Archive for the 'Teaching – Reflections From the Field' Category

Where Are Our Alumni? Catching Up With Thess Dobbs

In this #ThrowbackThursday post, we catch up with one of our alumni who participated in an undergraduate version of our Masters in STEM Teaching program, Thess Dobbs. Currently teaching at Milwaukee School of Languages, Thess was recently awarded the Edyth Sliffe Award for Distinguished Teaching in Middle School and High School. Read on to hear more about what she’s been doing since graduating!

thessI teach high school math at Milwaukee School of Languages (MSL). At MSL I also lead the math club, which I started in 2014. In this club, we work on more challenging math that goes above and beyond the standard curriculum. Our students have the opportunity to wrestle with challenging competition-level problems and receive guidance to help them build their skills. Through fundraising we make all activities free or low-cost for our students, and we are proud to make these opportunities, often reserved for privileged students at elite schools, accessible to our students. The racial disparities in the STEM fields begin with the inequities in our school systems, and the process to end those disparities must also start with our schools.

Originally, I am from Milwaukee and grew up with a lot of brothers and sisters. My dad is a professor, and both my parents placed a strong emphasis on learning. Being a big sister made me a natural teacher. The Noyce Program gave me more hands-on experience than the typical pre-service teacher has. It wasn’t until student teaching that I really had to learn how to manage a classroom, but the relationships built during my field placements helped me maintain my confidence during the hard times later on. Thanks to the amount of time spent in field placements, I also got a good sense of the school culture of a few different schools.

Even though we aren’t in touch as much as we used to be, I feel the bond still exists between the Noyce Scholars in my cohort. All the formative experiences we shared as undergraduates are not easily forgotten. One person who inspires me is my grandma, Leona Sherrod, who passed away three years ago. She taught in public school for eighteen years, and taught for eighteen more years in prisons’ adult education programs. Though she is gone now, I’m glad she got to see me become a teacher too.

Interested in learning more about how you can pursue your Masters Degree and Wisconsin Teaching Licensure in just fourteen months? Our Noyce Scholars graduate program is accepting applications through February of 2019!

Becoming a Social Studies Teacher

This post originally appeared on Dr. Gibson’s Medium page.

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“painting of man” by Aarón Blanco Tejedor on Unsplash

By Melissa Gibson

The other night, I had an anxiety dream. In it, I was conducting research at an international school on its approach to civic education (you know, part of what I do in real life). My host was a teacher I know well, with whom I’ve worked in Peru. But before I could get started, he said I needed to meet with the principal. I entered her office, where another social studies teacher was waiting; across from us, the principal sat at her large desk, her head slung down while she napped. Worst nightmare of a job interview EVER.

Eventually, the principal jolted awake and leered at both of us. Our college transcripts were in front of her. She inspected each, and then looked at us with disgust: “Why would I hire YOU, either of you, to teach social studies when you do not even have good survey history courses on your university transcript? How can you even pretend to be social studies teachers?!” The other woman, who was clearly interviewing for a teaching job at the school, began to explain how her high school offered a plethora of college-level survey courses, and so when she got to college, she was able to move into advanced history seminars. She showed off her flashy knowledge of dates and names, and then went down a wormhole about some 1800s Navy admiral she was obsessed with. She ended with a summary of her students’ AP scores for the past twenty years. The principal nodded, clearly assuaged.

Then she turned to me. “What about you, little miss interdisciplinary?”
I gulped. I began my usual explanation of what it means to have studied Women’s Studies as an undergraduate, the various social science lenses on the same questions. I showed her on my transcript the “surveys” of sociology, history, literature, political science, but how they were all focused on questions of gender. And as I explained what I had studied, I grew more animated in my explanations of how I study these topics. The principal seemed unimpressed.

Gathering steam, I tried to give a narrative of how I came to this place in my intellectual career: I talked about not seeing myself in the curriculum (or in my classmates) and seeking academic spaces that honored the questions I was asking as legitimate intellectual inquiry. I talked about questioning dominant narratives, and moving back and forth between the various disciplinary cannons and critical theorists and scholars. I talked about my discovery late in life of how thrilling history can be when it is more than a collection of dates and names. I may have shown her the syllabus to my methods courses. I definitely showed her the documentaries and podcasts and blogs that my students have written in my social studies classes.

Eventually, she relented, agreeing that while my training was non-traditional, I clearly knew how to ask questions and get students to do some work (there may have been a tirade about lazy millenials and the ills of technology). She looked about to nod off for a nap again (and I really wanted to ask a snide question about what work she did if she spent so much time napping), so I mustered the courage to ask permission to conduct my research, which she granted. The next thing I knew, the dream had morphed into a murder mystery complete with chupacabras, and instead of conducting research on civic education, I was helping high school students escape some murderous blob-ghost thing, which liked to strike during football games. Also, there were rickshaw rides and a lack of child care for my own children so…definitely an anxiety dream.

School is finally back in full swing here in Milwaukee, and we are hunkering down at Marquette to dig into the meat of our courses. And on the eve of these intellectual journeys, I guess my sub-conscious needed to pause to reflect on what it means to be a scholar of social studies education, especially when one isn’t a traditional social scientist or historian. I talked my own imposter syndrome down in the dream, as evidenced by the principal’s relent, but I woke up aware of that always present feeling of self-doubt. Which, believe it or not, is important for me to hold onto. Not because it’s a valid self-critique but because it reminds me of how my pre-service teachers may feel in my methods courses and in their placements—not quite the real deal. And that self-doubt can be paralyzing. Part of my job as their methods instructor is to help them see the multiple ways that we can become scholars of teaching, and that our most powerful intellectual tools are the questions we ask.

This publication, which we will add to throughout the school year, is a record of their journeys learning to ask good questions. Along the way, they will uncover resources, stories, places, and instruction that just may help you become a better social studies teacher, too—whether this is your first year teaching, or your fortieth.

This is social studies. Not a collection of dates and names, but a way of inquiring about the world. We hope you’ll join us on our journey.

Catching up with Courtney Farley

After completing student teaching last January, Courtney Farley finished out the rest of the academic year as a long-term substitute. However, with the new school year beginning, so is her new adventure! Courtney will be spending the next year teaching English in Spain. Read on to hear all about it.

farleyBy Courtney Farley

I grew up in Pewaukee, Wisconsin. I attended Queen of Apostles grade school, Catholic Memorial High School, and then found myself at Marquette. I have one sister, who graduated from Madison last year in biology and is now doing an accelerated nursing program at Madison. My mom works for Sherwin Williams in sales and my dad is a retired lawyer and now loves spending his days golfing. Finally, we have our dog, Guinness, who is a mini golden doodle and easily the family favorite.

I have been attending Marquette Basketball games ever since I could walk. My dad went to Marquette and so did a lot of my cousins, aunts, and uncles. I grew up surrounded by people who loved Marquette and I knew that there was no other college that I wanted to go to. I came into Marquette knowing I wanted to major in Spanish, but not knowing what I wanted to do with it. I have worked at a summer day camp every summer since high school and knew I loved working with kids. I transferred into the College of Ed my sophomore year and absolutely loved all the classes I was taking. The class size and relationships I have formed with my peers and with the professors are incredible and that is what I love most about the College of Ed. You truly feel valued and your professors want you to succeed and help you as much as they can.

Someone who has been an inspiration to me and has made a huge impact is my high school Spanish teacher, Señora Diedrich. She was so passionate about teaching Spanish and made me realize how much I love it. She created a classroom environment where we felt like family and weren’t afraid to make mistakes. She cared about each of her students and helped us along the way. I hope to make as big an impact on my students as she did on me.

I had such an amazing experience during my student teaching at St. Anthony’s in Milwaukee. I was placed in a third-grade classroom with an amazing cooperating teacher. Student teaching can be very nerve-racking those first couple weeks, but everyone at the school made me feel welcome and part of the St. Anthony family. My cooperating teacher always explained everything and always asked for my input and reflections on lessons. Taking over teaching and getting to use all that I learned at Marquette was awesome. Not only did I get to see what really worked in my classroom, I got to grow and learn through those lessons that didn’t go as smoothly. I was lucky enough to get to stay at St. Anthony after student teaching and take over a 4th grade class as a long-term sub. I continued to learn so much about myself and realized how passionate I was about teaching.

I am going to be in Spain teaching English to kids from ages 3-18. I am going through a program that allows me to pull out small groups of children to help them learn English. I just took an online class and got my TEFL certification. I am excited to put everything I learned from the class into practice. I will be living in a small city outside of Barcelona called Vilafant.

While I am in Spain, I will be staying with three different host families. I chose this program partly because I wanted to stay with a host family. I am excited to become a part of their family and live a true, authentic Spanish lifestyle. I am so excited to get to learn more about the Spanish culture and what it means to make Spain my new “home.”

I am also excited to continue to grow as an educator and see what other school systems are like outside the United States and how I can bring back what I learned abroad and implement it in my own classroom.

I don’t know anyone else doing the program. I am going over there and am a little nervous about not knowing anyone, but more excited for the possibility to meet so many new people. This will force me out of my comfort zone and allow me to learn more about myself. I’m excited for the chance to teach abroad and to learn from the people in Spain gets me excited when I think about it. I will be in a whole new country, but I will still be doing what I love, which is teaching, working with children, and experiencing new cultures.

 

 

In the Shadows of the Maestros

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By Bill Waychunas

Today, I stood and waited in a line to get free entrance into The Prado art museum in Madrid, Spain. While everyone enjoys getting something for free, two things I generally try to avoid at all costs are waiting in long lines and art museums, especially modern art museums. Plus, it was HOT outside, like melt your flip-flop on the asphalt type of heat.

When I first spotted the length of the line, winding around the sidewalk and gardens outside of the Prado, the thought of turning around and going home popped into my mind. I decided to stay. Despite all the reasons I had to turn and run, I couldn’t help but feel an excitement come over me as I slid into my spot at the end of the line.

Everyone in line slowly shuffled forward, audibly groaning when the movement in the line paused and they found themselves in a spot on the sidewalk unprotected from the blazing-hot afternoon sun. At one such moment, I longingly looked behind me at the shade I had just left, trying to reconcile my conflicting desires for shade and progress towards the entrance.

My eyes followed the shadow across the sidewalk. As I glanced upward at its source, I came to the sudden realizations that I’d been standing under a statue of one of the Spanish masters (or maestros) in this case, Velasquez. A few more minutes of shuffling forward in line and I find myself in the shadow of another maestro. This time it’s Goya with a healthy smattering of pigeon crap covering his forehead as he gazes over the crowd.

My excitement grew, and I forgot about the line and the heat.

Once inside, I found that walking the gallery was blissful. But why? It wasn’t just because the museum had an excellent air conditioner; my mind drifted to another maestro but not one who’s paintings or sculptures would be found in a museum.

See, in Spanish, the word maestro has multiple meanings. One of the them can mean master, in the case of an expert, usually an artist. The other meaning is teacher, a different type of artist whose works of art are saved for the select few enrolled in their classes. Today I found myself in this museum as a sort of pilgrimage or tribute to one of my high school teachers, Señor Mendoza, my Spanish teacher for two years. He was truly a maestro in both meanings of the word.

In one of his Spanish classes, Señor Mendoza took some time to stray from the typical textbook curriculum and taught us about the most famous Spanish artists, including Goya, Velasquez, El Greco, Dalì, and Picasso. It wasn’t something that I was particularly excited about at first, but the stories he told about the artists lives and their pieces were captivating. He told us about some of the places where such works were housed and here is was, 15 or so years later, standing in the shadow of the maestros.

By my senior year of high school, I had decided that I would major in education in college and pursue a career as a teacher. This was certainly in no small part due to the excellent teachers I had, including Señor Mendoza. In fact, he was such an excellent maestro that I actually considered becoming a Spanish teacher for a short while. Thankfully, for the sake of the children, I choose to focus on social studies instead.

I found out soon after I graduated from high school that Señor Mendoza passed-away after a battle with cancer. I was lucky to have had his classes. More than just the lessons in Spanish and art history, I learned a lot from his teaching example, but in terms of the values and approaches he brought with him to class every day, including:

  • Learning should be fun – If it’s not fun or interesting, then make it fun and interesting. Part of this is remembering to laugh and smile often.
  • Be humble and honest – Admit when you make a mistake, share your personal passions and background with your students, and be able to laugh at yourself. It makes you a human instead of just a teacher.
  • Learning should be an experience – It’s not just about quizzes and tests. Change it up every once in a while. Kids won’t remember that awesome exit ticket you wrote but they will remember the projects they did and how you made them feel in class.  For example: Señor Mendoza would sometimes have us write and perform skits in Spanish using vocabulary from the unit instead of taking a test. I vividly remember playing the role of Señor Mendoza in a classroom scene where some of my friends played the role of students in our class, poking a little bit of good fun at everyone along the way. In fact, when I googled Señor Mendoza’s name, I found this comment on his rate-my-teachers profile which gives me some personal validation on my acting skills: waychunas1
  • Expose students to things outside of their bubbles – Sometimes, there’s value in being “culturally irrelevant” in the classroom and getting students out of their comfort zone. Art is not something that I would have ever been introduced to or would have sought out on my own. My world has been widened by his choice to expose us to that unit as well as some of the fantastic field trips we went on as part of his class, including one where I first tried some of my current favorite foods, tapas and paella.

On my stroll home from the museum, I stopped into a bar for a refreshing cerveza. When the waitress told me that the tap beer was out, she directed me towards their bottle selection. Like a sign from above, the first beer on display was called Maestra. I ordered one and raised my Maestra towards the sky for the maestro.

 

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!

 

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!

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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!


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