Year One: Complete

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By Danny Smith

Waqaa!

So I feel as if I start all of these saying how much better I’ll be about posting … blah blah blah…well, I don’t have to do that because it is summer and I am back to living the same boring life you all lead! I have been done for about a month now though, and have been back in the lower 48 for a few weeks. I have been sitting here wondering what I would write about and how I should write for the last few weeks. I think that this post will again be reflective, but before I do that, I want to list all of the new things I have tried or done in the past year:

New Foods Tried:
1. Akutaq
2. moose (dried, sticks, stew)
3. muskox (stew, chunks)
4. fish, dried (halibut, smelt, pike, whitefish,salmon, probably a ton more)
5. fresh and wild berries (cranberry, blueberry, salmonberry, blackberry)
6. seal oil
7. seal
8. shelf-stored milk
9. bird (duck, crane, goose, ptarmigan)
10. and the most important from an Alaskan’s P.O.V.: Tillamook Cheddar Cheese

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New Things Attempted:
1. halibut fishing (proceeded to give to an elder at fish camp)
2. camping
3. salmon drifting (then used that salmon as bait for halibut)
4. wearing waders
5. holding a rifle
6. maqii (steam bath)
7. teaching by myself
8. running a student government
9. fundraising for a senior trip (despite it not working out)
10. trick-or-treating as an adult and walking into homes instead of knocking
11. speak a new language (Yugtun)
12. waking up at 6AM to fish alone before school
13. living without wifi at home
14. water conservation
15. -60 temperatures
16. seal skin/fur hat (never knew that fur was more than just for style)
17. SIOP lesson plans
18. Word Wall
19. casual conversations with students about firearms…
20. hauling water
21. riding in a sled of mail being pulled by a snowmachine over a melting river
22. riding on the back of a snowmachine
23. calling snowmobiles snowmachines
24. raising my eyebrows instead of saying ‘yes’
25. Iqmiik (aka black bull, or the native chewing tobacco)
26. flying to district trainings
27. not going through TSA to fly
28. Amazon Prime taking 2 weeks to deliver
29. paying $100 for a couple things at the store
30. boardwalks instead of roads

There are a ton more things I could add, but cannot think of at the moment, but there they are: 40 new experiences in the course of a year. As far as reflecting back goes, I’ve realized while writing this post that those lists kind of summarize my experience. I’d love to sit here and reflect on teaching practices and such, but that would get quite boring for the majority of you. As far as teaching goes, though, I will be spending the month of July working on lessons and such — many of which I have to just completely abandon and re-make due to how poorly designed they were. I think knowing our curriculum now and knowing my students and how they learn as individuals will benefit me tremendously going into next year.

As for my plans on staying or leaving is concerned, I have not made a decision on that. This upcoming year will definitely be the determining factor. My plan at the moment though is to be present (elders will tell the younger community members this often: to just be present in the moment and in my words, observe and absorb) and take things as they come, and then evaluate at winter break.

As far as this blog goes, I will probably keep it going throughout next year as well based on how popular it was among you all this past year. However, I am going to be realistic and not claim to have a post every week or every other week. I WILL try to keep it up once a month, or at the bare minimum bi-monthly.

I hope you have all enjoyed this year with me and have a great summer!

 

A Connected Summer

relaxing-1680432_1280By Stephanie Nicoletti

As I sit here on my patio, I am thinking, “what in the world should I write about this week– it is summer and I haven’t seen students in almost two months!” Then it dawns on me: no, I have not seen my students in almost two months, but I have connected with them this summer. In the beginning months of summer my little buddy who could not quite leave school on the last day contacted me through his mother’s email (she told me that last day that might happen). Also, our school uses the student portfolio app “Seesaw.” I decided that we could make it a “Seesaw Summer.” I will send parents any work or fun activities they may want to do throughout the summer, and they can upload it to the app. Another great way to stay connected to students over the summer!

Just this past week it was my birthday. While I was getting many birthday wishes from various friends and family members, I happened to open my school email and see an email from a parent. The email was wishing me a happy birthday and was signed from her daughter, whom I had this past year. And finally, during the summer one of my colleagues was calling me, I answered and she said “Miss Nicoletti? Are you busy? I am here with someone VERY special that would just love to talk to you.” Again, she ran into another one of my students at the pool who was dying to call her first grade teacher.

Now I am not writing this post to just tell these stories, but to again stress that while we may be relaxing and enjoying ourselves over the summer and various break, our students are thinking of us, and some are even counting down the days to come back to school. I am only going into my fourth year of teaching, but I have never been in contact with so many of my students before in one summer. I am so excited to see them shine in second grade. I am forever grateful for the relationships I built with them in first grade that allowed them to feel comfortable enough to connect with me over the summer. If you want to do something “perfect” next school year, make it building relationships.

Almost a Huge Hypocrite

—By Claudia Felske

Almost a Huge Hypocrite.

That’s me. Well, it was almost me.  

After reading a recent New York Times article on the notion of “smart failure,” I was ready to start next school year by giving each of my students a  “Failure Certificate.” After all, if it’s good enough for Smith College students, it’s good enough for my students. I had learned that these days, students at Smith, receive a  “Certificate of Failure” which reads:

“You are hereby authorized to screw up, bomb or fail at one or more relationships, hookups, friendships, texts, exams, extracurriculars or any other choices associated with college … and still be a totally worthy, utterly excellent human.”

How great would that be for my students? What a relief it would be, I reasoned, for these high-strung scholars, many with 4 or 5 AP classes and as many extra curricular activities on their docket—to receive permission to fail. “Brilliant!” I thought…until I gave it some more thought.

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What’s the snag? Doesn’t it make perfect sense? All the en vogue educational experts these days (Carol Dweck’s Mindset research and Angela Duckworth’s work on Grit) seem to be quantifying this wisdom, wisdom which common sense has long purported, namely that we necessarily learn and grow from failure. In order to grow, we must traverse our comfort zones, which often entails failing in order to acquire the kind of experience and first-hand wisdom that ultimately breeds success. We know this.

So then, what’s the problem? Why won’t I be handing out “Certificates of Failure” this fall?

Because the whole thing reeks of hypocrisy. Would Smith, Harvard, and Stanford students have been accepted into these prestigious schools had they lived by this motto? Would they be Ivy Leaguers today had their parents encouraged them to fail? To experiment? To disregard points and grades and test scores in favor of learning?

Is it the very institutions which have perpetuated the need for perfection the ones now hypocritically offering bandaids and ice cream cones to their bleeding victims?

The simple answer: yes. The only reason the solution of embracing failure is needed is because we, as educators, created the problem in the first place. The need to teach the value of failure exists precisely because we have created a high-stakes, grade-obsessed, avoid-failure-at-all-costs educational system to which a student stroll through platitude park is not the panacea.  

It should be no surprise that the institutions leading the charge to embrace failure (Smith, Harvard, Stanford, Princeton) are the most competitive universities around. The perfectionism, elitism, and cajolery required for acceptance into these schools are precisely the catalysts for the anxiety, depression, stress, and suicide rates which have necessitated the “fail up” movement.

Is it any wonder that it was Harvard and Stanford faculty who coined the term “failure deprived” to describe the students dotting their campuses “students (who) seemed unable to cope with simple struggles.” Through observing their students, they recognized the need to encourage productive failure, a need which arose directly from the game their students were forced to play in order to receive their highly-coveted acceptance letters.

More than a bit of hypocrisy here.

I was having tea with a parent the other day, the mother of lovely and extremely high achieving students. The expectations in their family are very high and very clear. She, too, had read the New York Times article and was pondering giving her children a copy of the “Certificate of Failure.”

And again, I couldn’t help but spot the thick coat of hypocrisy in her words. As a parent who expected 4.0’s, could a “Certificate of Failure,” no matter how well-intended, be given in good faith? As an AP English teacher, could I give my students a “Certificate of Failure” knowing that the reason they are in AP English in the first place is because they (and their families) do not subscribe to a “fail to learn” mentality, and that doing so would have likely precluded them from enrollment?

How many of us share our children’s failures as oft as their successes?

How many of us encourage our children to be artists…for a living?

How many of us encourage our children to learn…without grades in mind?

How many of us encourage our students to do what they love even there’s no spot for it on a resume?

The “fail gracefully” sentiment may be bantered about by administrators, teachers, and parents when they happen across an article in the New York Times, but its opposite is clearly expected on a day-to-day basis.

Perpetuating the “fail well” philosophy is sheer hypocrisy. It’s merely handing out band-aids and ice cream cones while ignoring the perpetual bleeding.

Here’s the real message: Maintain your 4.0, do well on ACT and SAT’s (or take them over repeatedly), do what it takes to get into a good college, land a good job, have a responsible life that ensures your economic stability and reflects well upon the rest of us. We can talk all we want about the value of “failing well,” but when our actions speak the opposite, perhaps its time to stop with the band-aids and ice cream cones.

Let’s call a spade a spade.

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Unless we’re willing to change the data-driven, high-stakes testing state of child-rearing and educating of which we’re complicit members, we cannot with clear conscience, talk about handing out “Certificates of Failure.”

 

Happy 4th of July!

 

Adobe Spark (98)

Milwaukee Public Museum’s 10th Annual Poetry Competition Theme Announced for 2017-2018

4762384399_9f80ff4168_oBy Elizabeth Jorgensen

Are you looking for an authentic writing opportunity for your students? One Wisconsin-wide writers’ market is the Milwaukee Public Museum’s annual poetry competition.

This competition, now in its tenth year (2017-2018), is open to all Wisconsin students in grades three through 12. In this competition, students are challenged to tell creative, original stories in a poem of 30 lines or less.

This authentic writing opportunity can fit naturally inside your English or social studies curriculum. And the museum has provided a Poetry Competition Teacher Lesson Guide to help with lesson planning and research.

Each year, the Milwaukee Public Museum’s poetry competition theme changes. During the 2015-2016 school year, students wrote about the ancient world. During 2016-2017, they tackled food. But no matter the theme, student poems should use creativity and originality—and the authenticity and history of their topic—within the poem.

According to the museum’s webpage, “To celebrate the tenth anniversary of Milwaukee Public Museum’s Student Poetry Competition, the theme for 2017-2018 is 10 at MPM. The theme focuses on ten iconic exhibits that highlight the Museum, its collections, and mission, and celebrate its legacy as one of the region’s most treasured cultural institutions.” The ten iconic exhibits are the Hebior Mammoth, Humpback Whale Skeleton, Streets of Old Milwaukee, Butterfly Vivarium, Hell Creek, Native American Pow Wow, Crow Indian Bison Hunt, Masai Lion Hunt, Crossroads of Civilization, and Japanese House and Garden.

Although students and teachers could visit the museum, online resources allow students to research and create original poems without leaving the classroom. Void of a rubric, students poems are “judged on creativity, originality, imagery, artistic quality, and sense of poetic expression.”

Previous year’s winning poems can be viewed on the museum’s webpage. The 2017-2018 deadline is April 27, 2018. Teachers can mail in submissions (MPM Poetry Competition, Richard Hedderman, Milwaukee Public Museum, Education Section, 800 West Wells Street, Milwaukee, WI 53233-1478) or submit submissions online here.

Home Safe and Sound… But Changed

use 3The students from our first-ever, COED-led study abroad trip to Peru have returned! After a month in Peru, all seven students have written extensively on their experiences as part of the course. However, you’ll find that their adventures outside of the classroom were just as educational.

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Read on to learn more about Claire, Addy, Sara, Amy, Liz, Amy, and Carrie have learned in their own words!

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The Last Day of School

1000w_q95By Stephanie Nicoletti

On Friday there was a certain buzz going around the school, the kids came in with happy faces and even teachers were grinning ear to ear; it was the last day of school. During our closing circle on the last day I told my students that I enjoyed every minute with them and absolutely loved watching them grow over the school year.

Each year I always get sad during our last closing circle, your students become a part of you after spending a year together. This year I even had a little one who had tears streaming from his face when the bell rang, he was so upset he did not want to leave the classroom. This made me sad of course, but it also made me realize that all of the work teachers do over the summer to prepare for the following school year does not go unnoticed.

I was making a list this morning of all of the things I wanted to accomplish this summer before the school year starts. The list is long and daunting, but then I remember the tears that were in my classroom on the last day and remind myself that everything teachers do, no matter how daunting it may seem, is always for the students. While this summer will be fun, relaxing and refreshing for students and teachers alike, do not forget to remember your students who are itching to come back to school!


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