From the educator’s perspective

I have often thought about starting a teacher blog of my own, so this was an interesting assignment to complete. For me, I would not have wanted my blog to just be about teaching and what was so great and wonderful about it; I do not sugarcoat things. Not to say that I am jaded, but I am a realist and my blog would represent that, as well as my true feelings about some of the beauracracy in education. However, I realized that since my name would be attached to the blog, unless I was going to write a book, sell a million copies and be on Oprah, that my honesty might be slightly detrimental to the future of my career.

The first blog I visited was Teach for Us, a blog designed for Teach for America teachers, current and former, to share their stories with the world. I wanted to visit this site because I actually began the proceedings to “Teach for America,” but financial and life obligations got in the way.
I was immediately struck by its mission statement: “we provide a window into the classroom through the eyes of real teachers.” The word “real” is so important in blogging, because all the public knows about education is what they see on TV, and it’s not all Freedom Writers and Saved by the Bell. This blog stays true to this statement. The first blog I entered was titled, “I don’t know how to use a thesaurus,” and Caroline (2012), a teacher in the Mississippi Delta told the story of one of her elementary students being flabbergasted by the idea of a book with synonyms in it. The student is accused of refusing to do his homework, and when confronted, he is defensive, acting like he didn’t do it on purpose. He then admits that he did not know how to complete the assignment. As this pulls at the heart strings, it also resonates with many teachers; so many of our students do not do the work because they don’t know how to, but are too proud to admit it. I had to teach some of my high-schoolers how to use a thesaurus. Now, this of course brings up the point that there are definitely students that really do just not do the assignment, but I think we need to remember that it’s not all the students.
Another entry I clicked was “In Praise of Praise”  (Lauren, 2012). I started to read this thinking it would remind teachers that students need positive feedback, but instead it reminded the public that TEACHERS need positive feedback, and perhaps that is one of the reasons teacher retention is so poor. It is always the pay raises touted in front of us (an extra $20 a month is often the bait), but sometimes, we just want to be told we are doing a good job. That is not the case in education today. We are told we are the cause of all that is wrong in education, past, present, and future. It begins and ends in the classroom, and parents, students, and community bear little to no responsibility, in the eyes of the public. The author surmises that maybe if teachers were just told they were doing well, that their lessons were creative and innovative, and the school system was proud of them, they might stick around a little longer.
I love the variety of this blog, because it spans from success stories to failures, and everything in between. The realness is truly kept, and it actually represents what I would have hoped my blog would have been.

The second blog I visited was A Journey Through TEFL , written by an English teacher of 20 years, Eva Simkesyan, about teaching English as a foreign language. This was also something that intrigued me; I have found that my favorite students are often from other countries, and have considered becoming certified in ESL. I love being there for that initial learning phase as they grasp the English language through immersion, and the pure joy and pride they feel as they begin to learn it. This blogger seems to share that passion. Her latest blog post recalled a conference she attended called “Blogathon” where she and other educators from around the world would blog for four days straight; she said she was honored because “[all the educators at the conference] enjoy the sheer happiness of sharing, the bearable lightness of support from our PLNs. Above all we enjoy our own journey in teaching.” Many of her blog posts share her strategies for teaching students learning the English language, and how they are successful. I love this part of the blog because most strategies for ESL students work for native-English speakers as well! Her lesson that she did when the students got back from Christmas break for instance  used Wordles  (one of my favorite internet tools) that had inspirational sayings and quotes on them, had the students un-jumble the collage, write them on colorful pieces of paper, and then used that quote to inspire their own “New Year, New Beginnings” poster, discussing their resolutions and goals. This is an excellent activity for any level, whether as just team building in the academic classroom, or language building in a lower-level classroom. Needless to say, I’ll be checking in with her Lessons section more often.
Beyond the Classroom (2012)  has an immediate visual impact. The “cover” photo has two children standing in a puddle, with the title across it. The symbolism speaks volumes. This is not any one educator’s blog; like Teach for Us, it is actually a collaboration of teachers “as a tool for communicating with parents. [But] over time it evolved as a place to share thoughts, ideas, inspirations, and reflections with fellow early childhood educators.” The first blog that I visited was titled, “Give and Take” (2012). It described a normally independent and self-sufficient young boy who out of the blue looked at his teacher and said, “”I am lonely, I want someone to play with me.” Talk about heart-wrenching. Another student overheard him, and volunteered. Not only does this demonstrate a young child’s ability to communicate his own feelings—something many adults do not even do—but it shows promise in our future: a young girl, with no hesitation, steps up to the plate to help out a fellow classmate. This site, unlike Teach for Us, is all about inspiration. This would be a good site to visit on a day when you feel like you have lost all hope in education, and America in general. The stories and pictures will warm your heart.
The final blog I went to was English Raven (2012)  because I wanted to see the “English” side of things…and see if I could “fair” use some of his ideas. 🙂 However, his blog is actually a bit overwhelming with simply the amount of activity and material. It is absolutely a positive that there is so much material to look through; the potential is mind-boggling. But, the potential is mind-boggling! I do not even know where to start on this blog. The categories alone  are enough to keep you reading for ten minutes. He has everything from Bilinguism to Pronunciation to Games to Flashcards to Teaching Methodology, and about 40 others in between! The post I read  is about a successful student who is developing an online portfolio (talk about promoting technology integration into education). He is proud of him until he gets to the songs that he has included—his student is an aspiring rapper. The lyrics are typical of popular rap, money, cash, women, in very vulgar terms. This leads to ruminations of whether or not the online portfolio is meant to be practical, or the students’ own space; in the end, he lets the music stay for the purposes of the assignment, but explains that if it is intended to be used in the “real world” that the music will need to go. I think this is representative of how our own blogs need to be: if we intend them to be our own personal space, well, our names better not be attached, and we better not think of putting it on a resume to demonstrate how “forward-thinking” we are in education. Sometimes we have to suppress a little bit of who we are in order to stay appropriate and model true digital citizenship.

Just as I think blogging is an incredible tool for the classroom itself, I think blogging is important for the teachers as well. From the sites that I’ve visited, the blogs are truly a “window” into the classroom, and everyone is much more honest than I imagined. Granted, teachers must take care to keep it “school appropriate” as I so often remind my seniors to be, but they can share the tragedies, as well as the triumphs, the “lollipops and rainbows” as well as dredging through the trenches. We need to be careful to not use students full names if we are sharing stories that might be…not so nice…for a lack of a better phrase, but even if the stories are positive, the students are minors and have an expectation of privacy and safety in our care. I have read many studies that say catharsis is therapeutic (Nichols and Birnbaum, 1978), and I think blogging is the ultimate catharsis, and therefore the ultimate self-therapy.

A Journey Through TEFL. (2012). Retrieved from http://evasimkesyan.edublogs.org/
Beyond the Classroom. (2012). Retrieved from http://missmerril.blogspot.com/
English Raven. (2012). Retrieved from http://jasonrenshaw.typepad.com/jason_renshaws_web_log/
Nichols, M.T., & Birnbaum, H. (1978). Success of cathartic therapy as a function of patient variables. Journal of Clinical Psychology. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/690216
Teach for Us. (2012). Retrieved from http://teachforus.org/

Advertisements

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. slm508msw
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 15:38:06

    Wow! As another student in your class, I am overwhelmed but how quickly you have gotten used to blogging. Your entries are very informative; I like how you explained why you chose each site. I, too, chose the English Raven, drawn to it by a love of Poe. I haven’t gotten a chance to settle in and really read through the blogs. I have been struggling with linking and more basic set-up questions, but your blog has given me encouragement to move on. You’d get a gold star in my grade book for this effort!

    Reply

    • Beth
      Mar 16, 2012 @ 15:57:40

      Thanks so much! I have to admit that I’ve actually blogged on my own before. I used to be a writer before a teacher, and we had to take a multimedia class in journalism. I’ve also had dreams of writing a book and going on Oprah (think I even wrote that in my blog) and figured the best way to get noticed was through a blog, so I’ve started several. I haven’t stuck with any because teaching always finds a way to get in the way of my own time…but maybe this is going to inspire me to stick with it!

      Reply

  2. slm508msw
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 18:52:03

    Check out the site for writers — of course, I don’t know the title and am afraid if I go to look for it, I will lost this link. I don’t know if you can go on my site to see the name of it, but it is very inspirational for writers-yet-to-be. I, too, have always thought of writing a book, but I just haven’t started. Maybe this will give us both a kick-start. 🙂

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: