Archive for the 'Stories from the classroom' Category

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.

 

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!

 

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!

Tales of a First-Year Teacher in Alaska: What Happens Next

A 2017 graduate of the College of Education, Michelle Fedran made an unusual choice for her first teaching position: she moved to a remote part of Alaska to begin her career. Reflecting upon the changes that have occurred in her life since last May, Michelle shared some of her story. This is the third of her three-part series on The Marquette Educator.

image 1By Michelle Fedran

The name of the village I am in is Tununak (sounds like two-new-nik). If I had the money and control over nature (nature is a HUGE factor out here and I’ll never stop mentioning that haha) I would pay for anyone who held an interest to fly out here to take a look for him or herself. It’s one thing to hear about it and another to experience it upfront. We are an hour flight out from Bethel and are right on the coast of the sea, surrounded by some mountains and cliffs so the views are breathtaking. A fun thing with being on the coast, I can still say Wisconsin still wins as one of the worst places I’ve been in when winter hits! Although besides the slightly warmer temperatures, the winds up here get pretty rough sometimes, but Wisconsin Avenue definitely help put in some good training for walking against the wind. It’s especially fun when the wind picks up to 50 mph, picking up and blowing snow, and I have to climb a hill up to school because the stairs have already been covered with snow. Some people would think I’m getting ready to climb a mountain if they saw the gear I sometimes have to put on before going outside! The closest village to us is about seven miles away through the tundra, and people normally travel back and forth by snowmachine, honda (ATV), or walking. There are other surrounding villages but when I travel to them it’s usually by bush plane. Something I have found out interesting by traveling to different villages is that it almost seems like everyone knows well, everyone!

image 4.jpgBesides physical characteristics, something I really love about it out here is the simplicity of how things seem to be. Especially coming from a bustling city with a booming market of the next generation car and little devices that control things around your house, it is refreshing to experience simple living. I have met some of the nicest people out here and have been able to experience, as well as witness, genuine happiness. I often feel that people get so caught up with work or media that personal relationships sometimes fall on the back burner, but that isn’t what I see. Up here, the people I have met so far exhibit tremendous respect and care for their loved ones, and it is really refreshing to see the happiness that good company can bring. Coming out here made me realize what I need to be truly happy and that doesn’t involve the latest high-brand purse, hottest sunglasses, or super cool kicks that just came out. I have realized it’s the little, simple things that really count and that loving friends and family are all that I—and anyone—really needs to lead a happy life.

If any of you are considering making a move to teach in a remote location such as Alaska, I would suggest that if the thought is lingering in your mind, take a chance and do it. Even if it terrifies you, that’s a greater reason to do it! I remember it was about a week before I was supposed to leave my home and fly out to basically the edge of the country (no really, look up my location on Google Maps), and I began to panic. Thoughts began racing through my head and my anxiety was about to burst through the roof! However, my friends and family told me if my dreams didn’t scare me, they weren’t big enough. So, I took those words, held them close, and now I’m truly experiencing some of the happiest moments of my life. I’ve created memories and friendships I know will last a lifetime and beyond that I will forever cherish.

Nothing is forever, things can always change, and so now is the chance to take control of your life!

sunset 1

Thinking about my future and looking five years down the road from now, I see a blur. Anything is possible! I could still be up here in Alaska, or I could be in a new location whether it be state, country, who knows! I have been asked this question quite a few times and every time I like to remind people that I’m just taking life one day at a time. You never know what can happen within 24 hours. One day you could be just fine and the next your world could be flipped upside down (good or bad). So for now, I try to focus on what I have in the moment. Although right now I am truly enjoying my time up here and am excited to say I’ll be returning next year!

Getting To Know Kirsten Lathrop

April 2018 picThe College of Education is excited to continue allowing students to better know its faculty and staff. Mrs. Kirsten Lathrop is the Director of Field Placements and Licensure. Read on to learn more about Kirsten!

What can you tell us about yourself?

My name is Kirsten Lathrop, and my husband, Brian, and I are parents to twin boys (Caleb & Sam). I’m also a mom to a geriatric cat named Fred.

Have you lived in Milwaukee for long?

I grew up on the east side of Milwaukee near UWM. By the end of middle school, I was living in Shorewood. Aside from two years of college in Minneapolis, MN, I’ve always lived in Milwaukee!

What is your favorite educational experience?

I was teaching third grade when the first Harry Potter novel (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone) was released in the US, and I read it to my students every day after recess. We all fell in love with it, and we decided to create and publish a classroom book with all sorts of fun wizard-related writing and illustrations. Some students wrote letters to characters, some concocted wizard recipes (or were they spells?), and some drew amazing artwork for our publication. Third grade was definitely the perfect age to be introduced to this imaginative, detailed book series, and many of my students remembered it years later. I continued to use excerpts from J. K. Rowling’s books in my writing lessons.

That sounds like an amazing teaching experience! What drew you to Marquette and the COED?

The short answer? Dr. Cynthia Ellwood! The longer version? I was a special education teacher with a reading specialist license who was asked to supervise Reading 3 practicum students in the Hartman Literacy Center after school, which I happily did for a semester. Susan Stang was preparing to retire from this position, and I was encouraged to apply. I never intended to leave my teaching job in MPS, as I’d basically “grown up” in the district and have always been committed to urban education. However, as much as I loved my job, I knew I wouldn’t have another opportunity like the one here. I’m so glad I made the transition, even though I do sometimes miss being out with the kids.

We’re glad you saw Marquette as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity! What do you see as an exciting opportunity for this upcoming academic year?

I’m always excited to use student feedback and re-imagine the best student teaching seminar experience we can create each semester!

We know we can find you in your office, but what do you do when you are outside of the office?

I love reading, working crossword puzzles, playing board games (and D & D) with my family and friends, and spending time with my extended family.  In addition, I love reality TV shows like Project Runway, Top Chef, and (most) Real Housewives.  I’ve also watched every season of Survivor (which started airing in 2000)—Our son, Sam, has now gotten hooked.  Our family also watches Planet Earth, This Is Us, and Rise together.

You can learn more about the College of Education along with our undergraduate program that Kirsten helps out with by visiting us online!

Tales of a First-Year Teacher in Alaska: Preparation vs. Reality

A 2017 graduate of the College of Education, Michelle Fedran made an unusual choice for her first teaching position: she moved to a remote part of Alaska to begin her career. Reflecting upon the changes that have occurred in her life since last May, Michelle shared some of her story. This is the second of her three-part series on The Marquette Educator.

flyingBy Michelle Fedran

I feel that my time at Marquette did a good job on preparing me for what I’m going through now in terms of teaching. I honestly see myself using pieces I have learned from all the different classes I took. So current students who might be reading this, you may be frustrated over taking a class that “means nothing to you or your major” and I totally understand that; I was a student too. Listen and trust me when I say this, you need every tool, idea, ounce of imagination possible ready and equipped when you walk into that classroom. So hold your chin up, turn your phone off (even on your Mac), that class you may be silently meal-prepping in will give you a skill you will one day use that will save your classroom from turning inside out.

Of course, with this being my first year (and I’m sure many can relate no matter what field they are in) adjusting to a new job is going to be tough. You’re going to be asking yourself if you’ve made the right decision, and I definitely do from time to time. However, something Marquette also prepared me for is how to handle that first-year mentality many people seem to adopt. It’s easy to throw your hands up and quit, but something I felt that I learned from Marquette is to never give up and to keep pushing forward when things get tough. From day one of my freshman year, Marquette told us to “Be the Difference” and that’s what I aim to be and live up to. Blending into the background and falling victim to society norms will only pull you backwards rather than pushing you forward into succeeding in a new position.

image 3I would say my biggest challenge was getting the year started, setting a rhythm for my classroom, and deciding how I want it to play out for the year. Speaking as a first-year teacher—and some may disagree—this can be pretty challenging. I feel something that may have contributed to this minor struggle would be that I, along with many classmates, completed the student teaching rotation in the springtime. I remember talking with others about how we didn’t really get to experience and observe the initiation of the classroom atmosphere that happens at the beginning of the school year.  In spite of that, one of the beauties of being a first-year teacher is the amount of support you get. This year I’ve been to several professional development trainings and have been offered help from instructional coaches, state mentors, and coworkers who understood things I may be facing my first year. I am forever grateful to them for helping this year go smoother than I would have imagined. Something I have mentioned before and tell my students is that mistakes happen but are good because they help us learn.

In light of that, I would say my biggest success would be finally finding that groove I was looking for in my classroom. After the first full week when things seem to go right and students start adopting routines and strategies you have been trying so hard to implement through countless practices… that feeling is GREAT!  Another success I see as I write this (we are beginning our final quarter of the school year) is realizing I survived and I’m really beginning to see the growth my students have made. During the year, things can get crazy, and I mean CRAZY. It’s so easy to lose yourself, visions, and the goals you had at the beginning of the year. Overall, things get tough but when that final lap of the school year rolls around and you are able to take a breath and reflect on the year, realizing the gains your students have made thus far in their learning is a winning feeling.

Read the rest of Michelle’s three-part series on her first year teaching!

 


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