All You Who Procrastinate

6261230701_7368aa73d6_bBy Dhanya Nair

Let me begin by admitting that I am a procrastinator, have been one for a long while now. The prospect of writing papers and preparing for tests somehow makes tidying my wardrobe, reading for leisure, and sleeping very tempting to me. I cannot trace the origins of this tenacious tendency of mine (probably because I have been a student for most of my existence), but can vividly remember several panic-stricken hours I endured because of it.

So, despite the anxiety and panic caused due to procrastination, why have I not been able to get rid of it completely? I think, the answer to this question lies in my fairly large arsenal of rationalizations for putting things off until the very last minute. One explanation is that after having spent a fairly large chunk of my life being a student, some intelligence native to that role has crept up on me, so I know which shortcuts to take while preparing for a test or writing a paper. Another rationalization is that I think I produce my best work when working under pressure. However, I know that not every task can be accomplished well if it is postponed. Perhaps the intermittent nature of positive reinforcement I have received by procrastinating makes me sustain it. An acquaintance of mine, who happens to be a counselor, once told me that rationalizations for procrastinating are self-sustaining lies.

I do not intend to make a case against procrastination here, however, for those who find procrastination to be a source of concern, using mindfulness might be useful. I have recently started being mindful about my tendency to put things off and feel that I have benefitted from attending to the psychological minutiae of procrastination. Being mindful about the potential costs and benefits of procrastinating can be a helpful start. Having said that, I do feel that no one should abandon their guilty pleasures completely; instead, realistically determining how much time a particular activity will take might do the trick. Attending to one’s visceral and psychological reactions to an imminent deadline might be useful to lessen the negative impact of procrastination. Take into account all the negative reactions you might experience when you can almost hear that deadline whooshing past you and work on mitigating them one at a time. Practicing mindfulness while indulging in pleasurable activities could amplify those experiences, so while watching a movie, make sure you are not thinking about what needs to be done next. The same applies to tasks like studying for a test or working on a presentation, being mindful of the task at hand makes us more productive. Mindfulness might seem counterintuitive in an age where multitasking seems to be the byword and stress, a badge of honor. However, I feel it is the best way to ensure one’s sanity in the long run. So, my fellow procrastinators, keep persevering mindfully! And, now, time for me to practice what I’ve preached and move on to my next assignment.

Hitting A Change Up

Frisbee_090719By Carl Anderson

For the last three summers, after I gave up working at Camp Lincoln for the whole summer for good, I have taught at Summer Splash at a Middle School, working with 3rd-7th graders (and for an hour a day this year with 4K and 5K kiddos). Now, I’m a High School English Teacher, so why on earth would I do that? Honestly, it’s because I love hitting the change up.  

During the school year, I teach 9th and 12th grade. For first semester, the freshmen getting used to high school are really hard to deal with. For second semester, senioritis sets in, and the seniors are rough. By the end of the year, I’m totally worn out. But I know I’d be bored out of my mind not working, and I’ve yet to find a job I like more than any job working with kids. So I decided to try Summer Splash. I’ve done reading interventions with students going in to high school (very similar to the school year), taught golf (3rd graders and golf clubs don’t always mix…), lacrosse, and added ultimate Frisbee this year. Working with a variety of ages, in classes that take everyone and especially with age groups I’m not as used to has made me a better teacher. I’ve become more patient (great to use with freshmen), more sympathetic and empathetic to middle and elementary school teachers, and I’ve had a ton of fun. I’m also reminded that while this is a great change up for eight weeks in the summer, I’m definitely meant to be a high school teacher for the full school year.  

For all you teachers out there that might get a chance to work with a wildly different age group that you’re used to for the summer, I’d totally recommend it. You learn plenty, you’ll probably be better with that group than you think, and, hey, you could end up like me and play ultimate Frisbee for two hours a day, which is not a bad gig at all. 

Moving

17233058042_b2a96148e4_bBy Sabrina Bartels

My husband and I recently decided to take the next step in our adult lives and buy a house. It’s been a stressful whirlwind of an adventure, but nothing comes close to the sheer panic of trying to box up everything in our apartment and get it ready to move. There is definitely an art to packing things, and in between all the bubble wrap, packing tape, and cardboard boxes, I will be thankful when we’re done. In fact, I’ve decided that I never want to see a cardboard box again (unless it contains a pizza.)

Moving can trigger a lot of memories and emotions for people. While I’m remembering certain events about moving – being homesick, my father helping me wrestle a futon up a flight of stairs – I am also remembering what made each of these “homes” unique. I think about my parents’ home, which will always be “home” to me, no matter how far away I travel, and how that place is my constant: the place that reminds me of my childhood and the wonderful memories I have there. I remember the college dorms I lived in, with Grey’s Anatomy viewing parties and lofted beds so we could maximize the space, where I learned how to live with others. I fondly recall my days in my first apartment, where four of my best friends and I lived for two years, where I really began to assert my independence and become an adult. And then I think about the apartment I am in now, and all the memories attached to it: getting married, expanding my cooking horizons, and hosting Thanksgiving dinner.

With all of these things going on in my head during this move, I think about how hard it must be for my students to move on from middle school. They have established memories and an identity within the middle school’s walls; now, they are off on a new adventure. They will be meeting new people, building new relationships, and trying new things. And while I can’t speak for all of my students, I can’t help but wonder if some of them will be “homesick” for middle school. Despite the fact that middle school can be the toughest years of anyone’s life, my students know middle school. They’re comfortable with it. They know what to expect; well, as much as you can while in the ever-changing dynamic of 8th grade.

I also think about my incoming 6th grade students, who are moving in to middle school. Similar to my outgoing 8th grade class, they are leaving the comfortable environment of elementary school and entering a whole new world. I can only imagine the anxiety that some of them feel while transitioning. What will middle school be like? Will I make friends? Will I like my teachers? How will it be different than elementary school, and how will it be the same? I also think about the students that may be moving into this district; they are entering a place where a lot of the students have known each other from a young age. They may worry about fitting in or finding their own voice.

Finally, I think about all the moves occurring among my teachers. Some teachers will be “moving in” to the school this year, which will hopefully be an exciting time for them. If they are new teachers, they will experience the joy of having their own classroom, planning their own lessons, making their own place within the district and within the school. If the teachers are coming from other buildings, they will be able to enjoy new faces, new students, and new adventures within the building. And for the teachers who are staying, they will be anticipating a “move” that involves new dynamics in the building. Schools are constantly changing and evolving to do what is best for students, and this year is no different. Without a doubt, it is still a “move” that will involve change, and change isn’t always easy.

I remember telling my husband that moving wasn’t interesting, and wondering how I could make it fit in with counseling and my students. But in truth, I guess it does. It has made me stop and think about how each of my students are moving into middle school. Moving to a house and moving into another level of school are both a major transition, but I think my students and I can handle it together.

Advice to New Teachers From Someone Who’s Been There

nicoletti-useBy Stephanie Nicoletti

“The best thing about teaching is that it matters. The hardest part about teaching is that it matters every day.”

This quote is from Todd Whitaker – I had the pleasure of hearing him speak last month along with many other education experts. This quote sums up everything being an educator means. I am so excited to start blogging for The Marquette Educator. I want to share ideas that I learn from others and create a network of life-long learning. I am going to start with some reflection from my first year of teaching and advice for those going into their first year.

I walked into my second grade classroom as a brand new teacher, wondering what this career would bring. I felt my classes at Marquette taught me everything I needed to know about literacy, math and how to write extremely thorough lesson plans. My biggest concern: classroom management. I kept thinking to myself, “Any student teaching I did, the cooperating teacher set up routines, we did not have a classroom management class, oh my gosh, what if they eat me alive?”

Other staff members kept admiring and questioning my room layout: carpet in the middle, desks formed into tables around the carpet. It was an open concept with flexible seating. I wondered why there was so much amazement with this layout. I soon realized this was new to some of my colleagues. In other rooms, desks covered the floors in rows. Then, September 1st came around. I taught the students how to choose a good place to sit, built extremely strong relationships with my students, and made learning hands-on. Behaviors seemed to diminish, and students whose past teachers seemed to dread and talk negatively about began to flourish. As I reflected, providing choice in the classroom, an open layout, and building strong relationships is the key to effective classroom management. This is more than anything I would have learned in a pre-service education class.

I am a novice teacher and am learning every day, so my message to brand new teachers is this: you will question everything you implement. Always be confident in what Marquette has taught you and trust your gut. You know more than you think you do, but stay humble enough to know when to ask for help. Be flexible, build relationships, and watch how your students grow immensely.

 

Fighting Summer (L)earning Loss with the Paid Summer Internship

maxresdefaultBy Nick McDaniels

This summer, a number of my students are participating in summer internships at law firms and a public agencies. These students, from the sound of the messages they have sent me are learning a ton, working harder than they have ever worked, and generally, having a good time.

Some students received internships through the prestigious Law Links Summer Internship Program, a program that should be duplicated in every city and state. Others made connections on their own or through relationships they built through my classes.

Of course, I am very proud of these talented young men and women. But the big picture is this: my students are spending their summer Learning extremely valuable skills in a professional environment while improving their legal knowledge and Earning cash.

And we read this time of year, every year, about Summer Learning Loss. It is real. It happens (to teachers as much as students). But when students become teenagers, the learning loss often is more voluntary, or rather a result of a carefully calculated cost benefit analysis: The more time I spend in the library, the less time I can spend making money to buy my school clothes. The choice for most high school students is clear.  Work Now; Learn Later.

We change the choice, however, by providing more professional summer internship opportunities for high school students. The more we can provide paid internship opportunities for students in work environments that will tap into a student’s learning potential as much as a student’s earning potential.

It’s time to ask our professional businesses around our schools to hire one of our students every summer so students have the choice to learn while they earn.

 

Tales are forever…

talesBy Dhanya Nair

Last week, I ambled to the Milwaukee public library to get some books for my three-year-old nephew. I was pleased at the wide variety of children’s books at the library; along with Snow White and Cinderella, there were folk tales from South America and Africa and books which focused on the experiences of immigrant children. As I browsed through rows of fairy tales, folk tales, animal tales, nature tales, mysteries, and tales of horror, I felt a twinge of excitement. I was surprised at my excitement because I was not engaging in anything new; libraries have always been my safe haven. Later, I realized that I was excited because I was going to be the controller-of-tales. I would influence my nephew’s flights of imagination during his short stay at my home.

I found myself thinking about the tales I used to read as a child; Enid Blyton’s Famous Five used to be one of my favorite books. The Famous Five was about four siblings and their dog: Julian, Dick, Anne, Georgina (George), and Timmy (the canine). They would routinely find themselves involved in a local mystery during their vacations. Nothing about their geographic settings were familiar to me; they often sought adventure in places like Wales and Cornwall and ate scones, jam tarts, cold cuts, roast potatoes, and kidney pies. I remember being fascinated by the adventures of the five, and today I marvel at their amazing ability to transport me to a place which was inaccessible to me. The Indian tales which I used to read always had an element of magic in them, whether they were from the Ramayana, Mahabharata, Jataka, or Panchatantra.

Magic is the word I associate most with childhood tales, these tales are often also associated with an emotional landscape. When I reflect back on my childhood, I remember the stories and rhymes which my aunt and mother narrated to coax me to eat food or fall asleep. I also vividly remember the eagerness with which I would await cartoons and other kids’ shows on Sundays (my childhood was spent in simpler times, when delayed gratification was the rule and not the exception). Tales are also often the perfect gateway to a rich alternate world, where most children find comfort and refuge. My nephew is adept at pretend-play and often adopts the voices and words of the characters from his beloved tales.

My fascination with tales is child-like, however, I am not ashamed at admitting that they hold a strong sway over me. Tales are powerful, the world around us is filled with them. They not only serve as vehicles of morals and values for children, but also reflect the times we live in. Salman Rushdie conveys the importance of tales in his wonderful book, Haroun and the Sea of Stories. In the book, Haroun’s father, Rashid, is a master storyteller and is much sought after by political parties to weave positive stories about their candidates. Rashid is called the “shah of blah” in the book and I will always remain grateful to the various “shahs of blah” whom I have encountered in my life.

Photo Jul 07, 10 30 07 AMBy Charlotte Adnams
As part of this year’s emphasis on writing in the Live to Dream Summer Reading Program, the students have been working on their own “All About Me” writing project. The last hour of instruction each day is focused on the students working through and strengthening their writing skills with a project where they are encouraged to write about themselves and what they enjoy. The “Wade Coaches” have been working with students on the writing process of brainstorming, organizing, drafting, editing, and revising.

“Reading and writing go hand in hand,” Christine Reinders, who has played an integral role in planning for the writing portion of the program, mentions. As one of the mentors to the “Wade Coaches,” she has been able to guide these educators in helping their students gain confidence and engage in the writing process. The students are given a space to grow in their writing skills and explore aspects of their life while gaining a “positive disposition of writing,” Reinders adds. Each student is given a digital camera to snap pictures of their family members, pets, sports they play, and even hobbies to pair with their writings.

This is the first year that the program has incorporated the writing project. The students in last year’s program worked through an integrated art project based on the work of artist Romare Bearden. The “All About Me” writing project gives these young students a platform for writing. As writing is a key part of communication and it is strongly linked to reading, this dedicated time to guiding students in their development aids students in their skills and confidence. While the students are making the final edits and revisions to their writing project, they show pride in their hard work and excitement in what they have achieved!

After a morning of reading and writing, the students take a well earned snack break and play with the parachute at Central Mall.

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