Friday, September 30, 2016

Eating while Travelling

I'm about to head to Portland for the first leg of my Washington DC Adventure. Thinking ahead, one of the things I'm the most anxious about is how I'm going to eat while I'm travelling. I've done a good job eating out and still following the Always Hungry plan, but now I'm going to be in airports and unfamiliar places, with meals provided for me, without a lot of say in them.

To stay on plan I'm going to:

  • Hold fast to my commitment to avoid added sugars, but recognize that some times minimal sugar might be the best I can do. 
  • Look for high protein options at every chance. Eggs, cheese, meats, nuts.
  • Bring dark chocolate with me, to satisfy any cravings or needs for a treat. 
  • Load up on veggies and fruits, ask for substitutions if needed.
  • Eat when I have the chance, don't wait if I don't have to. 
  • Make sure I'm fully caffeinated, don't skimp on the cream, but no sugar in my coffee. 
  • For this trip, don't let cost freak me out. I may pay more for premium food this weekend, and that's ok.  

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Early Career Leadership Fellow Collaborative

I'm finally starting to get some details about this really exciting collaborative I'm participating in. It's an initiative by the National Education Association and the Consortium for Educational Change to engage early career educators to grow as leaders, create plans for change, and activate them in their local unions. It's called the Early Career Leadership Fellow Collaborative (that's a mouthful).

This coming weekend I'll be headed to NEA headquarters in Washington D.C. for the first national conference of the ECLF. There's been a lot of uncertainty organizing the travel and details of this trip. It's all been on quite short notice. I applied for the program around the 1st of September, was accepted around the 10th. Early Saturday Morning, October 1st, I fly out to DC.

There's also been some uncertainty about what exactly this program is going to be. 'Leadership' is a funny buzzword that means a lot of different things depending on who's saying it and what the context is. In particular, as a woman, leadership can be a tricky tight rope to walk. As an aggressive and loud woman, bossy has often been a part of how people see me, but never the less I tend to gravitate towards opportunities for leadership.

I've been thinking about what the future of my career holds. I'd always sort of figured that after I got some experience under my belt, I'd go back to Eugene. That is where I see as home. But I've come to really like Salem, and in some ways feel more connected to some communities here then I ever did in Eugene. But, I think that is more about who I am now and my maturity in my relationships and interactions, then it is anything about the town. I bet if I were to move home, my renewed relationships with the community would mirror the relationships I've built here in Salem.

Eugene continues to not have a ton of openings for teachers, however, and I have grown to really love my position in Salem. I love working in alt-ed, and I have been so fortunate to have excellent relationships not only with colleagues, but also with administration. Why should I leave when I have so many good things happening here?

My mom got her first permanent teaching position at Elmira Elementary, and stayed there her entire career. She moved classrooms a few times, taught a few different grades, but essentially honed her craft of 1st/2nd grade to damn near perfection. I don't see myself taking that path. I love being a classroom teacher, but I don't think teaching the same subjects in the same school my entire career is for me. As I come to know more about what options and and opportunities there are in the field of education, my imagination explores many different possibilities. Not now, not next year, but perhaps in the next 5-10 years.

I see a major need for middle school alternative ed programs. I'm sure this isn't a unique need to Salem-Keizer. I could start a school or a program. I had an incredible mentor the last two years to assist me as I navigated my first few years of teaching (hell, I think every teacher should ALWAYS have someone available to them in that capacity!), I could mentor others in a similar way. There's district level positions to help implement policies and programs that address poverty, diversity, racism, behavior issues, ACEs, TAG students, the possibilities are wide. And of course there's always administration.

All of this is to say, the opportunity to develop skills and connections in the field of teacher leadership is a very exciting one to me. But my interest lies predominantly in the profession. I'm a union supporter, and am so grateful and thankful for my union, but I don't see myself pursuing the role of building rep, or being particularly active politically in my union, or in the labor and negotiation side either.

I'm excited to see what this Collaborative has to offer, I'm eager to pick up new skills, learn about what is out there, and work side by side with my union for the betterment of children, and the Education System in America, to be social justice warriors on behalf of children. I hope that ECLF isn't just about getting us involved in union leadership.

The schedule looks exciting, and the desired outcomes seem engaging. I'm thrilled to be going on this trip, and excited for the possibilities that it brings. Regardless, I will grain through this experience.

I'll definitely updating during the conference itself. Probably predominantly on Twitter and Instagram.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Play Doh in the Classroom:

or, How a Shiny Coat of Kinestheic Paint does not Create a Kinesthetic Lesson

This article on how to Use Playdoh in Junior High or High School came across my news feed this morning over coffee. I've used playdoh before in my awesome Squishy Circuits project that I've done the last few years, and was looking forward to more new project ideas.

I was a little bit disappointed that the article really only talked about using playdoh to model or sculpt things. Artistically representing a process, sculpting little models to represent points on a timelines. But those are all cool and novel ideas that could absolutely engage kinetic learners and raise general engagement for all students. But it didn't seem all that out side the box, and many of the ideas seemed more or less the same.

The thing that really struck me though was that these were supposed to be ways to engage kinetic hands on learners, and it seemed like most of the ideas required reading or writing before the student could access the kinetic portion of the activity. This one in particular stood out to me:
Play-Doh Check for Understanding Activity (handout) – This activity is a way to assess reading the students have done for homework. Students summarize the chunk of reading and then choose a section to create a Play-Doh sculpture. After the Play-Doh construction, students work with partners to reflect on what they chose and why.
The summarizing reading is the hard part! A 'normal' activity after reading would be to summarize what they've read through journaling or a writing assignment. All this does is add a kinesthetic activity on the back end. in a typical class period, you may or may not have time to get to the 'fun' part if the kids drag their feet on the summary. In order for this to truly be a kinesthetic activity, the modeling and playdoh part needs to come first. It needs to be the hook to draw the child into the activity. Perhaps after using modeling and sculpting to highlight a part of what they read, then the student can use discussion with a partner, reflection and writing. But even then, the default to written work is so strong that it's nearly impossible to escape.

I think that a lot of activities that are packedged for teachers are 'outside the box' or utilizing other elements of our brains and creativity aren't really all that different. They're the same old assignment, with the same old requirements, just dressed up in kinestheic (or whatever other learning style or fun methodology) clothing. It's a typical writing or reading or math assignment, with the the movement or art slapped on top like a shiny coat of paint.

I've spent a lot of time scouring the internet for ideas to increase engagement for students like mine, who are typically not very successful with the normal approach to teaching. I have to discard a lot of ideas that take this approach. They're the same old idea except with a shiny new graphic organizer, or a tech-ey app, or They sound good, but it's really no different the the status quo.

I don't know what the solution is. Assessment is a major issue with non-typical types of assignments. If they do a sculpture, how do I know if they truly understand what is going on. The quintessential subjectiveness of art makes it terrible for teacher assessment. If my student writes a clever rap about the commutative property, what is to say that he knows what it means, and can apply it?

One thing I do know is that it does us a disservice to dress up traditional lessons in kinestheic or artistic trappings and dupe ourselves into thinking we're really serving those nontraditional learners. It creates complacency where there is still a need. By all means, have kids model after (or before?!) they write a summary, create art to represent and interpret what they've learned, these are valuable interest and extension tools, but don't allow the shiny paint to fool you.

Friday, September 23, 2016

New Beginnings

This is the classic 'fresh start' blog post. I'm looking for an outlet and focus for my efforts. I'm part way through a lifelong journey of self-discovery (doesn't that sound cliche), and I feel like I'm on the precipice of something new.

A handful of things have converged this September to place me poised for a new chapter of development.

  • I've started out my 3rd year teaching with a lot of time on my hands (our numbers are very low), and feeling unsure of my next steps and challenges. I also applied and was chosen to  participate in a union sponsored group of Early Career Leadership Fellows, this opens up my imagination to what the future of my career might hold, be it teacher leadership, administration, or instructional coaching or research. 
  • I discovered the book Always Hungry? over the summer, thanks to my doctor, and have begun to radically change my relationship with food, especially processed carbohydrates and sugars. This is reshaping my eating habits, and changing my body for the better. 
  • My adorable vintage apartment is slowly becoming a souring deal. I'm getting less and less bang for my buck so to speak. I am pursuing a larger space to live in, which hopefully will afford some of the amenities I am doing without. 
  • Despite seeking a larger space, I must accept that I have accrued the flotsam and jetsam of several years of solo living and must needs pare down my belongings. Especially my clothing. I have two separate scheduled
  • My band, DarkHorse, which I've played with for a few years is having a personnel change and taking a short hiatus. I'll be stepping into a more of a leadership role because our band leader, and lead guitar player, who is also my boyfriend of nearly 3 years, is moving away to attend University.  It'll be some months before we play again.
  • In his own quest for authentic self, he's also decided that staying together isn't going to work for him. Despite our mutual love and respect, I'll be finding myself single, and without a romantic partner. 
  • I am auditioning for a straight play for the first time in years. Theater has waxed and waned as a huge part of my life and the prospect of acting on stage again has me nervous and excited. I've spoken with the director and am very optimistic about my chances, though regardless of if I am cast, I'll be helping with the production. I'll be taking advantage of the hiatus that DarkHorse is taking to commit fully to a play. 
  • I keep telling myself I'm going to write a song. I need to stop being a person who is GOING to write a song and be a person who is writing a song. This video I stumbled across today is a large part of what has initiated this burst of activity.
  • One of my primary hobbies over the last decade, The Society for Creative Anachronism, has felt somewhat forced and empty the last few years. I did some soul searching and trying new things at an event in September which told me a lot about what I do and do not want from the SCA. I feel like I'm making progress redefining how the SCA will play a role in my life and what inspiration and creative or social outlets I can find there. 
As a result of upheaval and renewal I will write. I will write for accountability, for reflection, for a sounding board, in order to share my discoveries with others, and to track my progress.