Embracing the Unknown

iStock_000003898245XSmall_crop380w_crop380wBy Anna Concannon – As the new school year quickly approaches, I am beginning to realize how old I am.

I’m going to start my junior year of college. I’m about to move into my first apartment. I’m turning 21 in two months. I have three semesters of classes remaining before I start student teaching.

Two years ago, I entered college feeling scared about what was to come. Just four short years ago, I began thinking about college, feeling more freaked out than ever and not knowing what I wanted to study!

The past few years have gone by so quickly. I am getting older. But that’s life! I couldn’t be more excited about what this year has to hold for me.

I am starting a new job at the Service Learning Office. Through that job, I’ll meet new people, become more involved in the school and community, and acquire new skills that can improve my work ethic. I’ll be taking more education methods classes, many of which are very interesting to me, like Teaching Elementary Science and Math.

Yes, I am still a little apprehensive about the future. However, I learned from my trip to South Africa that I can’t be afraid of what is to come; rather, I need to embrace the unknown. So as I begin to gather my school supplies and prepare for the new school year, I have come to realize that I cannot wait for it to begin.

Soaking Up the Last 38 Days of Summer

school-supply-listBy Aubrey Murtha – My summer is more than halfway over at this point, and I must say, I am surprised about how much I actually miss Marquette University.

In elementary school, I think I looked forward to the start of the school year for one reason: it meant I got to buy fresh school supplies.  Although I loved my high school, the start of the school year was, shall I say, not highly anticipated during those four years.  School marked the beginning of an enormous work load, a tremendous amount of additional stress, and an endless number of commitments.

Until now, I was expecting that the latter half of the summer would fill me with dread and disappointment as I began to face the inevitable fact that I would have to return to school soon.  However, I am pleasantly surprised to feel a real sense of excitement!  I cannot wait to go back to Marquette and rejoin the academic community I miss so dearly.

Until then, I will enjoy every remaining day of summer!   All 38 days of it!

The Countdown to My Vesting Date: Teachers, Pensions & Gratefulness

dividing-a-pensionBy Nick McDaniels – There may not be many people my age really thinking about retirement.

And, the way I’m wired, I may never actually think about retirement. But that has not stopped me from counting down the days until I’m vested in my pension. On my first day of service in the 2014-2015 school year, I will be at that point.

Will I invite friends over for a BBQ to celebrate? Probably not (though I’m not ruling it out). But will I stop and say thanks for what is becoming dying form of retirement planning? Most definitely.

With the decline of unionism in America, and in turn, increased unchecked efforts by employers to shift the burdens of doing business to their employees, there has also been a decline in pensions. More and more employees have employer supported retirement through 401K plans and other similar investment plans.

How is a pension different than a 401K (technically, a 401K is a type of pension)?
A number of ways that I probably don’t understand and a few ways that I do. But, most importantly, a pension has to be managed by an employer, and in that way, has guaranteed benefit payouts based on a formula. 401Ks which are outsourced for fund management typically and have pay outs based on a number of factors like contribution and, scarily, the stock market.

Why am I glad to work in a profession where I earn pensionable income? Because every worker deserves the ability to retire comfortably, albeit modestly, without fear that the stock market will crash a year before retirement, forcing a person to work longer than they are required to (just ask anyone scheduled to retire in 2002 or 2009). The work I do is difficult, and one that does not pay extremely well (though well enough for me to be grateful). Part of the trade off for doing challenging and sometimes thankless work, is good benefits, and health insurance for a family man like me, and a good pension is extremely important to my quality of life.

So here I am, about to be vested, proving that teachers who stay longer in the classroom, as opposed to those who quit after two years, are more expensive. So here I am, about to be vested, and doing some of the best teaching of my career. So here I am, about to be vested, and worth every penny of it.

Summer Job: My Crazy and Chaotic First Day

chaos-standardBy Lauren Carufel-Wert – So, I made it through the training for my summer job.

But the first day turned out to be chaotic, crazy, and unexpected.

We were supposed to arrive before 11:30 in order to prep for the day’s activities; we had to double check lesson plans and put everything we needed in a tub with our group name on it and then put the bin outside the classroom. I remember in those 20 minutes before the day started we didn’t have any rosters of the kids for attendance and we didn’t know how severe the disabilities of six children in our class were.

Every group received a huge packet of all of the children’s allergies…. 5 pages later and cross checking with the list of kids, we found out that we had two kids with life threatening allergies to peanuts and eggs. Both my co-leader and I were surprised and frankly a bit upset that we were not given a heads up about severe allergies either. To top the whole day off, there were no walkie-talkies for any of the groups, which meant that if there were an emergency, we would pretty much have to scream for help.

I like to have back-up plans and be prepared, and on this first day, I felt like a fish out of water. But we kept going, the bell rang and the kids began to run up to us so we could check their names off; all were able to speak English fine so it was not a struggle to understand each other. However, after recess and lunch once we got the kids in the room we quickly discovered that our plans for the day would fly out the window.

Our class was obviously divided, there was a group of Hispanic kids who stuck together and would constantly talk in Spanish about inappropriate topics, and there were the African-American children who were easily upset by the Hispanic kids and believed they were the topic of their conversations.

Two of the boys who had anger issues were constantly egged on by their peers and because they were also physically aggressive I would be forced to break up fights. I had no clue how to properly break up the fights so I would just get in the middle and they would usually stop and then they would run out of the room. Since we only have one person trained to deal with behavioral issues at the school, I ran after the kids and talked to them in the hallway so that they could calm down enough to return to class.

That first day was so long and challenging, I was ready to give up, but I knew I had to stick with it for at least a week to see if things would improve.

I’ll let you know how things go.

South Africa: Takeaways for a Future Teacher

wil2By Anna Concannon – While studying in South Africa, I had the opportunity to help out with 3-5 year olds in a preschool classroom, which is an age group I did not have much experience with beforehand.

Being at the school gave me some insight about how the education system works there. I also learned a lot about how to be a good teacher.

Unfortunately, I saw a lack of instruction in this particular class, so I thought a lot about how I would improve the teaching.

On my first day at the school, the teacher/principle gave me ideas about various activities to do with the kids and played with them all day. On the subsequent days I was there, she stayed in her office almost the entire time, leaving me alone to keep the kids occupied, and she did not speak with me very much.

This was disappointing to me; it seemed like she was showing off her enthusiasm about teaching the first day to give off a good impression. Another explanation could be that she took advantage of having a helper in the classroom by using that extra time to do paperwork. Either way, there was not enough supervision of the kids. And they were a handful.

Overwhelmed at first, I learned to control the class and keep them occupied as my time there went on. Something valuable that I learned is the importance of transitioning. It can be difficult to motivate kids to clean and line up, so what made that easier was singing songs while we did it. At this young age, I discovered, kids love to sing.

Additionally, I recognized the significance of following a schedule. I am a very organized person, and many teachers I know are. To my dismay, the teacher I was helping was not at all; she just let the kids play all day. On my very last day at the school, I noticed there was a schedule of lessons on the wall that I never realized existed because there was no order of daily activities. The schedule included implementing math and writing skills into every “period” of the day… and I never saw that happen once. I did try doing this in some of the activities I led, which was successful.

Lastly, I learned to relax and let the children have fun. I sometimes get stressed out when kids misbehave, but after a while I learned to step back a little and the kids would fix their problems with each other without me asking them to do so. This helped keep me content during the long schooldays, and I will remember this when I have my own class someday.

Even though there was a language barrier between the kids and me, the school had really few resources, and the teacher did not supervise the kids enough, I fell in love with the kids at the preschool in South Africa. I have a new-found appreciation for teaching the younger ones, and I feel that it could be a good fit for me.

Counseling: It’s All in the Little Things

tumblr_krtj1mBvQb1qzjd8jo1_500By Sabrina Bong – At the end of the school year, the intermediate school I work at has a yearbook signing party.

It’s intense, to say the least. Picture over 350 sixth grade students in the gym, all of them clutching yearbooks or signature books, running up to each other and asking for signatures. The noise itself is overwhelming (for those of you who work at a school, yearbook signing is like working in the cafeteria, but times five. My ears were ringing for quite a while after I left!)

For me, it was a new experience being a counselor. The minute I walked into the gym to supervise, I had seven or eight girls flock to me to get their yearbook signed. I felt like a celebrity! I signed my name, posed for “selfies” with some of my students, and told them all that I was looking forward to seeing them next year.

One student in particular stood out to me though. He was a part of the lunch group that I held every Tuesday. He is an incredibly sweet student, who always made sure to say hello to me in the halls. Once he realized that I liked the minions from “Despicable Me,” our friendship was cemented.

On that particular yearbook day, I asked if he had gotten a yearbook. He said no, that he didn’t see the point in it, and that he wasn’t going to go to the signing party because he thought it was dumb.

“I see,” I said, after he told me this. “Well, how about you still come to see me?”

He readily agreed to this. Knowing that he had not gotten a yearbook, I wrote him a little note on stationery, telling him to have a great summer and that I looked forward to seeing him next year. I drew a minion on the envelope and gave it to him at the party. He was really thrilled!

While checking my work email today, I saw that my student had emailed me. He said that he hoped I was having a good summer, and that his was going okay so far. He talked about the trips he had taken, as well as the time he had spent with his younger brothers and sister.

“I tell my brothers what we talked about at lunch,” he wrote to me. “About how you told me that as long as you are confident in yourself, then no one else’s opinions matter. They are having a hard time right now with some people making fun of them in the neighborhood. Some bigger kids told them that they look funny, or dress funny, and now they don’t want to do anything outside because they are afraid of what the other kids will say to them. But I told them that they are worth just as much as everyone else. That’s what you told me, remember?”

He closed his email by saying he was excited to see me next year, and that he was going to stop by my office first thing on our first day back.

For me, this was such a gratifying moment, knowing that the counseling relationship extends beyond the school year. I’m curious to see if any other student notes come my way! If not, I am excited to see my kids once summer comes to a close.

Follow the Money: ISTE 2014

ISTE graphicBy Claudia Felske – Last year, around this time, I was an International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Conference wanna-be, lurking via #ISTE2013, drooling over tweets I was reading by those educators lucky enough to be in San Antonio at the International Society for Technology in Education Convention.

I went so far as to blog all about it last year, dubbing it The Best Conference I Didn’t Attend.

This year, I was fortunate enough to be accepted as a presenter, and so, I spent four glorious days last week at ISTE 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia. Long story short: it is all that it’s cracked up to be. Because of the innovative and immense variety of its sessions, because it’s teeming with “aha moments,” because it means networking with 16,000 like-mindeds, I plan on finding a way to attend every ISTE until the year of my retirement, and perhaps beyond.

Now, instead of recounting all the sordid details of four days of edtech euphoria, I will fixate on one idea: “Follow the Money.” Legend has it that the “Follow the money” phrase was the directive from Deep Throat, the anonymous source that lead to the breaking of the Watergate Scandal and the resignation of a United States President. “Follow the money” suggests that to find the truth of a matter, one need simply follow the money trail.

So, what does this have to do with ISTE 2014? What became readily apparent to me last week is that If one is to follow the money in education, one will quickly surmise that American Corporations, specifically tech-flavored ones, are currently courting American schools like a politician at a donor dinner.

ISTE 2013 conference at the San Angelo Convention Center.

I’ve been to my share of educational conferences and seminars, local, state and national, but in my 20 years of teaching, nothing has come close in scope or sponsorship to what I experienced last week at ISTE.

  • Follow the numbers: 16,000 educators and education leaders
  • Follow the corporations:  500 companies and 4,500 industry reps
  • Follow the prestige: a cut-throat 10% acceptance rate for conference presenters
  • Follow the learning: hundreds of robust, inspirational learning opportunities
  • Follow the VIPs: sponsored networking events galore, top shelf ones requiring VIP badges
  • Follow the Expo Hall: ISTE’s vender hall compared to that of most educational conferences is like Times Square compared to Mayberry Square
  • Follow the Ads: for $13,000 your company can have a prime program ad; $4500 and attendees’ hands will touch your logo as they take the escalator between sessions. Advertising is ubiquitous at ISTE.

Clearly there is money to be made and influence to be gained at the crossroads of technology and education.

Just follow the money.


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