Archive for the 'In case you were wondering…' Category

What I’m doing This Summer

summer-still-life-785231_1280By Elizabeth Jorgensen

I hear in the media, and from professionals outside education, that teachers “have the summers off.” But this couldn’t be further from the truth.

In 2007, I searched WECAN for summer employment opportunities and noticed Kettle Moraine High School’s extensive listings. When I interviewed, I learned about the state’s largest summer school program. With a five period day, students from kindergarten through the 12th grade, attend classes ranging from camping to everyday math and from golf to Disney mania. After an interview, I accepted a position with KM’s Summer Academy. Throughout the next decade, I taught online classes and in-person classes to both elementary and high school students. Learn more about Kettle Moraine’s Summer Academy here.

Working in a different district energized and encouraged me. I saw firsthand the positives of my district and I picked up innovative ideas from KM teachers to help advance my AHS curriculum. This summer, I’m slated to teach two sections of ACT Prep online to KM juniors and seniors.

Then, in 2013, one of my colleagues at Arrowhead asked, “What do you do on Saturday mornings?” She proceeded to discuss Dr. Donnie Hale and his work in the pre-college program at Carroll University. Again, after an interview, I accepted a position to work with Project Pioneer. “Project Pioneer is Carroll University’s Saturday pre-college enrichment program which focuses on helping high school students build the skills, knowledge and mindset necessary to succeed in college and beyond.” On Saturdays, fifty high school students from Waukesha and Milwaukee engage in month-long academies “that will lead them through exploring their community and identifying a challenge within it, researching that challenge and finding solutions, and taking action. During this process, students will address a real challenge that their community faces while also building skills around the 4Cs: Critical Thinking and Problem Solving, Creativity and Innovation, Communication and Collaboration. Students will learn that their voice matters and that when they speak up and take action, they can make positive changes in the world around them.” Although Dr. Hale left Carroll a few years later (to become Florida International University Faculty Director of the Education Effect at Booker T. Washington Senior High School), I stayed on to work in the pre-college program (now under the direction of Maria Ramirez). Learn more about the program here.

My work at Project Pioneer led me to Horizontes en Carroll: “a program which welcomes upwards of 50 high school students from Waukesha, Milwaukee, Racine, and Harlem (NY) to campus each summer to experience university life and gain academic, social and life skills…During this week long residential program, students in grades 9-12 take part in several learning experiences that allow them to understand all aspects of higher education.” At the week-long summer camp, students develop career and college readiness skills and a better understanding of the college experience. Last summer, I facilitated a poetry reading and Horizontes en Carroll literary magazine. This summer, students will produce and publish the second annual Horizontes en Carroll Literary Magazine: A Collection of Creativity. Learn more about the program here.

This summer, I am also teaching online English classes for Arrowhead Union High School. Learn more about Arrowhead’s summer school offerings here.

My summers are, in fact, busier than my school year. I’m not sure who perpetuates the “teachers have summers off” stereotype, but it surely isn’t me.

What are you doing this summer?

Lost and Found: A Farewell and Travel Plan

Output Garden Sunlight Door Open Light Beam InputBy Peggy Wuenstel

I’ve been a bit absent from the blog roll recently, but with good reason. I’ve been packing away, paring down and moving on. Even though the focus has been on what comes next: the house is sold, the travel trailer is purchased, and most of our belongings are packed for the upcoming journey, I feel the need to wax nostalgic.

Much of it makes me very happy. The memories experienced, lessons learned, and friendships made can go with me without taking up space anywhere but in my heart. I have had the privilege of working with an extraordinary team of educators over the last fifteen years. They truly put children first and their loving care has paid wonderful dividends for the students we serve.

I have colleagues passionate about growth and improvement for themselves and the programs they administer. I have students who have no concept that there is a limit to how far they can rise. I live in town where education is an important aspect of community life for most residents and they have voted to support local schools when asked to do so.

But the theme of this year’s blogging cycle has been knowing what I’ve got before it’s gone. There are some things that are gone. Some are mourned deeply and some are celebrated with whoops of joy. There are things that I have learned and things I am still struggling to understand.

  • Over the last few weeks I have handled nearly every item I own, sorting those things that will travel the country with us, those that need new homes, and those that will be discarded. I did not feel the “Joy of Tidying Up” that made the bestseller list this year, but I have enjoyed the lightening up. What is gone will not be missed. I have learned that both dreams and possessions are real, worthy of effort, and attainable. One category does not have to be dusted, insured or packed securely for storage.
  • The things I love to do: cook, teach, gift, and plant are all activities designed to provide something to be consumed by others. I won’t be able to do those items in the same way from a travel trailer next year. I’ll survive. I don’t have to host the family gathering or be the co-worker that has supplies at the ready. That part of me is gone.
  • My name will not be on the door anymore. But I have learned that unlike our current president, you don’t get to write your name on your monuments. Someone who comes after you decides that. I would never want a Trump Tower, and establishing my brand has been about being so consistent and recognizable in my love for children and for literacy that I wouldn’t have to label it to have others recognize my work and passion. I understand the need for copyright laws, preserving the intellectual property of others, but have always freely shared those things I have produced for the betterment of our school. I hope my monument be the kids I have had the privilege to teach, who are proud of what they know and who they are.
  • There are things that are gone from the Wisconsin landscape that have made it much easier for me to move on. The value that has historically been ascribed to public education is eroding nationally, but especially in Wisconsin. Respect for teachers, adequate funding for schools and community engagement in bettering the lives of all children in Wisconsin’s classroom has been seriously reduced. Teachers must spend much more time defending themselves from criticism and educating a public unaware of the multitude of roles that schools take on in today’s communities. This pulls time and energy away from where we would like it to be, on our kids and their growth, joy, and self-confidence. It is increasingly hard to project that surety when you are feeling attacked and insecure in your livelihood.
  • We have unfortunately shifted from a focus on the learning to a focus on the testing that drives education today. There are so many better ways to measure progress than single high stakes exam. The easiest tests to administer, score, and publish are often the least effective in describing student learning. They are even less helpful in driving decisions about improving outcomes for individual students, where we should be focused.
  • As a society, we also seem to have lost the sense that the values we teach our children in an elementary school have validity in the adult world. Compromise is good. Everyone deserves to be heard. We only can say we are doing well when all of us are doing well. We need to care about others, even those people who don’t look like us.

After 34 years as an educator I am on a new journey. I am conscious of the things I have lost and am leaving behind. I am also grateful for the things that will never leave me. I read somewhere that retirement is when you stop working on your resume and start working on your eulogy. I’d like to hope that any successes I have had in my teaching career are because I have always concentrated on those “big things” first. Learn all you can, then share what you know, care about people first, things second. The things you give away say more about you than the things you keep. You should listen, learn, and wonder more every day than you speak, teach or think you know. Love what you do and the people you do it with. Be grateful, be quiet, and know when it’s time to turn off the lights and close the door.

Coming home: Catching up with my former students

A few weeks ago, several of my former students came back to my intermediate school to talk to the 8th graders about transitioning to high school. It was so exciting for me to see how much my students had grown up in that year! Gone were the shy, nervous 6th graders that I still see in my mind when I imagine my first class of kids; they were much more confident and self-assured as they moved around the school. They chatted easily with their former teachers and reminisced about fun times that they had in middle school. Between all the hugs and questions, I remember commenting that “my babies” had grown up so much, and one of the boys laughed and said, “Mrs. Bartels, we aren’t babies anymore!”

Those students have such a special place in my heart since they were the first class that I had the opportunity to work with. I started my career the same time they started 6th grade, so we all grew into our new roles together. In some ways, I feel like I have grown more confident in who I am as a counselor (though, unlike my students, I have sadly not grown any taller. They all felt the need to mention that.) And I think the reason I am so affected by these students returning and talking to me (don’t mind the tears staining my blog post!)  is because this is my first experience where former students have come back and talked to me. Some of them told me funny stories about high school, some talked about the new friends they’ve acquired, and some talked about the competitive sports they are now playing. They asked how my new 6th grade was treating me. But the best part was when some of my students thanked me for what I did for them over their middle school years. I was surprised, especially since some of the students who told me this were students I did not have regular contact with.

But it’s interesting what my former students remember. One recalled how I was present for a lot of different meetings about him. One of my girls remembered how I sat in class with her when she was too afraid to be in class on her own. Stories about sitting in my office crying, laughing, or just talking about life were a common thing. All little things that I never really realized had an impact on my students were some of the things that they mentioned most often. It’s so gratifying to hear that all the advice and time you gave really did make a difference.

I remember I told someone about this, and she said that counseling is often one of the most thankless jobs. Sometimes, I can understand that. There are days when I work with kids for hours, and then have them be disrespectful or revert back to their poor behavior within minutes of walking out of my office. Or when students swear at me. That’s hard, especially if it’s a student that I normally have a pretty good relationship with. But for every bad day I have (and let me tell you, there have been quite a few,) I usually have one or two good things happen. And once in a while, I have a super day that eliminates the bad days from my mind.

I often struggle with my new 6th graders this year. It’s a learning process to get to know who they are, what they are passionate about, what makes them tick. I am still getting to know them, and they are still getting to know me. But for every bad day I have with them, I remember my former students. I remember that things weren’t perfect with them either. And I remember that even though it may not feel like it at the moment, the things I am doing are having an impact on my students. It may be a really small impact. It may be bigger than I ever imagined. Some students may thank me for what I do; some may not, but may remember some of the things we’ve talked about. Either way, I’m somehow making a difference, which to be honest, is all the thanks I will ever need.

Students Try on a Different Writing Style with Their Voice

writer-605764_1280By Elizabeth Jorgensen

To encourage my students to write in a different style, I first have them read a chapter from House on Mango Street titled “Four Skinny Trees.” We read and discuss this chapter. Then, I tell students to try on the author’s style of writing to see how it fits with his or her voice. I instruct students to adhere to Sandra Cisneros’s sentence structure by going word by word, keeping her structure, but changing the words.

First, students look at the title: “Four Skinny Trees.” In the title, Cisneros has a number, an adjective, and then a plural noun. Students then write their own title, complete with a number, adjective and plural noun.

Example: Four Skinny Trees could become Three Bulbous Rocks or Five Insecure Boys or Three Broken Feet.

Students continue through Cisneros’s “Four Skinny Trees” chapter, keeping her structure but telling their own story. I remind students that they should have the same number of sentences and paragraphs as Cisneros. If she repeats a word, I remind the students they need to repeat a word. If Cisneros states her title, the student should state his or hers.

Cisneros: “Four Skinny Trees”

Jorgensen: Three Bulbous Rocks

Cisneros: “They are the only ones who understand me. I am the only one who understands them.”

Jorgensen: They are the only ones that irritate me. I am the only one who kicks them.

Cisneros: “Four skinny trees with skinny necks and pointy elbows like mine.”

Jorgensen: Three bulbous rocks with dirty bellies and snowy caps like glaciers.

Cisneros: “Four who do not belong here but are here.”

Jorgensen: Three amongst a million more in my yard.

Cisneros: “Four raggedy excuses planted by the city.”

Jorgensen: Three infuriating rocks there to trip me.

Cisneros: “From our room we can hear them, but Nenny just sleeps and doesn’t appreciate these things.”

Jorgensen: From my porch I can see them, but my boyfriend just sighs and says I’m hallucinating.

I provide a model as well as student and teacher examples. You can see my worksheet and resources here. At the end of the exercise, students have a poetic, entertaining and interesting vignette. This exercise also prompts a plagiarism discussion, students debating if a writer can copy another author’s structure.

Student vignettes are often published. Teen Ink published Nate Ferro’s vignette and Megan Rutkowksi’s vignette.

I encourage you to use this exercise with your students or to modify it to better align with your curriculum.

 

Wrapping Up the Semester

writingThe end of the semester, the academic year, and even students’ time in the College of Education can be both challenging and exhilarating. For those students pursuing their Masters Degrees in the College of Education, this time of year brings presentations and the culmination of extensive research.

In particular, four of our programs (Clinical Mental Health Counseling, Educational Administration, Student Affairs in Higher Education, and Teach For America) have wrapped up with student presentations. Hard work, perseverance, and academic rigor have paid off in many ways. Read on for more details on our students and what they’ve been studying!

Want to learn more about graduate programs in the College of Education at Marquette University? Visit us online today!

Happy Memorial Day

Adobe Spark (79)

Off to New Adventures in Peru!

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For the first time, students and faculty from the College of Education will travel to Peru and gain experiences with working in school settings outside the United States. While in Peru, students will have the opportunity to work in two schools located in Lima, Peru and travel to the Sacred Valley. Students also will be completing two classes, Philosophy of Education (EDUC 4540) and Critical Inquiry into Contemporary Issues (EDUC 4240), before and after traveling to Peru.

When asked what they are most excited about, the students exclaimed their excitement for being in a new country and experiencing a new culture. “I am excited to observe in a classroom at Colegio Roosevelt and to learn about similarities and differences between their curriculum and classroom management compared to the schools that I have attended or have been placed at for a field placement,” expressed Amy Krzoska, currently a junior. Similarly, Sara Douvalakis, a junior currently, explained her excitement by stating, “I cannot wait to go hiking and sightseeing, but I am most looking forward to new foods.”

In traveling to a new country and experiencing a new culture, challenges do emerge. When asked what they thought would be the biggest challenge, the students replied as stepping out of their comfort zones as the biggest. However, these challenges will not stop the students from having a great time. “I hope to be able go overcome them and enjoy my time abroad,” explained Liz Rivas, a sophomore currently.

With all the excitement of traveling to a new country, it is important to see how this experience will impact oneself. Therefore, students were asked how their time in Peru will impact their future professions. Students, like Liz Rivas and Amy Krzoska, are excited to bring the knowledge gained in Peru to their future classrooms. “[The study abroad experience] will bring new ideas to me and give me the opportunity to incorporate these ideas with my own students,” said Liz Rivas. “ I will be exposed to the Peruvian school system and will learn what they do that could be beneficial to bring back to the United States in my future teaching,” stated Amy Krzoska. Other students are excited to learn from professors and other teachers. “I know I will gain so much knowledge from the professors who are going with us and all of the new friends we make in Peru,” explained Sara Douvalakis.

Study abroad is an amazing and influential experience for education students. To gain further insight, we asked Dr. Melissa Gibson, Assistant Professor and one of the faculty members traveling with students to Peru, on the importance of studying abroad for education students. The following is her response:

“ I think that the most significant is that it helps us expand our pedagogical imaginations. So often as teachers who work within bureaucratic systems and within policy schema and with limited time available, we tend to narrowly focus on “what is” rather than “what can be.” Getting out of the world with which we’re familiar can help us to imagine other possibilities for schooling — traveling, working, and studying abroad is a really powerful way to “make the familiar strange,” which is at the heart of social scientific thinking and particularly relevant for the courses we’re teaching. By visiting a variety of schools, we’ll see varied approaches to what education is and can be; by familiarizing ourselves with a whole new sociopolitical context, I also hope that our own context — its strangeness and its strengths — can come into sharper focus. For me personally, my own experiences abroad have been transformational — whether that be living and teaching in Mexico for several years, traveling throughout India as a Fulbright-Hays scholar, or engaging in a teacher exchange sponsored by the Japanese government. I hope that we can bring a bit of that perspective broadening to our COED students, with the ultimate aim of improving education for our K12 students here in Milwaukee.”

Students will be blogging during their time in Peru; you can hear more about their adventures in their own words


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