My Experiences with English Companion Ning

So, I’m ashamed to say that I have finally just now encountered the wonders behind the networking tool they call English Companion Ning. After scanning through several of my classmates’ blogs, I came to realize that in creating the various accounts to incorporate in to my PLN, I completely forgot to create an English Companion Ning account. I had planned on writing a random blog last night to further illustrate my progress thus far, but I quickly found that my attention was instead drawn to the dozens of blog posts created by English teachers of all ages from across the country. In my excitement, I decided to quickly join the network and become a part of this information sharing. As I looked over the discussions in the various groups, I found that I was presented with many of my own questions and decided to begin posting these inquiries. Keep in mind that all of this work was completed around 1 am this morning in continuation with my “night owl” status. By 10 am today, I was notified that I received DOZENS of replies to my questions and requests for advice.

The greatest number of responses came to a question that I posted under the “New Teachers” group. I addressed my concerns that I have as a future teacher with a very young appearance, i.e I look as old as some of the students I am going to be teaching. I’m honestly touched at the immediate and thoughtful responses I have received from those in my field. Teachers have posted advice, encouragement, and, most importantly to me, their own personal experiences and how they successfully dealt with the same problem. This discussion board in this group has proven to be my favorite as it enables me to talk with new or potential teachers who all understand how intimidating teaching can be. They can use their successes and failures in the classroom to help those coming in to the field.

One of the most helpful responses came to me from Florence DeKoven, a 24-year-old teacher from California. She first told me about her own struggles of being mistaken as a student, then posted,

“There is nothing I/we can do about our physical appearance, so I embrace it and use everything to my advantage… Being young (and young looking) also draws your students in because they see that you look young, just like them. It makes you that much more relatable as a teacher!! And they love that… I am sure you CLEARLY show your competence as an educator, and that’s what matters. Just set your ground rules straight with students, and make sure they maintain respect for you as their teacher and nothing else. PROVE to them you have lots to offer as an educator, and that’s what they’ll see in addition to your appearance. :)”

It’s so nice to see that young teachers will take the time to reassure those of us who are new to the field that the small challenges can be overcome. These small words of encouragement have given me a new boost of confidence and have only encouraged my excitement at what lies ahead for me as an English teacher. So thank you Florence :).

Another one of my favorite groups present on this site is the “Teaching Texts” group. In this group teachers just post the title of a book that they wish to cover in their class and other teachers are enabled to post ideas for lesson plans or fun activities on that particular novel. Because I am covering the book and lesson plans for Go Ask Alice in my LLED 420 class, I decided to give it a try and post that title. Though I have only received responses from one individual, Carla Beard, our one-on-one discussion has already helped me expand my ideas for my lessons and even encouraged me to change what age group I wish to teach the novel to. It’s so nice to receive any advice from an established teacher, so her honest assistance, encouragement, and words of wisdom are greatly appreciated. So, props to Carla for taking the time to help me so much!

So, even though my exposure to what is offered by English Companion Ning is minimal, I already have gained great respect for this site and cannot wait to get further immersed and involved in the discussions. The only true downside that I have discovered thus far? When you join a group on the site, you are automatically “following” the group, i.e. you’ll get bombarded by emails informing you every time a new group member joins, anyone creates a discussion, anyone posts a response, pretty much any time anyone breathes while on the site. Solution? After joining a group immediately go to the bottom of the discussion and click on the words “stop following this discussion.” For the sanity of your inbox, you’ll be happy you did.

Now that I’ve got that small “glitch” out of my system, I’m going to list some of the positives of the site in attempt to help others become as obsessed with the site as I am:

1. This is a site specifically for English education teachers only, this is huge because these teachers face the exact same thing you are!
2. The group “New Teachers” is so helpful because you can finally bring up those questions and problems that someone new to the field would be struggling with, and get responses, advice, and personal stories from teacher who went through or who are going through the same problem
3. It enables teachers of any age and experience level share stories and lesson plans that they thought were extremely successful (or big flops!)
4. Finally, you get the kind of interaction between hundreds of teachers that you would never have in a traditional school because of schedule and school size conflicts. This network enables teachers to hold on to that “advisor” idea we have come to focus on while in college.

My discussion boards thus far:
Go Ask Alice
How do you make students want to read?
How do you deal with being a “young-looking” teacher?

Enjoy!!

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “My Experiences with English Companion Ning

  1. Lisa Angelucci

    I saw your post on the English Companion Ning re: looking young, and I’m really glad you put it out there. I dealt with similar issues at my last job, and I imagine it’s got to be even worse in high schools. I was 21 when I started my first job, and I was working on projects with people who would constantly remind me that they had grandchildren who were my age. Thanks, guys, but let’s get some work done, you know? It’s hard to feel like you have input in that situation.

    I think some teachers offered this advice, but I overdressed for work all the time. Even on jeans day. Especially on jeans day. When I had meetings, I wore a suit, or at least a jacket. I don’t know if it changed the way people thought of me, but it affected the way I thought of myself. And eventually, we all got over how young I was and learned to work together. (Though my 22nd birthday brought on a LOT of jokes.)

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  3. I’m really glad that you added this topic to the English Companion Ning. I’m 21, but I definitely don’t look 21. About a year ago I was finishing up my observations, and I got to do them in a nearby school where my uncle is the principle. I walked up to him to say hello, and he swore that I was a student. I don’t know many students who would wear dress slacks to school, but I guess the confusion is understandable.
    I really liked the post you brought from the Ning, and that bit about students being able to relate to a younger teacher really IS a confidence booster. We can find ways to use our age to our advantage…I’m thinking there’s a ton of ways this could backfire, but for now I’m going to stick with the positivity.
    Another problem I had during CI 295 was inappropriate comments about my looks from some of the male students. It was really only one group of boys that were in 10th grade, but I was NOT prepared for that at all. First of all, I do not view myself that way, but I guess sometimes 10th grade boys with tons of hormones will make comments about any 20 year old trying to teach their class. I think that if it were my classroom I would have had a better handle on the situation, but since I basically had no say in discipline I tried to ignore it as much as possible (which I realize is an awful way to go about it). Did you experience any of this in your pre student teaching? I’m not sure if being relating to the students comes in to play at all for this situation, although it is similar.

    • Yes Caitlin, I actually did have to deal with a very similar problem. For starters, I was teaching at my home school district (I didn’t go here though, I went to the local private school) and it just so happened that several of my closest friends from high school had little brothers and sisters in some of the classes I was observing. I immediately went about calling all of their older siblings, swearing them to be silent about some of my more embarrassing moments that they knew about, but I was still pretty terrified that something bad or just plain shameful would slip out about me. Luckily, my friends all held true to their word and their younger brothers and sisters all grew excited when they discovered I knew their family members, but they seemed totally clueless when it came to the downfalls that only my friends would know of. If I’m faced with a similar issue in the future, after talking to Dave Thompson (I’m pretty sure you probably had him as your supervisor also in Altoona), I will just keep a professional standpoint and I will try to just further reinforce my role as an authority.
      However, in the same classroom but with different kids, I also dealt with some comments from some of the boys. Whenever I was on “hall duty” with my host teacher, the senior boys would often make cracks and remarks to her regarding me, but, luckily she was very forward and always quickly handled the matter, making the boys essentially look like slobbering baffoons. However, one particular boy in her sophomore class seemed to go out of his way to make quiet suggestive remarks and would honestly stare at me during class. It sounds ridiculous and conceited, but I realized he would intentionally stare at me as I sat at the back of the classroom, and would refuse to look away even after I met his gaze. The staring was a dumb challenge to my authority meant to make me feel uncomfortable and trust me, it worked. However, whenever he began to make comments, I honestly panicked and did exactly what you did–I ignored it. And, like you, I totally regret that. I realize we really didn’t have authority in that classroom, but, even as student observers, we still had more authority than the students themselves and we still deserve respect.
      Though we both made a great mistake in the way we handled the situation, I am really happy we can both acknowledge this. Because we now know how to NOT handle a sensitive situation like this, I think we’ll be intelligent enough in the future to take the initiative to immediately handle and eliminate the situation.

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