Get Involved: From Milwaukee to Cape Town

By Charlotte Adnams

Something that I really appreciate about Marquette’s College of Education is the immediate immersion into the elementary, middle, or high school settings. Throughout these couple years, I have been able to work with students of different age groups, diverse needs, and school districts across Milwaukee. Because of these experiences of working with different students, it has encouraged me to become more involved and exploring of other volunteer opportunities where I can work with students.

1 There are so many groups across Marquette’s campus that focus on volunteering and mentor programs. Whether it be working on math with high school students during the week, or doing arts and crafts with young 1st and 2nd graders, there are many opportunities to get learn more from the students across Milwaukee’s schools. To find a program or organization that best suits you, the Marquette Involvement page is helpful or check the bulletins with bright, numerous postings throughout Schroeder Complex.

2 Start your own group! Each Friday at the beginning of my college career was spent among dozens of 1st-4th grade students at an inner city elementary school. At the after school program I mentored various young students while we completed an art activity. All of this was possible because a group of passionate Marquette students formed the group just a few years before. Grab a few other friends and start something you think can make a difference (hint: you can do something great and you will make a difference!).

3 Embark on an opportunity that takes you somewhere new, boosting your skills and understanding of the importance of educational diversity. One opportunity is the Marquette Action Program (M.A.P.) where Marquette students venture across the country during Spring Break learning and acting upon justice issues, one of the many including education.

Another is a program that I came across at the end of my sophomore year from a COED newsletter. One Heart Source (OHS) has “designed and operated volunteer programs for university students who seek to broaden their context of humanity and the world through results-oriented service learning.” The experience I had with One Heart Source in Cape Town, South Africa was completely unique, empowering, and honestly life changing. I was able to mentor a student individually and in small groups throughout the time that I was there, and then engage in dialogue with fellow OHS members and leaders. I highly encourage this experience, and taking a peak around their website).

Photo from One Heart Source

Expanding our education opportunities can be so beneficial and can broaden our experience diversities, so get out there and explore the many options across Milwaukee (and the world)!

How to be a Hero

superhero-296963_960_720By Sabrina Bartels

Confession: I love football season. I don’t know if it’s because football usually means fall (my favorite season) or if my dad’s zealous attitude towards football has rubbed off on me. Maybe it’s a combination of both! Either way, I look forward to it. To me, a perfect fall day consists of football on TV, paninis on the stove, and a fire in the fireplace.

In addition to loving the sport of football, I love hearing some of the wonderful things football players do in their free time. I’m sure most people have seen JJ Watt on commercials for American Family Insurance, or have heard about DeAndre Hopkins donating school supplies to students in his hometown. For me though, the best thing I heard was about Florida State University football player Travis Rudolph.

If you haven’t heard the story, several FSU football players were visiting a middle school in Tallahassee. During the visit, Rudolph noticed a child eating by himself in the lunchroom. After grabbing food, Rudolph asked if he could sit with the student, who said yes. Someone snapped the photo of the two, and sent it to the boy’s mother.

Her Facebook post is inspirational and definitely tugs at the heartstrings. She started by saying:

Several times lately I have tried to remember my time in middle school, did I like all my teachers, do I even remember them? Did I have many friends? Did I sit with anyone at lunch? Just how mean were kids really?

She then talks about how her son is autistic. She said that while it can be overwhelming and scary to have him in middle school, she is sometimes “grateful” for his autism because it protects him from how harsh middle school can be.

He doesn’t seem to notice when people stare at him when he flaps his hands. He doesn’t seem to notice that he doesn’t get invited to birthday parties anymore. And he doesn’t seem to mind if he eats lunch alone. It’s one of my daily questions for him. Was there a time today you felt sad? Who did you eat lunch with today? Sometimes the answer is a classmate, but most days it’s nobody. Those are the days I feel sad for him, but he doesn’t seem to mind.

Finally, she talked about how she felt when she heard about Travis Rudolph eating lunch with her son.

A friend of mine sent this beautiful picture to me today and when I saw it with the caption “Travis Rudolph is eating lunch with your son” I replied “who is that?” He said “FSU football player,” then I had tears streaming down my face. Travis Rudolph, a wide receiver at Florida State, and several other FSU players visited my son’s school today. I’m not sure what exactly made this incredibly kind man share a lunch table with my son, but I’m happy to say that it will not soon be forgotten. This is one day I didn’t have to worry if my sweet boy ate lunch alone, because he sat across from someone who is a hero in many eyes.

This made me smile for so many reasons. For the past few years, my school has been working on providing resources for students who are autistic. I have been working a little more closely with my students who have autism, and it has really opened my eyes to the struggles they have on a daily basis. Some students who have autism miss social cues. Some do not understand how to enter a conversation, or struggle to maintain a conversation. It breaks my heart when middle school students make comments or tease them, not knowing how hard it can be for them.

But it also made me smile because it showed how powerful one person can be. Just by sitting and eating pizza with a young boy, Travis Rudolph showed the world that he is a hero for more than just playing football. He is a hero for showing a little love and compassion to another human being. He is a hero for remembering what it’s like to be in middle school, and how harsh it can feel to not have anyone sitting with you.

So today, go sit with someone who is sitting alone. Reach out to someone who may not have a lot of friends. Do the right thing, and you can be a hero just like Travis Rudolph!

 

The Brave New World of Today’s K-12 Student

september_11th_tribute_in_light_from_bayonne_new_jerseyBy Nick McDaniels

This year, as we mark the 15th anniversary of the events of September 11, 2001, it is apparent to me that today’s K-12 students have grown up in a post-9/11 world. Even the 18 to 20-year-olds have very few memories before that day, which, for me and many others, changed the way we operate in America.

You see, in today’s student’s world, profiling of arab-appearing people in the airport is the norm. Government tapping of phone calls and emails is the norm. So too are the seemingly unrelated experiences with high stakes testing of No Child Left Behind and later iterations.

Such a perspective that today’s students hold is worrisome for teachers my age and older. You see, my historical perspective is shaped by the way the world seemed before 9/11 and the way the world seemed after.

I cannot relate this dichotomy in a meaningful way to students without it seeming like “up hill both ways” nostalgia, which it surely isn’t. The world really changed in 2001 at an acute moment in time. This was not a slow, gradual, cultural shift.  The world was one way on September 10th, 2001, and then quite another by September 12.

I’m not sure what our duties are to our students regarding the world before and after, but it is an observation worth noting when it comes to helping students understand the world around them.

 

A Back to School Image

School_bag_backpackBy Peggy Wuenstel

The day we broke camp near the end of our Colorado vacation, I glanced at the campsite of our neighbors, a large extended family that had arrived late in the evening the night before, and were all still asleep in their assorted tents and campers. As we moved quietly, whispering, and closing car doors gently, I noticed something I hadn’t seen the night before. Lined up on the seat of the bench of the picnic table were several brightly colored school backpacks, each with a water bottle that obviously held their gear for this family vacation. I couldn’t help but smile, and the teacher in me kicked into high gear. These packs looked new, but where, I wondered, would they be in a few short weeks? What would they be filled with then?

I hoped those kids would be toting those same bags off to school with new pencils and clean-slate notebooks. But I also hoped somewhere in the bottoms would be some campground sand and lodge pole pine needles. More importantly, I hope they will be filled with memories of their great family vacation. And, I regret that I never thought to do the same with my own boys, now grown men with children of their own. How wonderful it would have been to break-in their back-to-school backpacks with an adventure to close out the summer. Some of those years were memorable travels, others staycations due to time and budget constraints, but each would have afforded the opportunity to imprint some summer mementos on back-to-school gear. Perhaps it is not too late to do this with my grandkids – the fourth begins her 4K experience this year and the eldest starts high school.

Paradoxically, we had our own ritual, but it was more about discarding the old rather than packing in the new. I bought all their new socks and underwear at the back-to school sales (They get earlier every year don’t they?).When we packed for our vacation, I took the grayest, loosest elastic garments they had. We left them behind at every hotel or campground garbage can, and the kids took particular delight in letting go of the old socks and the old year. Bonus: I had much less laundry on our return. One of my last vacation preparations was to stock the freshly washed new socks in their drawers to welcome them home. The new start to school began then, and we amassed the supplies and new clothes needed for the coming year. After nearly 35 years in the classroom, this will be the last year, and I have vowed to use up what I have accumulated over the years. I bought nothing but new dry erase markers, a planner, and boxes of Kleenex to begin my last year. Because I am a borderline hoarder, I have plenty of backstock to carry me through the year, regardless of how tempting 19 cent spiral notebooks might be. The ritual is different, and yet the same, a sad goodbye to the joys of summer and a welcome jump into the new year. Just maybe, this year, those two parts of life fit more closely together.

September should remind us that it is not just what we take away from school that is important. It is also what we bring to it. It’s not just the erasers and crayons or the new graphing calculator. It’s not just the new shoes and haircuts and first day of school photos. It’s the memories, the world view, the positive impacts of travel and self study, the support of a loving family that fill in the gaps that school alone cannot. It’s what helps kids find their niche, and then helps them learn how to fill it. It helps them set goals that are personal and directly tied to what makes them curious, happy, and ultimately of service to the world.

Loyal readers, this will also be my last year of blog posts on a regular basis. My husband and I are taking what we call the grand adventure next year. I’ll retire from my school district in June after 15 wonderful years here with people I love. But there is a bigger world out there to see and experience that is not always compatible with a school calendar. Before my arthritic joints are too stiff to take me where I want to go, we will see the country in a travel trailer, likely for a full year. We are selling our Wisconsin home and all those possessions we do not feel to be essential and hitting the road. Phone service and internet access will be spotty, so posting seems a tough commitment to keep. But I promise to send something in when I find a topic, observation, or heartbreak that needs sharing. I had the honor of meeting poet and education activist Tyler Mali in July, and he reports in his book, What Teachers Make, “What I do know is that since leaving the classroom, I’ve never stopped teaching. Everything I do is a kind of lesson, even if I am the only person who learns it.” I intend to be a big learner. Throughout the school year to come, I have chosen to write around a theme for the first time. Inspired by the chorus of Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi, I’ll write about those wonderful things that I do know that I have, before they are gone. Next year’s pack up will be enormous; this year’s is just as important, though smaller in scale.

So line up those backpacks, fill them with the tools for an end of summer adventure, and I’ll meet you at the school door for one last September.

 

A Few Tips on Parent Involvement

i_hate_homework_by_ohnina-d3eoaxuBy Stephanie Nicoletti

For most of us, school has only been in session a week or two. One of the biggest indicators of student success in school is parent involvement at home. This sometimes is not realistic though, not because they do not care, but because they work more than one job, work night shifts, and simply are trying to make a living for their family. So often in high poverty schools, teachers simply give up  on trying to get parents involved, and as a teacher in such a school I am always reflecting on what will be best:

Inviting parents INTO the classroom: Last year I decided to have a publishing party after a writing unit. I invited parents into the classroom to celebrate their child’s work. I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of parents that came in and celebrated their child. This was such a confidence booster and gave our students purpose for their work.

Homework: Homework does NOT need to be a daily occurrence. Not only does it have zero effect on school success, but homework will not get done in a household that has other more important priorities like getting dinner on the table. Students should be engaged enough in the classroom that homework is not necessary.

Simple Newsletters: Sending a simple bi-weekly or monthly classroom newsletter can give families an abundance of information.

Positive Phone Calls: Keeping parents in the loop for positives will make a negative phone call much easier. Parents need to know their children are valued and being a positive role model at school. When parents who may seem “uninvolved” get positive communication from school and then relay that to their child, parents and students feel valued.

 

 

 

Great Teachers, Mediocre Shoes

no-heels-2Would you rather have a great teacher with mediocre shoes or a mediocre teacher with great shoes?

I’m thinking (hoping) nearly 100% would choose the former.

Admittedly, the question is not quite fair: it’s not an either/or. One can, after all, be a great teacher with great shoes (I would offer my friend Kristin as a prime example). And, I would like to think that for much of my career, I too was a great teacher with great shoes.

Now, however, as I begin my 24th year in the classroom, I strive to be a great teacher with mediocre shoes. I am no longer in the business of donning spectacular shoes at school.  

You see, last year mid-December, I was at an out-of-town conference when my feet retaliated against 22 ½ years of daily heel wearing. For no reason clear to me at the time, by the end of the day, I  literally hopped back to my hotel room, my left foot painful to the touch.  Anti-inflammatories were my short term cure; sensible shoes have been my long term solution.

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My former workwear (no longer in my life): high heels and low support.

My teaching tip this month? Wear sensible shoes!

Why?

  1. Your feet are your foundation. The average teacher takes 4,726 steps per day at school, the equivalent of climbing the staircase in the Empire State Building three times! The realization that I made that trip, in heels, for 20+ years makes me feel more than a bit foolish.
  2. Girl Power: We know that becoming good at anything is the result of hard work, reflection, and incremental improvement, not great shoes. Let’s model for our female students that we are more than just our footwear. Astonishingly, the American Podiatric Medical Association found that 42% of women say they will wear a shoe they like even if it causes them pain. To that, we must say “Yikes!” and “Never again!”
  3. Be Good to Yourself. We try to drink more water, eat less processed foods, exercise, floss…why not also wear shoes that won’t hurt our long-term mobility?  
  4. K.I.S.S.: Keep it Simple Stupid. Throwing on comfortable outfit and sensible shoes in the morning will get you to work fifteen minutes earlier which will make you more effective all day long.
  5. As educators, we are always looking at data to learn about student achievement and student needs. Why aren’t we also “data-driven” about ourselves. Data shows that the angle a high heel nullifies our natural shock absorbing abilities, stiffens our achilles tendons, shortens  ankle and calf tendons, and changes our natural gait (Women’s Health).  Dr. Sajid Surve of the American Osteopath Association writes “The effects aren’t limited to the feet; it’s not unusual for people who spend lots of time in high heels to have low back, neck and shoulder pain because the shoes disrupt the natural form of the body.” The data is clear: down with high heels, up with arch support.
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My new-and-improved school shoes: low heal, high support.

This is why, educators far and wide, I implore you to be a great teacher with mediocre shoes.

 

Teachers to the rescue

nairBy Dhanya Nair

This Labor Day weekend was all about being a couch potato for me. My husband and I binge-watched Stranger Things on Netflix though I was occasionally troubled by guilt pangs about impending readings for school. Stranger Things is set in the 1980’s and revolves around four pre-teen nerdy boys who love playing dungeons and dragons. One of the four boys goes missing one evening, and the plot quickly thickens with secret government spy-operations, teen romances, an alternate dimension (the upside down), and a blood-thirsty creature which reaches through walls.

The show harks back to simpler times when children had to rely on board games for entertainment, books for edification and flights of fantasy, and teachers–not google–to understand constructs. In their quest for their lost missing friend, the three boys are aided by a girl with psychic powers, a dedicated police officer, and concerned family members; but, for me, the star of the whole operation was Mr. Clarke, the boys’ science teacher. The boys accost him at a funeral for understanding how an alternate dimension can exist and be accessed, use the audio-visual equipment he furnishes their school with, and even call him on a weekend night to build a sensory deprivation chamber! Phew! Mr. Clarke! Of course, the boys were logically sound and hence were able to understand and execute their teacher’s instructions flawlessly. The only time I ever called my science teacher was when I tried to make soap at home in an aluminum container and realized science could never be my calling!

Mr. Clarke was the unsung hero of the show for me because he simplified theories for his students, encouraged curiosity, made himself available to his students even during his time off, was compassionate towards his students’ developmental tasks, and reinforced faith in the power of science. Having said all this, Mr. Clarke’s depiction in the show did seem simplistic to me. However, I do wish I had a science teacher like him. Maybe, I am doing a disservice to all my teachers by wishing this. My teachers have helped me fight all sorts of Demogorgon, I have relied heavily on them in the past for understanding the world around me, and still rely on them to correct my grammar, equip me with ideas, bolster me with kindness, and provide me with words of wisdom. If knowledge is power, then all those teachers who consider teaching their true calling are superheroes, my kind anyway!


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