Archive for the 'Alumni Voices' Category

Counselor Book Review – Mockingbird

books-933333_960_720By Sabrina Bartels

Near the end of the school year, several of the staff members at my school decided to form a book club. However, we did not pick up the latest adult novel and dive in. Instead, we decided to focus on young adult and children’s literature. We compiled a list of books – some old classics and some newer ones as well – and picked those that we thought would help us gain insight into our students. We also chose books that we thought our students would enjoy reading, since getting students to read is crucial to their academic success. And trust me, there were a lot of books to choose from!

The first book we chose was called Mockingbird, by Kathryn Erskine, and I found myself learning so much from this novel. I’ll start by saying this: I think every educator should read Mockingbird. Anyone who regularly works with kids should buy or borrow a copy. You’ll be so glad you did.

Mockingbird is narrated by ten-year-old Caitlin, who has just lost her brother in a school shooting. What makes Caitlin so incredibly unique as a narrator is that she has Asberger Syndrome, which is on the autism spectrum. Many describe Asberger Syndrome as being part of the higher functioning end of the spectrum. Oftentimes, those with Asberger’s (and autism in general) struggle with social communication. In the book, Caitlin experiences difficulty with understanding people’s emotions based on their facial expressions. She also has very black-or-white thinking; everything is either right or wrong, with no in-between. As you go through the book, you are able to see Caitlin’s thought process for certain events, which had a huge impact on me. It really opened my eyes to how some of my students with autism may be thinking or feeling.

I remember learning a lot about autism during my undergrad years, but you can only learn so much from textbooks. This past year, I started working closely with a student who has autism. Similar to Caitlin, he is high functioning and very intelligent, but struggles with social communication. There are times when he and his teachers — or he and I — don’t see eye to eye, despite all of our best attempts. I remember he and I frequently talked about why he had to complete a certain assignment when he already knew and understood the material. I also remember an incident where he refused to give up his cell phone, even though he was using it in the locker room (where phones are not allowed.) When I explained that we can’t have cell phones in locker rooms for privacy reasons and that people sometimes take inappropriate pictures, he said that he should be allowed to have his phone because he would never do that.

Though Caitlin does not experience the same situations in the book, there are times when I feel like her inner dialogue may explain my own student’s thoughts and feelings. Being able to read how her logic plays out makes me understand my student better. Seeing how Caitlin reacts to situations – and seeing how those situations mirror my student’s situations – really helps me understand what I can do to be a better counselor for my students with autism and Asberger’s. I’ve learned that having a facial expressions chart could be very helpful for my students who struggle labeling their emotions. I can continue to demonstrate and model appropriate social behavior (looking at someone, listening with my whole body, etc.) I can continue to work with parents and outside therapists, which is a huge component to student success. By having everyone on the same page, you are better able to meet the needs of the student and ensure that you are all giving a consistent message. Finally, I learned that patience really is key. If Caitlin’s counselor, father, and teacher were not as patient, I don’t think Caitlin would’ve made the growth she did. It made me feel better to realize that I am not the only one who sometimes struggles with patience, and that I as a counselor am not alone in this.

But this book is not only for adults. I think this book could make a world of difference to a student who has Asberger’s. It shows them that they are not alone. Sometimes, my student believes that he is the only one who experiences what he does, and the only one who has to get through a school day with Asberger’s. This would show him that there are others who go through similar struggles that he does. But it also promotes empathy from other students. Children who read the book will see how Caitlin reacts to various situations. They may then later see a student in their classroom who has a similar reaction. My hope is that they will remember the story Mockingbird and be kinder to others. After all, a little kindness and understanding can go a long way.

We Hold These Truths to be Self-Evident

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By Patrick R. Johnson

As educators, we oftentimes come to this vocation by a calling—thus why I would call our craft a vocation rather than a profession. While this calling comes in different ways and at different times, the bells it rings in our heads is one of many things that unites us. My bells rang quite literally upon my first campus visit to Marquette, a very delayed one at that. I always knew I wanted to be a teacher, but what I wanted to teach was massively in conflict: do I become a biology teacher because I loved the scientific method and studying life, or do I do what many told me not to—become a journalism teacher. I heard the bells of Marquette Hall on my way to visit Johnston Hall; despite the rainy day, the bells gave light to where I belonged. I chose the road less traveled and you should too.

Journalism (and media as a greater umbrella) is the Fourth Estate—the checks and balances to the government as a whole. Journalism is the truth, despite what some who are being checked by the Fourth Estate may continue to argue. Journalism is the voice for the voiceless, the sounding board for the unspoken and the gatekeeper for all that is good and evil. Yet, especially now more than when I began my journey against the grain as a journalism teacher, journalism isn’t what it should be allowed to be and I argue that in order to change that we need to put journalism and media education back into our schools.

That all men are created equal

It is in teaching our students that equality can only be granted when we’re willing to critique ourselves and our systems that we truly will learn. In media production classrooms, we promote social justice and awareness by challenging our students to engage with and produce content about those who have been silences—unearthing the truths that have been buried for so long.

When we teach news and media literacy, we ask our students to curiously question who produced a piece, who runs the organization, or who guides the message; what the message says and how the message says it; when the message is created and for whom it was created for; and why.

To promote and ensure the equality that was granted to us in the confines of the Declaration of Independence, we must first ask why we are afforded these rights in the first place and who helps provide us with them. Media classes do just that.

That they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights

Media classrooms are the “Four Cs of 21st Century Learning” and endow our students with the unalienable rights associated with a strong and sustainable education. Students in media classrooms learn to communicate beyond a screen and reignite a passion to care about one another. Students in media classrooms challenge the system using critical thinking skills that are developed in their analysis of media, their creation of content, and their questioning of ethics. Students in media classrooms engage in collaboration daily as they must work together to produce a product, one that is public and out there for all to see (and critique). Students in media classrooms invoke creativity not just in the work, but also in their leadership and passions. These Cs guarantee student success and push them to reach their maximum potential inside and outside of the classroom.

That among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness

In an age where journalists are under fire, quite literally as we recently saw with the shooting at the Capital Times, fastening our students with weapons of truth and language and thought are more necessary than ever. Journalism programs around the country are being cut, teachers are being released from their contracts, and kids are going without a proper education of their First Amendment freedoms because there is a fear that journalism endangers the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Instead of fearing what this experience produces, we should deeply consider what this experience can afford our students—the future of America. Instead of fearing that journalism will take away our rights, we should be embracing the unknown and pushing for our rights to be celebrated, honored and respected.

We must renew our trust in journalism, a vocation that is foundational to the American Dream. It starts with an education and it starts with us. Help champion the cause for truth by either investing in journalism or media classes in our schools, or bringing them back if they’ve sadly disappeared. We need declare our independence by reigniting our passion for and discovery of knowledge. Join the cause because journalism is going to be the only thing to make America great again.

Give Your Writing A Dash—of Creativity

writing-675083_960_720By Elizabeth Jorgensen

Earlier today, a student raised his hand and said, “You commented on my paper that I should be using the dash, but I’m actually using a hyphen. But I don’t know how to make the dash.”

I said, “I know Google Docs is not set up to make it, so you will need to modify your settings so you can turn – into — .”

Although an en (word-space-hyphen-space-word) dash and em (word-hyphen-hyphen-word) dash are automatically created in Word, they’re not in Google Docs (where my students craft and submit drafts). At this point, I paused class and asked each student to set up the em dash on his or her Google Doc preferences.

A student Googled how to do this. He said, “Go to tools, then preferences, then add the two hyphens in the left column that says ‘replace’ and paste the em dash into the right side that says ‘with’.”

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To paste the em dash, students went to “insert” and then “special characters” and typed “em dash” where it says “search.” This allowed them to copy and paste the em dash into the “with” column. I told students they could also paste the em dash from a different document or from a website that used the dash. I reminded students they needed to select “save” in order for the changes to update.

After updating Google Doc preferences, students went into a Google Doc, keyed in two hyphens and saw the dash automatically created. When some students couldn’t make the dash, others commented they needed to “hit the spacebar.”

One student with a Mac said she uses “shift-option-dash” to create the em dash in both Google and Word. I said, “Depending on your device, you might need a different keystroke.” I told my students to Google “How to make the em dash on [insert your device/program here]” if they still struggled to create the em or en dash on their device and/or document.

Then, I spent time reviewing the different dashes. I projected examples so the students could visually see the difference as well as the dashes and hyphen in context. I said, “The em (—) dash is the longest; en dash (–) is slightly shorter; even shorter is the hyphen (-). Remember, the dashes are different from a hyphen which connects compounded words like Wi-Fi or e-mail. And an en dash is used with numbers or dates (as in July–October 2010 or 1999–2002) while the em dash is what you’re frequently using in sentences.” Students then wrote sentences that used the em dash, en dash and the hyphen.

The em dash is what I primarily focus on in my classroom. At the beginning of each semester, my students read excerpts from On Writing Well by William Zinsser. In his “Bits & Pieces” chapter, he discusses the dash:

Somehow this invaluable tool is widely regarded as not quite proper—a bumpkin at the genteel dinner table of good English. But it has full membership and will get you out of many tight corners. The dash is used in two ways. One is to amplify or justify in the second part of the sentence a thought you stated in the first part. “We decided to keep going—it was only 100 miles more and we could get there in time for dinner.” By its very shape the dash pushes the sentence ahead and explains why they decided to keep going. The other use involves two dashes, which set apart a parenthetical thought within a longer sentence. “She told me to get in the car—she had been after me all summer to have a haircut—and we drive silently into town.” An explanatory detail that might otherwise have required a separate sentence is dispatched along the way.

My students and I discuss how and why a writer might use dashes instead of commas, parentheses, or colons. We discuss the value of varied punctuation and the effect each piece of punctuation can have on readers. And on this particular day, I reviewed the differences in the em and en dash as well as the hyphen. I am hoping this mini, impromptu lesson will inspire students to dash into drafting with a greater understanding of punctuation—and how to both make and use it correctly.

 

Keeping the counselor: Why We are Important

296-1246152442owjrBy Sabrina Bartels

One of my best friends came back to Wisconsin for a quick visit, and I managed to catch her for a “girls afternoon” before she returned home to Colorado. Over lunch and a quick trip to the mall, my friend reminded me that I was always welcome to come out to visit her and her family in Colorado. Inspired by this thought, I googled Colorado to see what exciting things I could do. One of the first things that popped up today was an article from The Hechinger Report, which submitted their writings to U.S. News & World Report.

The article was entitled “Colorado Boosts Funding for School Counselors,” which I immediately began to peruse. It talks about how Colorado is spending more money to hire 270 more counselors, in addition to providing professional development training for their middle and high schools. Since the school started increasing funding for counselors and their related services, graduation rates have increased, dropout rates have declined, and more students are completing financial aid and going on to some sort of education or training beyond high school. Finally, the article touches on how many districts have school counselors on the chopping block when budgets become tight, because what they do is not always well known.

It made me proud to see that Colorado is making a move to increase the number of counselors in their schools. I may be a little biased, but what counselors do is extremely important. Between building relationships, helping teach students critical life skills, and being available for any kind of crisis imaginable, we wear so many different hats and play so many different roles that it’s hard to imagine what would happen without us! But I also understand where people are coming from in the sense that they may not know what a counselor’s job is. And from experience, there is a big discrepancy between the “typical” job description for a counselor and what you actually get to do, which makes our roles even more enigmatic.

So what is it counselors do? Well, here’s a brief list of what my coworkers and I do throughout the school year:

  • Conflict resolution (this may make up the majority of our days)
  • Coordinating 6thgrade orientation
  • Coordinating 8thgrade completion ceremony
  • Over 100 8thgrade planning conferences in two months!
  • Teach social/emotional lessons on a variety of topics: drug education, anti-bullying, safety, use of technology, and mindfulness (just to name a few)
  • Recommendation letters for many different reasons – high school scholarships, music programs, etc.
  • Crisis response interventions
  • Response interventions – students just need to talk to someone!
  • Help with standardized testing
  • Manage 504 plans
  • Teach a college and career readiness class to 7th grade students
  • Create behavior plans for students
  • Sit in on IEPs, parent meetings, and staff meetings
  • Chaperone field trips
  • Individual counseling
  • Group counseling / running small groups
  • Other committees and groups that we do! (coaching volleyball, PBIS, etc.)
  • And more!

It’s a lot of work being a counselor! But what a rewarding occupation it is. Even though I may not see/hear my success stories for years, it is empowering to know that I am helping students gain skills and knowledge that will help them as they continue into adulthood.

If you want to check out the article, click here.

Autism Society of Wisconsin’s Annual Essay Competition

notebook_diary_pen_cover_page_focus_pens_style-1382680By Elizabeth Jorgensen 

For the past 13 years, the Autism Society of Wisconsin has hosted a student writing competition. According to their website, “The Annual Autism Essay Contest is a great way to facilitate a meaningful dialogue about how schools, teachers, and students can support those with autism in the classroom. The contest is designed to assist students in gaining a deeper understanding of autism and how their peers with autism experience the world.”

I encourage my students to write essays and enter this competition. This writers’ market provides students with an opportunity to research, express or reflect. Some students have written about siblings with autism; others have written about friends with autism.

Last year, one of my journalism students, Bella, interviewed an elementary school student with autism; her essay was chosen as the first place winner. This year, she did a similar interview and essay and again, her essay was selected as one of the winners.
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In addition to Bella, a student with autism in my creative writing class wrote about his own experiences. Although his essay was not recognized as a winner, one of the judges said he “had a really wonderful essay about his own experiences and what friendship looks like to him…He did a wonderful job writing a thoughtful essay.”

What I learned about my student—and about what it means to have autism—continues to resonate with me. As you likely have students with autism in your class, I wanted to share excerpts from his entry in hopes it can inspire you to understand one student’s experience:

...When I was taking a composition class, we were asked to write an introductory memoir about ourselves. I took advantage of this assignment and talked about my autism and how I cope with my differences. After completing this assignment, we were asked to read our memoir in front of the class. I believe this was one of the first times I discussed my autism to a large group and not my family or close friends…

I have a difficult time coping with change and sometimes my frustration leads to yelling and pounding. When this happens, I really cannot control it, but regret doing it minutes later. This is a big deterrent to making friends. I want everyone to help each other out when they need it most and to make the world a better place for all men and women, no matter the color of their skin, no matter their race or the religion they support, and no matter what is unique about them. I want everyone to treat others with respect and kindness…

I had an abundance of friends, yet most of them changed when they came to Arrowhead High School. From what I remember, I do not think I changed. I was shocked to see the majority of my friends, whom I knew for so long, become (sorry!) more foolish and did not appreciate their education like I do. They still are my friends today, but it was surprising at times to see them behave this way. I, though, became a more serious and hardworking student when I got to high school. I truly was worried when I started high school that I was not going to do well at all.

This characteristic of being a serious student has also affected my friendships. Most fellow students cannot relate to my personality in class of always wanting to do the right thing, being responsible at all times, and following the same process…

My autism has been an important part of me, and what I want students to know is that my brain works differently, and it affects the person I am. To help me, they will have to treat me and other people with respect because it kills me to know that bullying still exists today, and it shines in this campus. To me, it should not. I also want other students to know the same goes with homework; ignoring it just will not do. Accomplish your homework and feel proud.

I want other students to know that I am like everyone else physically, but slightly mentally different. I am glad I found out about my autism, because otherwise, I would not be where I am today.

Although autism has changed my life, it is a journey I continue to learn from. Knowing about my autism has made my life better and it defines who I am. It is still important to me to this day and I am enjoying my life so far. I will continue to enjoy it, no matter what challenges face me!

 

One Space After a Period. That’s all. Period.

Full_stop.svgBy Elizabeth Jorgensen

Between sixth and seventh hour, a colleague, at least two decades my senior, sat in a student’s desk. “I was taught it is always two spaces.” She wolfed her peanut butter and jelly sandwich before her next class began.

“That was when people used typewriters and a monospaced font. Now, computers use proportional type, so one space after periods is the rule.”

“What? How do you know this?”

“Modern typographers—The AP Stylebook, The Chicago Manual of Style and the US Government Printing Office Style Manual—agree: only one space after a period.” Extra spaces add unnecessary geography for the eye, I told her. “You have an iPhone, right? In Messages, hit the spacebar two times in quick succession. The period and one space will automatically be added.” Even iPhone agrees: only one space.

Am I a grammar snob? Maybe. But isn’t it an English teacher’s job to obsess over grammar rules, over evolving style guidelines? Isn’t it my duty to not only know about, but also embrace modernity?

Hoping to find resources to pass along to my colleague, I researched space rules. I found a Business Insider article by Mignon Fogarty: “Why you should never add two spaces after a period.” Fogarty writes, “In HTML and many blogging platforms, no matter how many spaces you type, they get turned into one space. If you want multiple spaces, you have to hard code it in using the HTML code.” Modern writers, publishing on web platforms, follow the same rules as hardcopy publishers, essayists and journalists. HTML, style guides, newspapers agree: only one space.

Am I elitist? Do I care about something trite? As an author and writing teacher, I care about details. I encourage my students to care about details too: how the essay looks, how the words sound, how the language evokes emotion. I want to see a passion that shows in intentional language, action verbs, uniform tenses and varied punctuation and sentence structures. And consistent, single spaces.

I sent my colleague these articles:

Space Invaders: Why you should never, ever use two spaces after a period” by Farhad Manjoo

Nothing Says Over 40 Like Two Spaces after a Period!” by Jennifer Gonzalez

In Gonzalez’s article, I learned that “although APA guidelines at one time reduced the required spacing after a period from two down to one, they returned it to two in 2009 in the 6th Edition (see section 4, first bullet)…In the legal world, two spaces is still the norm.” Gonzalez suggested, “Although both of these exceptions are irritating, they don’t surprise me, as academia and law are not exactly areas where design reigns supreme. I’m almost positive that in both cases, the spacing is being held onto for the sake of tradition.” I know students (especially math and science brained students) find this difficult to grasp. How can the rule be right sometimes, but not always? I am reminded of the colleagues (I wrote about in a previous blog) who sighed at my attention to Oxford comma inconsistencies. The math and science teachers wanted one right answer. But in writing, like art, often there fails to be one. I remind my students that every choice communicates thoughtfulness, research and attention to detail (or a lack thereof).

Do I believe my generation is right and my colleague’s generation is wrong? No. I realize language evolves. I realize what was once commonplace is now an error; what was once a rule is now opposite. And I empathize when students struggle with English “rules that don’t make sense” or “rules that always change.” I also know when I say one space after a period, some students might not realize I also refer to spaces after exclamation points and question marks.

Just like my previous blog about the Oxford comma, one or two spaces after a period (or exclamation or question mark) can technically be right and wrong (depending on the style guide or purpose). But the key is design and ease. How a paper looks impacts how a reader feels. Think of the way a chef prepares a plate. Presentation either excites or horrifies us, meets or exceeds our expectation. Fogarty’s information about HTML alludes to style as well—it matters how text on websites looks, feels, sits.

After reading the articles I sent, my colleague said, “I will have to use find and replace to help me. Using only one space is a hard habit to break. It’s been imprinted in my brain—and fingers—for forty years.”

“Now, if we can only get everyone in our department to do the same…”

 

Getting to Know Dr. Leigh van den Kieboom

VandenkieboomDr. Leigh van den Kieboom is  an Associate Professor in the Department of Educational Policy & Leadership (EDPL). She teaches Elementary and Middle School Mathematics as well as Teaching in the Middle School. All throughout this semester, we’ve been getting to know our faculty a little better by sitting down to see what makes them who they are!

 

Tell us about yourself!

I am a mathematics teacher educator with twelve years of K-12 teaching experience who enjoys guiding pre-service teachers as they learn how to teach in our preparation program. I’ve worked in several school districts in the Milwaukee area and have been at Marquette University in the College of Education since 2000.

So where did you grow up?

I grew up in the Milwaukee area and completed an undergraduate and master’s degree at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee before finishing a doctoral degree at Marquette University.

Sounds like you’ve had many educational experiences! What is your favorite one?

As a K-12 student, I did not particularly enjoy mathematics. I found the subject challenging. I often asked my K-12 mathematics teachers to explain WHY the procedures I was using to solve problems worked. Most often, I received a repetition of the procedure rather than an explanation of the concept involved in the procedure. This was frustrating for me. While in college at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, my views of teaching and learning mathematics changed as I began to study WHY the procedures for problem solving worked. I was fascinated as I revisited the K-12 mathematics scope and sequence with a view toward teaching and learning that included using multiple and hands-on approaches to solving problems. I learned how to use reasoning to explain the thinking involved in the procedures I used to solve problems. I became passionate about sharing what I had learned with others. As a teacher, while most of my colleagues, espoused teaching reading as the favorite part of their practice, I was drawn to teaching and learning mathematics.

Whoa, that’s an amazing change in thinking about math! What drew you to Marquette and the COED?

The focus on social justice drew me to Marquette University and the College of Education. I was particularly drawn to a teacher preparation program that utilized a variety of urban school settings that provide pre-service teachers the opportunity to learn from a diverse group of K-12 students.

We’re glad that the COED was a good fit for you! What do you see as an exciting opportunity for this upcoming academic year?

Revisions to the Marquette University’s common core as well as change to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction’s teacher licensing has created the opportunity for faculty in the College of Education to reimagine the coursework involved in the teacher preparation program.

Who is your inspiration for your work?

My mom and dad were both public school teachers. They loved their practice and spent years serving the students and parents in the school districts in which they worked. I grew up in their classrooms, first learning about teaching from them! Their passion for teaching inspired me to continue the same journey.

We’ve heard a lot about what you are like as a professor, but what do you do when you are outside of the classroom?

I am an avid sailor. I am part of a family crew (husband Jan; two sons, Pieter and Willem) who race a 38’ sailboat named “Nighthawk” on Lake Michigan. We enjoy weekly course races as well as long-distance races, The Queens Cup (South Shore Yacht Club to Muskegon Yacht Club) and The Chicago-Mackinac Race (Chicago to Mackinac Island). You can find me out on the water most of the summer!

Tell us more about what racing means to you!

Racing on Nighthawk is a beautiful experience that combines time on the water with family. We work as a team in different kinds of weather conditions on Lake Michigan. The most exciting part of the summer racing season is the Chicago-Mackinac race. We join over 300 sailboats in Chicago and sail 333 miles north to Mackinac Island. The race, which usually takes three days, includes weather patterns of every kind, from sunny skies to dark thunderstorms. The crew works 24-7, taking shifts through the night to keep the boat sailing.

Any advice for readers who are interested in sailing?

Marquette University has a sailing club. Interested participants can learn how to sail (on Lake Michigan) with friends from Marquette University!

You can learn more about the College of Education along with our undergraduate and graduate programs by visiting us online!


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