cover. More than anything, I really think this will take some self-discipline and a little more open-mindedness on my part. I’ve made it a personal goal to incorporate and reinforce my students voices in the classroom, whether it be through debates, open discussions, or even just encouraging them to question what a book, story, lesson, or even what I am teaching them. I think approaching education in this way could prepare them far better for college and real-life than any set lecturing could.

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Student Focused Lessons

In one of my recent LLED classes, one of my professors demonstrated how to successfully incorporate a writing clinic as part of an interactive activity. I’m disappointed to say that this was my first exposure to such a workshop. In my own high school experiences, my teachers always addressed issues in writing or grammar by handing out unapplicable and unconnected worksheets. Each worksheet would present a very specific example of a common error in grammar, attempts that my teachers would view as efficient enough to cover any of our personal struggles in any area. We would complete the tedious work to satisfy our teacher’s requests, then would be forced to hear over and over again that “we’re just not learning from our mistakes in our papers.” Why did my educators not see the connection? I feel the demonstration of a writing clinic in my first in my block class successfully showed my class of future teachers a more interactive and effective way to improve and work with students writing. To be honest, I left that class encouraged, but totally bitter. My experiences in high school were NOTHING like that when it came to working with and improving my papers and those of my peers. I feel that if my teachers had just taken the time to work with the class and their papers in such activities, we would have been able to improve upon our mistakes and build our writing as a whole through these improvements (not to mention how much red ink could have been saved). I’ve decided to focus these frustrations into my own future teaching, applying what I’ve personally experienced to create the most effective lessons.

Alright enough of my rant, I’ll get on with my explanation and why I’m talking about this. I have found that as a pre-service teacher, it is essential for us to be willing to incorporate new methods and techniques of teaching into our curriculum. All of the teachers in my past who I have really grown to respect, admire, and strive to be like were all open to new things and tried to constantly adjust their classes and lessons to fit in with the needs of the students. The classes that I struggled in the most were always taught by educators who followed the same, tedious, strict lessons year after year. They refused to incorporate technology or any more recent methods into their curriculum, and, each year, students left the classroom bored and frustrated. In one of my older posts, Struggles in Connecting with Students and a Little Inspiration, I mentioned a former teacher and a personal inspiration in teaching, Mr. Del. One thing I didn’t mention in this post? Mr. Del was a math teacher, i.e. he was absolutely passionate about my most hated and most difficult class. Year after year, I dreaded entering any math classroom because the material was difficult enough for me to comprehend on its own, and the teachers made absolutely no effort to “spice things up” or try to make things fun for us as students. Yes, I understand math is math is math… it’s hard to make it fun or interesting to individuals who just don’t get it or enjoy it to begin with. Even with this being so, I very quickly found that I not only understood my work in Mr. Del’s class, but that I actually didn’t mind doing the work. Why is this so? I attribute this to two things: Mr. Del taught a class that he was completely passionate about, making him sincerely WANT us to learn and understand the material. Even more so, he allowed this drive and want for our success to help him make his lessons more flexible, allotting more time and attention, when necessary, for trouble areas. He was not only willing to spend more time teaching the class, but he continually offered up his free periods and time before and after school as opportunities for us to meet with him to address problems and make improvements. This willingness to work with the students, focusing on our needs, showed us how dedicated he was to teaching and maximizing our personal improvements. We, in turn, took his dedication as a reason to try harder in his class, even if it was just to make him happier.

I believe that any of us, especially as future teachers and former students, can obviously see what positive results can come from dedicated teachers who are willing to make the lessons work with the students, and not the other way around. I’m determined to make this a personal goal of mine, enabling me to always ensure that my students are gaining as much as possible from my lessons.

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My PLN Progress Thus Far…

Some PLN Self Assessments
So, as I began my summary of my progress thus far in my attempts at creating a PLN, I quickly turned to my classmates’ blogs for inspiration and ideas as to how to approach this task. What did I find? Quite frankly, a newly formed sense of disappointment in myself and my attempts thus far, specifically in expanding my blog. As this semester has progressed, I have honestly found that I have come to dread completing my blog and keeping up with my daily posts. I realize that this is quite a horrible statement coming from a future English instructor. But don’t get me wrong, it’s not the physical act of writing that really gets to me. I love writing and expressing my opinions, views and insights. However, I am a strong believer in specific guidelines. I understand that these blogs were kept open-ended to encourage a better participation and because these are a newly introduced addition to our curriculum. However, a lack of guidelines subconsciously always leads me to put off things. I have seen some criticism concerning “last minute, Tuesday night bloggers,” and this has only discouraged me more. I’ll be the first to admit it: I am very much so a procrastinator, always have been, unfortunately almost always will be. This, combined with my expanded workload in other areas, unfortunately also contributed to my struggling blog. Furthermore, because I am constantly determined to contribute blogs filled with the newest technology and methods rather than my own personal insights, I have found that I’ve spent hours upon hours researching and looking up different parts of education. Too often though, I struggle in combining these random ideas into one specific blog, causing me to write and re-write each blog, ending with a final product that I’m still not fully satisfied with. So, I’m going to try to build from my rant to go over some of the specifics of my blog thus far, and I’ll list where I recognize I can improve upon my work.

Consistency: Steady B- or C+, but hoping to bring that up!
I’ve recognized that my consistency in putting up posts isn’t as frequent as I’d like it to be. Especially in comparison to some of my classmates’ work, I’ve seen that more effort needs to be produced on my part to get me and my blog up to par. I tend to post about once a week, though my progress in the beginning was very slow, putting me behind a few blogs. I have found that I struggle the most in picking a topic each week, and really sticking with it. In this endeavor in particular, I have found that I start out on a topic, stumble upon a classmate’s blog or some other interesting aspect of teaching, and completely abandon a topic because I’ve focused my interest. My one struggle with this idea of consistency, however, comes from my determination to make my blogs insightful and truly helpful. As a writer, I have found that I really can’t pound out a meaningful piece in an hour or so, especially when I have to draw information from outside research sources. I like to be able to spend time looking up stuff, then think through my paper before I directly apply these insights into what I want to say. My solution? Diane, get off of youtube and google, and stop scanning your classmates blogs so much. Though it may produce more personal reflections in my blogs, I’m determined to better manage my time to make my production improve vastly when it comes to my number of posts.

Goal for improvement: I’m determined to get my number of blog posts up, so I’m going to commit myself to completing 1-2 posts a week. I’m also focused on sticking with a topic to the end so that I actually have physical work to show for the time and effort I’ve put into my research and insights. Finally, I’m going to set time limits for myself, forcing me, as a writer, to really crack down and focus on the one topic I wish to address, instead of spending excessive amounts of time over-researching and browsing for ideas.

PLN Conversations: ECN is an A, Blogging Convos about a B-
In regards to my conversations throughout my PLN, I realize that there’s room for improvement when I comment on my classmates’ blogs. I consistently read their blogs for inspiration or insight, but I do need to start actually putting my comments and reflections down, rather than just gaining my own personal insights. I will give myself credit for referencing my classmates’ blogs somewhat frequently in my own posts. However, I have found that my greatest interaction so far in the PLN comes from my interactions on English Companion Ning, my newest obsession. I’m truly amazed at how helpful teachers who never have, and most likely never will, meet you are. I’ve started several discussion on there, all receiving dozens of comments containing advice and insight. I feel the best display of my success is from the results I got from a discussion I started entitled “No, I’m not a student, I just look young.” I addressed my concerns over looking very young and how this could affect my position and level of respect in a classroom. The results? Currently, there’s 34 replies, all offering insight and personal experiences and struggles teachers have faced in the same situation. I later received more positive input from my classmates whenever I spoke about this discussion in my blog post entitled “My Experiences with English Companion Ning,” making this my personally most beneficial blog.

Goal for improvement: I’m personally proud of the connections, conversations, and insight I’ve gained from English Companion Ning. I have used this as my primary means of inspiration and connection with those in my field. However, I do hope to engage more openly on my own and my classmates’ pages, adding comments to their posts and replying more directly to their views on my own posts.

Content: A-
Overall, I feel that I’m pretty proud of my content within my posts. Though they are not as frequent as I’d like them to be, I still feel that my posts actually contribute to the conversation and that they could be useful to any current or future educator. Because I sped so much time on developing my blog posts, I feel that I’ve managed to produce some pretty well composed thoughts.

In my opinion, my best blog posts:

My Experiences with English Companion Ning

SMART Board Technology in the Classroom: What is it and how can I use it?

I’m personally most proud of these posts because I put a great amount of time and effort into constructing them, and I feel that the number of views and input I receive from outside sources, especially in my SMART Board post, shows that my hard work is paying off.

Blog stats and content overview: The inner workings of my blog

This is the monthly, weekly, and daily (well the daily from March 8 on…) breakdowns of the number of people who view my blog. (Sorry if they’re a little tough to read)

Though my number of views varies at times, and my blog is marked by a slow progress in January, I feel that my averages for views is pretty good and would give myself a good rating for somehow drawing people to my blog. (okay, so maybe that’s not totally all from my contributions but is it so wrong for me to take credit?)

Here’s a summary of my top posts and pages:

I feel that these stats speak for themselves, as it makes sense that my homepage would receive the most views. Likewise, I feel that my SMART Board post received the second most clicks partially from its mention through my professor’s blog and one of his ECN posts on a “Teaching with Technology” discussion (thanks Jason!).

Finally, here’s a summary table of all of the totals concerning my blog (posts, comments, views, etc.)

Overall:
I’m not horribly disappointed in myself in regards to most of these numbers, but I absolutely want to increase my number of posts and comments because I feel it will improve my blog as a whole and will better immerse me in the various conversations going on. Overall, I see that I still have a lot of room for improvement. I feel with a little bit of self determination, time, and effort, I can really get this thing going so that I will have a product that is fully functionable that I can be proud of by the end of the semester. For the time being, I’d give myself a B- on the overall project. I’ve built strong connection and included some great content in some areas, but I definitely need to be more consistent in my posting, commenting, and replying. Thanks for hanging in there, until next time!

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A Step Closer to Connecting with Shakespeare

I’ve been taking English 444, a Shakespearian literature class, throughout this semester. I have to admit that so far, I’ve greatly struggled in focusing and connecting with the plays and even the class in general. We spend four days on each play, the first three being used to point out the major themes then the fourth is always a debate where eight pre-assigned students in the class go up front and argue over a pre-assigned topic or theme from the play. The end result? Absolute boredom throughout the class. Until this past Friday, I had really lost a great amount of respect for the teacher and any kind of interest in the covered material. I’ve spent most of my class periods on “No Fear Shakespeare” on Sparknotes.com, reading the modern texts because her explanations and discussions just weren’t cutting it. However, on Friday, with the few words “I’m going to try something different,” my professor finally broke through.

We have been reading Henry V, a history play that she specifically pointed out as containing bits of humor that are often lost in the reading. To make these humorous portions more prominent, she handed out a packet containing the specific scene. She then instructed us to interpret the scene using a specific theme, going line by line in our translations. The groups came up with everything from The Office does Shakespeare to Shakespeare “in the hood” to a Hey Arnold Shakespeare to Shakespeare completely presented through various lines from rap songs. Unfortunately, our class periods are only 50 minutes long, so we were actually forced to stop mid-interaction because we ran out of time. I feel that this same lesson could be just as successful in a high school classroom, especially expanded over a couple class periods. Furthermore, I would have my students split in to smaller groups of about 3 or 4 (hers were about 6 students) and I would then have them each act out their revised pieces, helping their work resonate and making the class more interesting and humorous. I would have to ensure that students take positive, respectful approaches, but it would really help them understand and remember the content if they are learning it through means with which they are very familiar. My classmate Colin covered a very similar topic in one of his posts,“Teaching Writing with Garbage,” and I really believe that utilizing popular media and shows to help students relate to and understand what’s going on in a specific work, even if it’s not Shakespeare, could have very positive effects. This activity not only fully engages the students, but it also requires a close reading of the text, furthering their understanding and focus.

While brainstorming for this blog, I recalled that my classmate in both my teaching block and my Shakespeare class, Britanny, was focusing on how to make Shakespeare interesting for her inquiry project in one of our classes. She put up a great discussion on English Companion Ning and then followed up with a reflective post on her blog. I’ll include her sites and the link to ECN’s group “Teaching Shakespeare” below, check them out because they have some more great ideas and insight!

English Companion Ning’s group “Teaching Shakespeare”

Britanny’s Discussion on ECN

Britanny’s post on Shakespeare

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Experiences Entering Teaching, Finally Seeing Where All of this is Going!

I’ve honestly been kind of hitting a mental block when it comes to blogging. Blame it on the weather, or the oh so close approach of summer, but I’ve honestly just been struggling with inspiration, constantly finding myself resorting back to my reflective blogging. Well dear blog followers, my apologies, but this is another one. So, all semester, I have been working throughout my Learning Literacy Education classes to learn techniques to become the most successful teacher. It’s been a steady process, but I’ve come to find that these classes are really showing me what I need to do and explore as a future educator to keep my classes up-to-date and well informed. I’m going to break down some of the recent experiences in my classes that are really starting to make me feel like a teacher. I understand that a majority of my followers of this blog are from my classes, so I’ll try to keep my explanations minimum but my reflections helpful.

My LLED 480 Media Technology Focused Presentation
First, in my LLED 480 class, I worked with a group of three other individuals as we had to construct a 90 minute lesson focused on addressing the family roles portrayed in media, specifically set in the 1990′s. We had to incorporate a type of Macbook technology and web technology to make the lesson more interesting and interactive. At first, I was skeptical of this specific project because so much emphasis was placed on incorporating the technology, taking away some of the importance of the central themes and actually working with the students. My group decided to prep students with readings and youtube playlist collection of applicable clips from t.v. shows, then present an iMovie making a general summary of our presentation and main points, and we then had each member of our group present a “mini lesson,” incorporating freewriting or interactive activities in each. First of all, I have to give Colin Hill credit for his compilation of our clips and notations in to an excellent iMovie. Overall, I think our lesson went really well. The iMovie reinforced our points, the class participated and seemed to enjoy our lesson, and I think our main message came across pretty well. I was definitely satisfied with our incorporation of the technologies into the lesson because our work really seemed to better the lesson and gain more interest and insight. I felt that the only real setback with this presentation was that it was really a reminder of just how much time and effort can really be put in to a lesson. Our iMovie alone took hours to complete (poor Colin) and we met dozens of times to try to figure out how to best present our material. I know that each member had to spend hours compiling all of their assigned portion together (trust me, putting together a youtube playlist is not that fun if you need very specific material), making our total alloted time for this onelesson (if you’re teaching according to a block schedule) unrealistically high. I loved how our lesson and presentation turned out, but I have to face the facts and realize that such an involved preparation for one lesson could essentially get me no where whenever I need to plan for 179 more days.

Novel Focused Forty Minute Lesson
That same week, I was given the opportunity to teach a 40 minute lesson with seven other individuals from my group, focusing on a novel of our choice. My group picked the novel Tuesdays with Morrie, one of my personal favorites and an amazingly inspiring book for readers of any age. I was extremely excited to get started with my group, but almost instantly as we began work for this project, I realized one major problem: we were facing very minimal time, especially considering our group was so big. Thanks to my group member Kim’s suggestion, we decided to focus our lesson around one of the methods of teaching provided by Peter Smagorinsky in his book, Teaching English by Design. This method was called jigsaw, essentially creating expert groups to cover each designated theme from the book. The expert groups then dispersed, one individual from each joining with experts from the other groups, each group being led by two of the teachers. The end result? Totally successful. Our feedback from our classmates was excellent and I really feel that they got the essence of the entire book in forty minutes. The setback? The time constraints, again. For this lesson, however, it absolutely was not the prep time-our preparation for the lesson was actually minimal, but totally effective. It was hard though to work with seven other individuals who are just as dedicated and determined to get an opportunity to practice our future career. Thus, we all had to keep our individual “teacher time” to an absolute minimum to make sure everyone was a participant.

My Overarching Unit Plan
Finally, in my LLED 420 class, we are to prepare a unit plan that encompasses 15 forty minute lessons covering a specified novel. Because of the high number of students in my class and obvious time constraints, we don’t have the opportunity to personally teach our lessons, but we must present them and organize them as we would in a future classroom (yes, that includes actually knowing and applying the PA standards). This is definitely the lesson that I’ve been most excited about and of which I really cannot wait to see the final outcome. The other lessons were lots of fun and very informative, but this is my chance to actually practice what I plan to do for the rest of my life. It made things a lot easier to be able to rely a little on the members of my group to help pull things together, but this is my opportunity to be totally self-reliant and actually see how I execute my role as the one and only teacher. Personally, I’m thrilled. I’ve chosen the book Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, a novel that I have personally just read for the first time. This assignment is forcing us to practice our time management in the classroom and application of state standards, all the while trying to make our themes and books applicable, fun, and creative. I’ll probably be posting another blog soon as to how this whole process is going, but, luckily, I have so far just been excited to really get the chance to get in to my unit.

Overall, I found that these classes are really making a difference in my life and my future role as a teacher. I’m starting to see what I do and do not like in teaching, what I want to do with my classes, and some of the thing I absolutely do not want to incorporate. More than anything, these classes are really reassuring me that this is what I want to do, that I didn’t waste the last three years. The pure excitement I’m feeling at the thought of getting back in front of the classroom to actually implement what I’m learning and creating is just indescribable. Yes, I know it sounds corny, especially because my last post was essentially just reassuring myself that I should be a teacher, but I’m really starting to see exactly why people get passionate about this occupation and how they can bring themselves to be in a classroom day after day.

Again, sorry for the LLED-ers for making you just be reminded of what you already know, but I promise I’ll try to have the next blog incorporate a little more insight and research!

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This is how you know we’re teachers…

I’m not sure if it’s the “midsemester crisis” or just outside personal influences that are to blame, but I feel like this past week was just filled with personal frustrations, predominately coming from those of us who are training to be teachers. I know that I’ve personally been feeling overwhelmed, from my inability to connect in my Shakespeare class, to the massive workloads in my stat class (that I’m still convinced I really shouldn’t need for a minor in Special Education, like, seriously?), to the in depth projects and assignments that I know are just hanging over my head. My frustrations really hit their highest point today, partially from my own feeling down (Happy Valley is really not that happy when it’s raining and ugly) and from the sudden, but honest negativity i saw and heard surrounding teaching experiences and teaching as a whole.

I received a very angry and, quite frankly, just pissed off call from my boyfriend early this morning. He’s a Health and Physical Education major at IUP and is finishing up his Junior year, just as I am. For weeks now, I’ve bounced around ideas with him over the phone as he worked on a lesson plan focused on teaching nutrition to, brace yourself, Kindergartners. (I couldn’t even fathom trying to control all of those little nutcases, God bless you early education teachers) Anyways, his assignment was to work with a small group of two of his classmates to design a lesson plan to be taught to the rest of their class. Each member of the group had to create a lesson plan on their own, then the group, as a whole, was to select the best lesson to teach. His group decided to use the lesson that one of the other members had talked about for weeks, emphasizing how successful and great it was going to be. Unfortunately, this lesson was apparently not very well planned out and it essentially flopped. Apparently, the class, even though it was full of future teachers, didn’t even try to envision themselves as Kindergartners experiencing this lesson. Furthermore, the class’s lack of appropriate participation (or any for that matter) ended the lesson too quickly, only forcing any of their attempts to fail. Finally, at the end of the lesson, when the professor asked for feedback as to how to better the lesson, there was no response, good or bad. Obviously, things didn’t go so well. Now, this could be viewed as a poor lesson planning or bad teaching, and I very well realize that. However, I found that I left this conversation disgusted with the reactions (and lack of) that he received from his classmates. Not only did none of them participate or view the lesson from the standpoint of a student, but none provided feedback, good or bad as to how to improve what was completed in the lesson. I feel that the entire point of that exercise was to grow as an educator, even if it is through realizing that some stuff you try will not work. We’re learning how to teach, so any kind of insight as to what is working and what is not is critical for us to grow and improve. As a teacher, if you can’t learn from your mistakes and the mistakes of others as a means to improve education as a whole in order to help yourself and others, why the hell are you in this major? Call it the bitter girlfriend reaction, but I truly felt sad to know that many of these individuals will soon be teaching and influencing children, even though they aren’t showing a genuine concern for the improvement of education as a whole.

Later, while doing my last minute scanning through some of my classmates’ blogs, I caught on to a trend. From those I glanced at, I noticed that many of them were voicing all of the combined frustrations that they felt over teaching–frustrations that I myself had been experiencing. I can fully admit that I’ve felt completely defeated in standing up for my major at times, as I’m sure my fellow potential teachers and current teachers can agree. Teaching has received such negativity because of the constant stereotypes and low pay in many instances, making the constant criticism and lack of appreciation for the major as a whole discouraging. I first caught full wind of this frustration from my classmate Caitlin’s blog. Caitlin’s blogs are always interesting and thought provoking, but this one really stood out to me because she was so sincerely disheartened by the negativity she experienced. Likewise, Amber’s blog showed the same frustration at how much teaching as an occupation is downplayed by those not part of the major, specifically those who view it as a “fallback occupation.” I at first began to read both of these blogs as a “vent sesh,” which, I am constantly tempted to do here. However, as I read on in both of these blogs, I quickly realized that both of my classmates were using the negativity they received as a reason to change and positively impact our major. Seeing the ends of their blogs, focused on proving the critics wrong to truly be successful as teachers, was enough to get me out of my slump. So, we will inevitably get frustrated and fed up at times, we’re going to need some bitchfests (which I’m absolutely sure you will see more of from me). But, it’s these little bits of encouragement that are constantly reminding me why I’m doing this and why I need to not let anyone discourage me. I’m happy to say that I used the girl’s little tidbits of inspiration to help cheer up the boyfriend who was absolutely down about himself, specifically as a teacher. So, thanks girls. Hang in there guys, we’re going to have bad days, but our work will eventually pay off.

Sometimes I lay under the moon
And thank God I’m breathing.
Then I pray don’t take me soon
Cause I’m here for a reason.
-Matisyahu

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SMART Board Technology in the Classroom: What is it and how can I use it?

During this spring break, I’ve taken advantage of the overwhelming number of teachers in my boyfriend’s family. Literally, they’re all teachers. His dad? Former principal and current 5th grade teacher. Mom? Third grade teacher. Brother and sister-in-law? Third and Sixth grade teachers. In my numerous discussions with these fellow educators, one of the topics that was brought up what the technology that they use in classrooms. (Granted, it is important to keep in mind that they are all elementary education teachers, so their uses of any technology in a classroom can be vastly diverse from my own as a high school educator. However, I feel any advice from any kind of teacher can always be used as helpful.) In my discussions with his brother and sister-in-law, I found some encouragement and some information that was slightly discouraging. We’ll start with the bad. When discussing what technology my various courses are having me implement into my own future and potential classrooms, I found that both Jackie and Jarod agreed in their ideas of the uses: their school doesn’t enable much technological freedom. Both of them teach at a public school in my area. The school is not financially struggling and has not been marked as an academically struggling school by state standards, but it is also not a very wealthy area. This school cannot afford to purchase laptops for the students, let alone pricey Macbooks and all of the interesting technology that comes along with them. After learning so much about using iMovie and Garageband’s Podcasting in classrooms with students, it’s a big letdown to hear that many teachers aren’t even given a chance to use these advances. I’ve put a great amount of time into researching and applying this technology, so I really hope schools begin to find ways to enable teachers to incorporate these tools in their classrooms. .

On a more positive note, one new addition that I did find that these two educators were excited about and very proud to use is the SMART Board. Essentially, the SMART Board is an interactive, electronic chalkboard that can be used to advance learning in any grade level. From my various research and what little information I’ve learned from other current teachers, it makes lessons more interesting for students and teachers, making personal interaction and hands-on learning more practical. Honestly, my personal exposure to the technology is very limited. While in grade school and high school at my small private schools, I never even heard of the technology. I truthfully didn’t see the technology until last year while completing my student observation. My host teacher was one of the first three in the school district to receive the technology, but I unfortunately was only there for its physical installation and didn’t get to see it in action. I became discouraged in my early research because the youtube videos I watched and the recent articles I read, truly only applied SMART Boards in elementary classrooms, or math and science classes.

I did, however, find two videos that provide the basics and “SMART Boards for Dummies” explanations of the technology:

As I dug a little further though, I found a little more information as to how Secondary Education English teachers can actually apply this technology in our own classrooms. The SMART Boards Interactive technology website obviously provides the most accurate and descriptive information as to how to use and apply the technology. The website enables educators who use SMART Boards to access training resources, see already created lesson plans for almost any grade level and area of study, visit schools in their areas to see the technology in use firsthand, and keep in touch with others in their field who are utilizing the technology.

I was really excited when I specifically came upon the section lists dozens of provided lesson plan ideas, even those specifically for teachers in the English field. These lesson plan ideas encouraged English teachers to use the technology to help students visualize and practice proper editing techniques, go over review sheets, or make fun review games. I learned that this technology can be used in conjunction with Word, Paint, and other computer programs, giving students the opportunity to see grammar techniques and changes applied firsthand and in a more interactive manner. By using SMART Board like a PowerPoint tool, teachers can provide students with basic information, while adding personal notes as classroom discussion progresses. One of the most personally appealing lessons I stumbled upon was the one focused on improving students’ public speaking abilities. This was always (and sometimes still is) a tough area for me in high school, but my teachers never really provided any focused instruction on the topic. By utilizing the provided SMART Board lessons and technology for this particular area, students can become more comfortable as writers and speakers, encouraging pride and confidence in their work.

Again, I’ll reinstate that my personal knowledge of this technology is very limited and all of my information is going off of websites and youtube videos. Using that as a disclaimer, I’m personally becoming very interested in SMART Boards and really hope I can soon provide you guys with an updated blog containing more information about this technology. I would love to use any opportunities I can to make my lessons more interesting and fun for my future students, so I can promise you guys I’m going to keep looking in to this. Any information, personal experiences, corrections on my information is totally welcome!!

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