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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

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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

Is it Good for Kids?

By Claudia Felske

Ask any teacher (especially this time of year) how they’re doing, and my guess is their response will be “busy” or some synonym thereof. The truth is that “busyness” is pretty much par for the course in this profession, and so this month (a particularly busy one) I thought I’d reflect a bit on how a teacher might best prioritize his/her time. Whether facing a time consuming class project, a district initiative, a  stack of papers, a student need, a community event, an administrative request, a building committee, a licensure requirement, (the list goes on and on…) it must all boil down to one question: “Is it good for kids?”  It may sound ridiculously reductive, but if that’s not ALWAYS the central question, what are we doing here? And so, here’s a flow-chart version of how I try to prioritize my time. Feel free to give it a try when your to-do list is seemingly insurmountable: IMG_0098

Playing and Learning

board-gamesBy Elizabeth Jorgensen

In the Washington Post article, “Children’s board games help reinforce lessons learned in the classroom,” Jayne Cooke-Cobern, a kindergarten teacher at Marumsco Hills Elementary School in Woodbridge says, “Any game that requires a student to count and move a game piece at the same time is good for developing one-to-one correspondence while counting.” Which games does she use? Trouble, Chutes and Ladders, Uno, Yahtzee, Racko, and Apples to Apples.

Lisa Barnes, another kindergarten teacher at Marumsco Hills quoted in the article, says she uses “Memory (recognition of numbers, sight words and color words), bingo (letters, shapes and rhyming words) and dominoes (numbers and the concept of more and less)” with her students.

Although I teach students on the other end of the educational spectrum—seniors in high school—board games also supplement my lesson plans. Why? Games force students to use planning and cognitive skills. They also encourage problem-solving and creative thinking.

In the Washington Post article, Marilyn Fleetwood, president of the Academy of the Child, a Montessori preschool and elementary school said, “Play is probably the most important skill for life. Most children learn to read, but social skills are one of those things that really have to be developed. And that’s what you get with board games.”

I keep a stack of board games in my classroom. And on days when attendance is light—or during challenging weeks (like Homecoming or when the basketball team makes it to state)—I will often allow students to pull them out. Students say the same things: games are fun, appealing, and motivating. And they also support my English curriculum. While word, matching and memory games foster language development and literacy, while card games improve spatial awareness and develop strategic thinking.

Games provide a forum for initiative and leadership, reasoning, and problem-solving. Challenging and strategic games help children learn to focus and concentrate, which is essential to developing creative thought.

Here are some of the games I use in my classroom:

  • You’ve Been Sentenced
  • Word on the Street
  • Buzz Word
  • Guesstures
  • Quickword
  • Starwords
  • Alphabet Roundabout
  • Play on Words
  • Scrabble Upwords
  • Rattled
  • Flashwordz
  • Boggle
  • Buy Word
  • Word Winks

 


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