Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Chemistry by: Spencer Hill

                As of late, my blogs have been quicker, more anecdotal, and less all-encompassing. I haven’t tackled any huge topics like grading or technology in a while. I have some topics on my radar, like stress and homework, but I haven’t found the time to buckle up and grind out a blog. Although I haven’t been swamped 24/7 with constant work, I’ve been busy. I’m trying to take back control of my sophomore year, working on my chapter for the upcoming #bowtieboys book, and wrestling my procrastination. I decided that I should get a blog out and, surprisingly, I was enticed to write about my chemistry class. I had never really thought about it before, but I realized I could roll with a class analysis. In fact, I decided that this could even be a recurring series on my blog: Class Analysis.
                Overall, I would rate my chemistry very positively. The assessments, in-class work, and homework are all very reasonable and balanced. My teacher is a great class leader who knows how to engage body of students. They are helpful and charismatic, so even if the assignments feel boring or repetitive, the teacher can keep the class alive.
                The assessments are very standard; multiple choice and show your work questions. I’m not a very picky student and like I said earlier, the assessments feel quite fair. Chemistry is similar to math, in that it is often a very linear class. It’s not as open-ended as English, so it makes sense that the assessments are right-and-wrong, just like the class itself. There are occasional research projects too, which translate to researching a topic and making a presentation for it. If you’ve read my work before, then you know that I am a big fan of projects. When the class was doing a unit on elemental structure (like in model A), we researched notable chemical spills. Chemical spills were the perfect way to tie what we were learning to real world events, the perfect balance of research to background knowledge, and an appropriate amount of time and points. The labs, however, are the element (badum tssch) of chemistry that make it so great for me. Unlike most classes, the majority of my grade in chemistry comes from my labs rather then tests. Because the labs are so frequent (nearly every other class), the students come into class knowing that they can recover from any mistakes they make. The labs aren’t just good for grading, they also provide the chemistry’s signature explosive, acidic fun.
                Labs are the core of chemistry that most of the classes resolve around. We often take notes during the front half of the class and have labs in the second part. Although the notes aren’t very different from any other class, my teacher has them filled with great analogies and metaphors. I’ve beaten around the bush for a while now, but the labs are what solidify everything tough concept that we learn. What better way to understand water reactions than by creating reactions with water? It’s the ultimate visual. We can see everything nearly everything we learn I first person. Honestly, the labs are the only things in the class that keep my grade up, through their face grade and preparing me for the test.
                My chemistry teacher is what ties the whole class together. Hard classes often lead to kids despising every aspect of the class. But my teacher manages to keep the duration of the class stress-free and fun even though some students are struggling and don’t know what’s going on. They accomplish from the use of an abundance of humor so cheesy, that I can’t help but laugh. The other factor that leads to their success is simple conversation. She’s open to side conversations and discussions during the class, which keeps the mood light. They’re a likeable person who really cares about engaging us and that is very clear.
                Although chemistry is one of the hardest and most stressful courses on my schedule, I love almost every piece of it. I’m very comfortable with the grading scale and number of points in the book. I have chances to recover from my mistakes and I know that no single assignment will permanently destroy my grade. The general safety and state of mind contributes to me being able to perform to my fullest. The teacher threads every small aspect of the class together to make one stress-free, fluid experience.

How we Learn by: Christian Sporre

During the past few months, I have really started questioning myself about how I am learning information, especially in my math class. I am a pretty go with the flow kid, I get to class and I do everything that the teacher tells me to do and try not to question their methods, but sometimes I can’t help it. I am terrible at math and I am always trying to get better, but I don't even know where to start. Even now as I am writing this blog, if you asked me what I am learning in math I could not tell you. I know it involves some triangles and some radicals but that's about it. I go to school early almost every day because I am so confused on my math homework. I go to my math teachers classroom and pull out my homework to ask my questions. Every time I would ask a question I would get an answer and in my mind go “why didn't i think of that before” but the second I sit down in my chair to put that knowledge I have just acquired to work, I become confused again. I am not forgetting everything my teacher just told me, I just can put all the information together. I do not understand why the numbers work the way the do, yet I still have an A. To me that does not make sense, how could the class that I have the least understanding for have one of my highest grades. Then I realized why. I do not know how and why the numbers work with each other the way they do, I just know the formulas. All I have to do is remember the formulas to get the problems right, but the second I saw a problem with the numbers out of wack I have no Idea how to solve it. It just goes to further show that I do not really understand the problems I am supposed to be solving. If I can just understand the numbers and formulas instead of memorizing them, I could do so much better. Now I need to figure out how to gain the understanding of the math I am learning. Unfortunately math is always building on top of itself so I have started looking at the very base of the math I am learning. I know for a fact that a lot of students have this same problem in my math class because we are constantly asking each other the same questions. I think a great way to solve this problem and to let the students gain a little bit more of understanding of the topic, is a daily review of past problems. I am constantly faced with some types of products I haven't seen or worked on in a week. I think just a daily review would greatly benefit everyone in the class. I also am fortunate to have great friends who always help me out on the math that I do not understand and I think that it is from them I have gained the most understanding. One of my friends knows how I learn so he knows how to explain things to me, which really helps me understand certain topics I am supposed to learn. Now with me reviewing and with the help of my friends I am finally gaining an understanding for math. I think the future for my math grades is finally looking pretty good.

ZERO to ONE HUNDRED Assessments by: Joe O'Such

If you haven’t heard of zero to one hundred quizzes, they are exactly what they sound like, an assessment where the student get either zero or one hundred percent. In my school, I see a plethora of these in math. It is something I have noticed on the down low, and I have seen that these quizzes teach absolutely nothing. Toward the beginning of the year, my friend at lunch pulled out a front and back piece of paper, filled to the brim with formulas. Me being a math nerd, I starting glancing as I devoured my ham sandwich. I got curious, as many of the formulas were pretty advanced. I asked my friend, “Hey, is that your formula sheet for math?” He replied, “No, this paper is full of formulas for my zero to one hundred quiz. My brain went hay wire. I thought to myself why any teacher would even consider putting their students through this insane trial. All the students had to do was memorize the formulas, and write them down. If they missed even one, “oh well”, they get a zero and have to go in and retake the exact same quiz. My brain was flying a million miles per hour, and I finally asked my friend if he knew what any formulas were. He knew a few, but most of them he had no idea what they were. Even more numerous were the number of formulas my friend had no idea why. This happened to be literally every formula except the surface area of a cone. Why they were as they were. Coming from a different math class, we had to derive almost everything we learned by a teacher guided method. This got me thinking about what was to gain from this quiz. The only thing to gain was a one hundred percent. Those formulas would be lost and forgotten. This demonstrates the core of what makes school so boring and for the most part easy. Teachers tell you everything, you just have to remember it. However, teachers should tell you how to get to a certain point, acting as a valuable resource on the quest of knowledge. In the real world, you get told to do something, with little advice on how to do it, no rubric, nothing. The point of school is to prepare us for our lives afterwards, and this needs to convey a message of students leading their own learning, not mindlessly memorizing formulas that are quickly forgotten.

Finding Good Friends by: Dawson Unger

Finding friends has never been an easy thing for me since I moved to Northern Virginia in fifth grade.  After I moved I became the shyest kid ever, I lost all my self-confidence, and felt so looked over.  This was the way it was until about half way into my freshman year.  That’s when I found my first ever real friend group.  We all were very different, but all the same in some way.  The issue with the group I found is that they were all seniors or juniors, and my two best friends in this group (brothers) were moving back to California the second week of summer.  As soon as I found out I decided that we would all live up the time while they were still here.  We explored abandoned houses, had jam sessions, and would go on nighttime walks together.

Those two brothers changed me as a person in one of the best ways I could imagine.  They gave me a good reason to come to school each day, and made me feel involved.  I don’t fit in very well with my grade, so this gave me an outlet to listen to my music with, and they were all very understanding when I was having mental breakdowns, or going through something.  That relationship is vital for everyone to have.  There is too much stress in this world for someone not to have anyone to talk to. 

After they left I felt alone, I went through about one full month of summer skating alone, and listening to music alone in my bedroom, usually on the verge of a mental breakdown.  I remember halfway through the summer I found this one girl; at this point I was still awkward around new friends.  I hung out with her about five times before I even thought to take us to the next level.  We went through bad times, along with most of my summer friends.  But unlike most of my summer friends, we ended up as each other’s best friends, and she honestly gives me a reason to come to school now, and get up in the morning.  She manages to yell my music at the top of her lungs with me, and laughs at my corny jokes.

Since then I became really close friends with a fellow #bowtieboy, Kellen Pluntke, me and kellen became friends once we came to the first day of school and were in the same chemistry class.  After that we just started talking more, up until NCTE when we sat together on the plane, after that we basically spent the entire time at the conference together.  At this point Kellen and me hang out as much as possible and I feel like we could talk to each other about anything. 

These relationships among friends are necessary in life and are what get me through day to day.  Without these friends I don’t know if I could manage to do all that I do, and they make me feel very involved and we always just make each other laugh.  These people have changed me into a much better and more fun person, without having to change “Me” and I love them all for that.

Rapport by: Kellen Pluntke

The emergences of various crisis across our country have ignited the discussion of mental health to a level that we have never seen before. The numbers of minors being diagnosed with mental health issues is still on the rise, and due to the lack of support and care for these people, major issues have continued to occur.  Now is the time to finally put emphasis on what we can do to help.  A solution to this problem needs to start hitting the grounds of our country if we want to prevent disasters like we have faced from occurring.  The best way to start this is to ensure that every child has a mental health professional (ideally) or at least an adult to speak to.  The emergence of school psychologists has been increasing at least in my area of the country, but they can only meet with so many students, and we all know that it would be far too complicated to change our medical system to allow all children to visit a mental health professional in our society without massive political reforms on all fronts.  This leaves us with one solution left, and that is to make sure every child has at least one adult that they can confide in.  The best way to do this is with their counselors and teachers in school.

            Rapport is something that I often bring up in the topic of education with it helping students feel more comfortable and all that, but this is much more than that.  Educators need to put emphasis on the importance of connecting with their students to better our society all together.  These broken souls that have decided to take the lives of the students around them into their own hands have all stated that they felt completely alone.  Coming from broken families, these individuals have a hard time at home and an even harder time in school.  If there was a teacher that they were able to confide in and talk about what they needed to keep going with their lives in a positive manner for themselves and those around them, these issues could have been avoided.

            This push on connection between student and teacher is one of the only ways we can help our country without having to go through the policies of politics.  I have many blogs in the past on how to initiate this kind of connection and rapport with students, so please check those out if you have not already. 

Singing Telegrams by: Sam Fremin

Every Valentine’s Day our school hosts a singing telegram fundraiser for the end-of-year senior
trip. Kids of all ages across the school population organize themselves into groups, audition for
the senior class government and sponsor, and then spend Valentine’s Day popping in and out of
classes singing to whoever had messages purchased for them. Last year four of my friends had
set the school upside down with their telegram team, “No Hard Feelings.” Donned in pink tank
tops and cut off jean shorts, they sang assorted Beyoncé and boy bands songs. Taking it a step
further, they created choreography and assigned each other voice parts. It was a whole
production. Unsurprisingly, they sold a majority of the available telegrams. As soon as they
walked into a classroom to perform, you could feel the odd swagger they exuded. Little did I
know how much work went into creating the spectacle they put on.

This year, since two of the original members graduated, I was chosen to fill one of the empty
slots and I couldn’t have been more excited. Based on their financial success last year, it was all
but guaranteed No Hard Feelings would be accepted into the fundraiser again. Keeping this in
mind, we went all out with our preparation for auditions, but also the performance day itself. The
senior class sponsor reached out to us at one point to inform us just how excited he was for our
set this year. His expression of excitement rubbed off on us in the form of confidence. We
jumped right into our planning meetings and rehearsals. Our song list (“Any Kind of Guy” by
Big Time Rush, “Whatcha Say” by Jason Derulo, “Toxic” by Britney Spears, and “Love on Top”
by Beyoncé) was the first order of business. Together we discussed and debated what would
generate the most buzz, but would also be possible for us to perform well. Once we had the
pieces picked out, we delegated the remaining jobs amongst ourselves. Although we had songs
selected, we still needed to come up with choreography, costumes, voice parts, advertisements,
and instrumentals to sing over.

Self policed deadlines were put in place for when specific aspects of our jobs needed to be
accomplished. The members working on voice parts and instrumentals worked together to find
the right key and harmonies (I don’t really understand choral lingo, so I may have just
completely butchered what they were doing, but the point is they were working together on their
respective jobs). Choreography would be ready in pieces. Basically, every song would be done
by a certain point. I was one half of our costume team. We planned out what everyone would be
wearing and then spent a Saturday driving to numerous thrift stores to find affordable versions of
our ideas.

Rehearsing before school every Monday and Friday for an hour or so, we rocked our audition
and were told we were a lock for the fundraiser. The night before Valentine’s Day, the fundraiser
sponsor sent us a detailed schedule of each of the sixty-two classes we’d have to hit throughout
the day. It was going to be tight for us to reach everyone and it was going to be tiring, but we
were into it. This is what we’d been looking forward to for months.

I showed up the next morning in our designated rest area, dressed in a giant fur coat and joggers
with playing card designs on them. Our team discussed what our plan was going to be over the
course of the day to conserve our voices, but still remain fun to watch. As soon as the first bell
rang, we embarked on our sweaty journey to our sixty second performance.

Paramount Bonds by: Nihar Kandarpa

One of the most paramount things in the classroom is rapport between a teacher and a student. It helps amplify many other things in the classroom as well, such as individualized learning. Rapport is generated through a lot of ways, but teachers can start simple. One of the best ways to achieve rapport is through an entry routine, because it is done every day, and it becomes a habit for both the teachers and the students. Entry routines are always a good tool to get to know a student, if a teacher uses entry routines properly. These routines can include assignments, but they also include how the teacher greets the student every morning. Many times, a teacher in the classroom sits in the corner of the classroom working, and students just come in, take a seat, and get to work on a bell-ringer worksheet or something of the sort. If a teacher utilizes this time before class to get to know students, rapport will automatically generate. My sixth-grade history teacher not only greeted every student that walked by or into his classroom with a smile, but also said their names gave them high-fives. Even in eighth-grade, students still talk about how great of a teacher he was. That’s because he generated such great rapport with his students, and it all started by greeting them at the door.

Another way to get to know students through an entry routine is by asking a new question every day. If a teacher utilizes the time before class to ask questions individually to every student walking into his/her classroom, then rapport cannot help but take place.

         Individualized learning is also something that helps rapport take place. It is a mutual relationship, because rapport causes individualized learning, but individualized learning also causes rapport to be generated.

Situation #1
Students listen while a teacher is up at the promethean board talking. The teacher has been continuously talking for fifteen minutes. A student in the back is drawing something. The sound of the pencil scratching the paper is drowned out by the constant talking of the teacher, though. One student is looking at his phone, making sure to hide it in his desk. Some other students have zoned out and are looking at the blank walls in the classroom. Only a small portion of the students are listening to the teacher’s speech. That small portion is hard to find.

Situation #2
The teacher is drawing a graphic organizer on the board, as the test is two days from now. She is using real world examples and analogies to support her claims, and is asking questions every now and then to engage students. One student raises his hand, all the way in the back. He was drawing before, but now he’s not.
He likes this lesson.
But he’s confused about one thing. The teacher calls on him, and he asks: “How do symbiotic relationships work?”
The teacher thinks for a moment. “You like Star Wars, right?”
The student nods.
“Can Darth Vader live without his robotic suit?”
“No, he can’t.”
“That’s how symbiotic relationships work. If one organism has a mutual symbiotic relationship with another organism, they have to work together to live.”
“Oh, that makes sense,” The student sighs, and sits down.

Situation #2 is a rather general instance that shows how rapport benefits individualized learning, and vice versa. If a teacher knows a student well, it’s amazing how easy it is for the student to understand topics. If individualized learning is implemented, great heights can be achieved in the classroom.

Focus by: Jack Michael

We are not always at our top focus. In ever instance whether it be in a lecture or during class work, we are not always at 100%. Consequently, when students go home they need reinforcement of the subjects they have been taught. This way, when a test rolls around, students will not fear the test because they have had reinforcement of the lesson. One method of reinforcement I believe is extremely helpful is a project. Most students groan when they hear about a project. Yes, projects can be a lot of work, but they truly help to reinforce a topic that has been taught. If a project is done correctly, students will enjoy working on the project and it will help them fell more confident about the test. The focus of this blog will be to inform the reader on how to create good at home individual projects that are fun and useful for the student.

When a student sits down for a project, they often complain and fear the amount of hours or days it will take them to complete the project. A large and demanding project can make it extremely intolerable; this can lead to student apathy towards the project and less application and reinforcement during the project. The first step to creating a painless and fun project is to make it quick. If a student is able to finish a project over the course of a few hours or a day, they will find it more enjoyable. Projects like writing a minimum one-page essay or making a small booklet or even making a small PowerPoint are all tasks that can be completed in a few hours. When students spend only a few hours on a project, it will let them minimize mistakes, apply themselves more towards the project, become more engaged in the project, and finally retain more information during the project. Doing this will allow students to retain more information and enjoy the project more.

            Something I truly do not enjoy is doing the same thing over and over again. Sadly though, a lot of the projects I am assigned require me to do the same four things.  Either write an essay, create a PowerPoint, Make a poster board, and sometimes to create and iMovie. What I would enjoy seeing more of as a student would be differentiated platforms for project display. Doing things like creating a comic, making a stop motion, even building something would make the project more expressive and different to the student. As a teacher you should also create your own fun ideas for projects, this way students have a wide variety of platforms to display their work. Also allow students to propose their own ideas for projects, the project will be more useful to the students if they enjoy the platform they are doing it on. As long as students are retaining information and displaying understanding of the topic, then why should we confine them four platforms.

In this classroom where small projects are common, I believe every student would do exponentially better. Not only are students retaining more information from lectures and notes, but they will also inquire more about the lesson. School shouldn’t just learn what their teachers say without trying to learn more, school should foster more learning outside the classroom. I believe that these projects would foster learning outside the classroom. 

PowerPoints by: Aaron Eichenlaub

PowerPoints. The go to lesson planning for teachers. Just slide after slide after slide, with boring pictures. I learn best with hands-on lessons, and I don’t get anything from boring slide shows. It all disappears from my mind, and that’s the problem. A teacher has to teach the material, but if they can’t get that material to stick in your head the whole lesson has been a waste. Why waste time making a lesson when students will forget it the next day. To teach the teachers have to know the students, know how they learn, and make the material stick. Teachers have to know the students and how they learn and create lessons around that. Create a lesson that works for the whole class. Make a lesson fun and interesting, so the students will remember it on test day. Let the student have fun and let them enjoy the class. It’s no fun to sit for an hour watching slides, but it is fun to be engaged in a cool activity with your friends.

            You don’t remember a good movie because it was like all the others, you remember a good movie because it was different and interesting. So, the same should be said for the lesson. The students won’t remember a boring slide show, but they will remember a fun engaging lesson. The teacher should know how the students learn and create a lesson the perfect lesson for them.

Student Voice in the Classroom by: Tam Mandanis

Eyes shifted from one person to the next and the growing tension in the classroom was obvious.  The setting felt like a duel that they held during the 1700’s.  Questions ran through my mind asking myself, “Why is she doing that, it’s practically impossible...Besides she won’t grade it for the next two months.”  From looking around the classroom, I knew every student was thinking practically the same exact thing. The time spent on an argument between us, the students, and the teacher had already reached eight minutes and still counting.  The silence finally broke with my teacher saying, “I don’t care if you guys don’t think it’s fair, I’m the teacher and what I say is final and that’ll be the end of it.”  A loud “UGH” filled the class with a noise contribution from every student.  This example conflict may seem like a small issue, but it’s actually a really a big problem that students often face every day. 

Students see a teacher two to three times a week, every week for nine months out of the twelve-month calendar year.  When they’re put in an environment where they don’t feel appreciated, respected, equal, and get a say in what’s happening, they dread where they are.  Understanding that kids are pretty much “adults in training”, will help improve the classroom. They don’t know how to handle so much stress that gets thrown onto them and each class adds its own stress to a certain degree.  Giving students a voice in the classroom will insure their respect, hard work, imagination, etc.  Try putting the golden rule into play here and think about if students wouldn’t have anything to do with how the teacher felt and their thoughts, how bad of an environment would that teacher be in? With saying this, I don’t mean don’t create boundaries for your students.  It’s important for the student to know that the teacher is there for a reason and that they deserve respect.  Respect is given where it’s earned and so if a teacher is often strict or rude to their students, respect won’t be given to them.  This train of thought isn’t only applicable in a classroom, but any work environment that requires social interaction.  A teacher who values their student’s opinions and takes into consideration their thoughts and ideas and uses them to improve the quality of learning, is the teacher who will be given the respect they deserve. Ask yourself the question, how are you making sure that the students are heard as equally as you in-order to maximize learning and eliminate potential conflict?

Disruptions by: Connor Grady

            One thing I’ve come to notice over the past few years is this: disruptions are always a part of every classroom.  This is not solely limited to the disruptions caused by students, but these are definitely the most common.  Obviously disruptions are counteractive to the learning that should be going on in the classroom, so how does a teacher eliminate the effects of disruptions in their class as they arise?
            Well to help, let’s look at a real situation that involved classroom disruptions.  In one of my classes, a group of boys (all of them friends with each other) are dispersed amongst the classroom, mostly by design to avoid any side conversations that might occur during the lesson.  They each compete to make the oddest noise without catching the attention of the teacher.  Whenever the teacher rebukes their noises and distractions, it just turns into a large joke carried out by the boys together against the teacher.  What my teacher did about it was surprising, but actually very effective and clever.  Instead of constantly correcting the unwanted behavior, they bought into the joke and brought it out into the open.  The teacher began to joke back with the students about how odd and ridiculous it was that they were making noises in class (these students being in high school), but not in an angry tone or with any kind of criticism.  One might ask, what was the result?  The students actually laughed along with the teacher about how ridiculous their noises were which seemed to put the teacher and the students on the same side, rather than on opposing sides.  The next week, the joke had almost completely died down (with one exception) as it had run its course, but I do believe that the students causing the disruption gained a new respect for the teacher as a person rather than just as an angry adult who happened to be the subject of their joke.
            This experience has convinced me that when a teacher lets their guard down with their students and relates with them, rather than attempting to force good behavior onto them, they in return are given the results that they want to receive.  I encourage the teachers reading this post to try this technique out in their own classroom if they encounter student disruptions because I have been shown first-hand that it is very effective.  The number one take-away for today is this: if your students regard you as a human being, rather than an instructor, they will be more likely to want to make you happy by eliminating any disruptions they might otherwise cause.

Respect by: Rishi Singh

Respect comes a long way. To show respect one has to be generous, kind, and helpful. Lack of respect is a problem in today's schools. Disrespect to teachers is unnecessary and inappropriate. In stressful times, students often begin to act out and result to unnecessary arguments. Should students show the same respect they get from the teachers? How do teachers gain respect and show the same respect they deserve to the students? In tough times, teachers know that the students aren't all ears, but they still must stay calm and show respect. When students show disrespect to the teacher, the teacher shouldn’t act out with them. Punishing the students may work at times, but the better solution is calmly asking the student, "How can I help you?"

Students often act out in occasion to stress or irritation. As the adult, the teacher has an opportunity to resolve the problem and create a new connection with the students. Showing respect gains trust and respect back. Disrespect shouldn’t be taken by any teacher and shouldn’t be shown by any student. How should the teachers show respect to students? In what ways can disrespect affect the student in and out of the classroom?

School Shootings by: Ryan Beaver

When I heard about the school shooting in Florida, I was scared out of my mind. I have a cousin that goes to high school down there and I was petrified it was at her school. When I heard that it was not at her school, I was flooded with relief. However, that respite was brief. One of my closest friends’ cousin was at the school while the shooting happened. It is so hard to see someone go through the shock and panic of having someone in danger. Nothing can comfort that sheer panic and the horrifying wait to find out if his cousin survived. Thankfully, his cousin made it out okay, but for others, there was no miracle.

            This horrid act has shaken me to my core. The fact that I thought my family member was a part of this tragedy and that my friends’ cousin was at the dreadful scene made it real to me. School shootings have been on the rise for the past few months. There has been a total of 18 shootings in 2018 alone. This stat is extremely high and outright terrifying. Schools have gone from safe havens of students to targets where everyone needs to be on guard.

            High schools are the most targeted for school shooting, which also hits close to home. Knowing that I am at risk every day I go to school terrifies me. However, there are ways for teachers to help make school more comfortable. Make sure students know what to do in the event of an attack. I mean every little detail. What if they are in the hallway? What if they are in a bathroom? Make sure the answers to these questions are known by every student. Also, talk about these situations. I suggest having an in-class discussion on these shootings and go through everything about them. Teachers should participate in these too. Have everyone share their thoughts on the shootings, how they affect people, and if they understand and agree with the protection measures are being taken. This is a good way for students to share what they feel, which many kids need to do in this time.

            It is important for issues as prominent as this to be addressed. Making sure the students know the emergency procedures is beyond important. With these shootings becoming increasingly more common, students should be able to express their feelings about them. Keep the classroom a safe space for the kids and make them feel as comfortable as possible. I wish everyone safety and peace and all of our prayers are going out to Parkland in this time of need.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Everything matters to us forever. By: Jason Augustowski

February has always been my least favorite month of the year.  I don't know what it is - but I've always had a negative association with the month.  For as long as I can remember, February has symbolized dreariness, the hanging on of winter, things melting, freezing over, and melting again.  It's the middle of the long haul from winter to spring break for many students (with minimal breaks in between).  It's the slump.

But February is also the season we celebrate love.  And although I realize that Valentine's Day has largely become a commercial holiday - a necessary checkmark to prove to our loved ones (and our entire social media following) that they are on our minds - it IS a season of love nonetheless.  I like that we have a time in our year dedicated to pondering love - and I hope that we are taking the time to observe the season properly.

Many will discuss how we explore the concept of love in the late fall, early winter (around the holidays) - but as I have noted previously, I don't believe there is a time more depressing than the cold dark winter that follows those happy days.  And February is a part of that time.  So perhaps it is nice to take a step back and rediscover the love we felt and celebrated only several weeks prior.

When I find myself pondering and reflecting (really about anything) - I like to bring that into the classroom for my students to ponder and discuss as well.  For the past years, we have celebrated Valentine's Day in my high school classroom with quick writes pertaining to the people we love most and an annual sing-a-long of the song "Seasons of Love" from the Broadway musical RENT.  We put the lyrics up on the board, and after a few practice runs with the soundtrack, the students are ready to line up with their classmate-family (just like the original choreography) and sing over the karaoke track.  There is clapping, laughing and fun for some really great moments in the middle of our dreary February slump.  We are re-centering and returning to what is important.

And that is the question I am asking all of us today, have we spent enough time spreading reflections of love with our students?  Have we discussed eros and philos and agape?  Have we taken the time amidst the snow days, amidst the catchup, amidst the never-ending march through the curriculum to remind students of how much they matter?  I like to tell them that:

Everything you do and every move you make matters...to all of us...forever.

Because it is true.  The level of transference we have on one another is astronomical.  And although people have the propensity to "move on" and pathways part, the meaningful impact we are having on one another in any given moment is tangible and real.  We live in present moments - not simply in memory or future desires.  Let's take the time to ground students in the now.  To show them how to appreciate all that surrounds them by modeling how we appreciate all who surround us.  (See?)

And I didn't say this all had to be completely devoid of any English discipline learning.  I know so many wonderfully engaging teachers who celebrate Valentine's day in a myriad ways with their high schoolers.  I love the teachers that still encourage the students to exchange dollar store cards (can't do that unless a warm and safe classroom environment has been established), who play team building games, who have open discussions where every student has the time to speak.  Perhaps investigate the themes of love in the texts we read - how about enjoying the Scottish dialect of Robert Burns' "A Red, Red Rose?"  How about discussing the insensitivity of some modern-day greeting cards: (I received a Valentine from a teacher colleague that pictured an elephant and stated "I love you a ton.")  When we think of elephants, why do we judge them by their weight instead of by their minds?  How about a picture of an elephant that read "I will never forget you?"

These are the discussions we can be having with our students during this dreary time of year.  And who knows, in doing so, perhaps we can steer the feeling of this season away from the commercialism and more towards the sentiment.  Let's empower our students to love.  Let's model for them by establishing that safe classroom environment where everyone feels valued.  The kids are always watching, and no matter how old they get, they are still just looking for someone to respect and care about them.  Everything we do and every move we make matters...to all of them...forever.  Let's remember that.