Archive Page 3

Silent Reminders: My First Time Teaching

MaureenCummingsPostBy Maureen Cummings —  A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to plan and execute my first lesson in an actual high school classroom.

I’ve done the planning before and I’ve developed various types of assessments, lesson plans, activities engaging schema or emphasizing differentiation- still I had never had the chance to go in front of students for the entirety of a class period, just teaching. I think I could discuss in detail how this hour and a half felt like the complex marriage of my passion for engaging with people and the application of the various educational theories that I’ve been studying for the past four semesters coming in to fruition, but that just doesn’t seem to fully define what a series of moments that morning was for me.

When I got in my car ready to head back to Marquette after this first time teaching I couldn’t decide whether to start driving, to call my mom, or to blast some well-deserved jams- instead I just sat there. For some reason in the silence of my 2003 Buick my mind went to a quote from a favorite TV show. In the series finale of The Office, in one of his only serious moments, Andy Bernard states, “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.”

There I was acknowledging my own sort of good ole days before I’ve actually entered them.

Its been said that when you enter into the field of education- particularly teaching- unbeknownst to many, you enter into the longest and most passionate love affair of your life.

If based simply on my past experience in schools or dialogue from my education professors- I’m inclined to believe this.

Internally I think I’ve been drawn towards teaching since the first time I set up my pink and yellow bedroom to be a classroom filled with imaginary students and my stuffed animal macaroni penguin, but I didn’t verbalize this aspiration until middle school. With a college major declared by age thirteen, I’ve had years of knowing what I wanted to do with life, and countless hours spent praying about how I will grow to become who I want to be.

In the silence of my car that morning, as I replayed the scene of my lesson back in my head, I could see how the years of knowing where I wanted to take my career palled in comparison to comfort I had realizing- I loved it.

I always thought I would love it. I dreamed I would love it. I prayed I would love it.

I had to wait years for my moment to say with even the most minimal experience,

“I created it, planned for it, executed it, and I loved it.”

An hour and half spent teaching a drop- in lesson to a group of students who were most likely specifically instructed to act engaged by no means reflects what it looks like to be a teacher. I know this. I see the challenges educators face every day from many fronts whether it be with their students, administration, their school district’s funding- the list goes on and on.

Accepting those realities was something I did the day I signed myself up for the School of Education- like any college student in any major does. We accept the challenges first because we can see those, read about them, dissect them, interpret them, and decide if we are up for them.

It’s our passions we sign off on a whim. I chose to become an education major because I thought so many things about how teaching is the life purpose I want. I concocted a passion so believable that I wasn’t the only one falling for it.

How would I have known I was passionate about teaching- I had never done it?

I signed up for education with the knowledge that I love people and their stories. I’ve always been more inclined to solve the problems on someone’s heart than those that can be calculated on a computer. I knew my strengths almost by means of elimination based on my familiarity with my weaknesses. I loved literature while in school and saw its impact on my own quality of life. I loved writing and found a sick joy in the rhythms and rules of grammar and syntax. I wanted to share these passions with young people one day- so I decided on education.

I chose my major knowing I wanted to be a teacher, but not because I knew I would love the actual act of teaching.

As one who has always been a big believer in step-back- take-a-deep-breath-this- instant-may-be-bigger-than-me- moments, I realized I was having one that morning in the silence of my car- getting all excited for the good ole days ahead of me.

Teaching Challenge: Strategies for Tackling MacBeth

Macbeth - PosterBy Amanda Szramiak — In my current field placement at West Allis Central High School, I am placed in an English 10 class and a World Literature class, which is all seniors.

For my Literacy in the Content Areas course, I had to teach a strategy lesson in either the sophomore or senior class. After talking with my cooperating teacher, I decided to teach in the sophomore class. The English 10 class is significantly smaller than the senior class so I thought I would be more comfortable teaching them for the first time. However, there was a change in plans.

The senior class began studying Macbeth, which I happened to be studying in my Shakespeare class. When I told my cooperating teacher about this, he remarked how interesting it would be for both the students and myself if I tackled teaching them Macbeth. Despite his confidence in me, I explained, “I don’t think I know Macbeth enough to teach it. I don’t want to screw your students up!” My teacher replied, “Well, there’s no other way to find out!”

Suddenly, I was up for the challenge.

After looking at the criteria for the lesson plan and the standards for grade twelve, I realized I didn’t necessarily have to teach Macbeth. I narrowed the standards down to two: CCSS. RL 11-12. 4 and CCSS. RL. 11-12. 7. I created a lesson plan revolving around figurative language in Macbeth. First, I gave all thirty students an “easy” quiz on figurative language asking them to match the key term with the appropriate phrase. The figures of speech I decided to focus on were alliteration, metaphor, paradox, simile equivocation, idiom, and personification. Before teaching the lesson, I gave the quiz to two of my friends the night before I taught to make sure it wasn’t too hard for the students. Unfortunately, both Marquette students failed the quiz, which led me into a panic worrying about whether my lesson plan was going to fail. Thankfully, the students had a better understanding than my two (former) best friends.

When I gave the students the quiz, I apologized for giving them a quiz the first time I was teaching them. In my cooperating teacher’s feedback, he told me not to apologize to the students, which is now a part of my rules for teaching. After the students took the quiz, we went over each question, and I gave them brief definitions of each figure of speech.

Then, we played human tic-tac-toe (an activity I did in one of my education classes), in which I divided the students in half with Team 1 and Team 2. I alternated between each team asking them to identify what type of figure of speech the quote I pulled from Macbeth was. The students moaned when I made them physically get out of their seats in order to play the game, which was also the reaction I had when my teacher made us play. The students were able to identify the figures of speech in Macbeth.

I asked the students to give me feedback from the lesson as an exit slip. I had them fill out a sheet of paper with “Something I learned” and “Feedback for Ms. Szramiak.” The feedback ranged from, “Don’t make me stand,” to “I think you will be a great teacher.” I was extremely nervous for this lesson, but I truly did see it as a success. My cooperating teacher gave me constructive feedback, which is incredibly valuable for me now as well as myself as a future educator.

Acting on a Stroke of Inspiration: My YOLO Moment

iStock_000005182627XSmall-Chapter-OneBy Aubrey Murtha — Well folks, I’ve decided I am writing a book.

Will it be a literary masterpiece? No.
Will you ever read it? Nah. 
Will it ever even leave my computer hard drive? Probably not! 

But I am going to do it because I am inspired.  And when Aubrey Murtha is inspired, she does stuff.

Most of my young adult life, I’ve been a rather routine person.  I go through the motions of daily life, do what it required of me, and follow a relatively typical schedule.  However, when I am artistically inspired, all my priorities tend to get shoved aside.  I delve into new projects wholeheartedly with little preparation and almost no thought.

I know what you’re thinking.  Aubrey, you’re absurd! You can’t write a novel with no prior planning!  Well—forgive me for being snarky—just watch me.

My point in telling this little story is that I think more people could benefit from acting on simple moments of profound inspiration.  Humans are, by nature, somewhat impulsive beings.  So why not capitalize on one of those “YOLO” moments of yours, and make something awesome.

Do something great.  Try something memorable.  The world is your oyster.

What Makes a Family? A Counselor’s Thoughts on Family and Love

family-875By Sabrina Bong Bartels — When my cousin got married last July, she not only gained a wonderful husband, but two adorable stepchildren as well.


Both kids are young – around elementary school age – and both were ecstatic when my cousin married their dad. However, the transition has not been easy.

My cousin has been receiving some backlash from various people about her stepchildren. The rude comments range from “Why haven’t you had your own kids?” to “What makes you think you can raise someone else’s kids?” The kids, meanwhile, are caught in the middle of a nasty custody battle and feel just as out of place as my cousin. As my cousin told me, “They wonder who in this world actually loves them.”

I was so upset when I heard about my cousin’s situation, but it is sadly something that I see at a daily basis at my school. I would estimate that over half of my students come from a different family circumstance. Some of my students come from single parent homes, where one parent is absent due to death, incarceration, or abandonment. A number of my students come from divorced families. A few of my students do not live with either parent; instead, they reside with a grandparent or another relative. We have students who are adopted, students who are in foster care, and students who are living in a homeless shelter (with or without mom and dad.)

When I took my class on multiculturalism, we discussed how to use inclusive language to make everyone feel comfortable, regardless of age, race, sexual orientation, or gender. For example, we talked about saying “significant other” to a man instead of “girlfriend,” which assumes that he wants an opposite gender partner. However, the same concept can be applied when talking to students about their families. Saying “mom” or “dad” assumes that my student knows, has contact with, or lives with them. It discriminates against those who lives with grandma or grandpa or other relatives.

When I first became a counselor, this was a huge switch for me. I am adopted, but I know (for the most part) the reasons behind my adoption. My parents are together. Out of all my really close friends, only one or two come from divorced families. I had never been exposed to so many different family units. Once I was, I became acutely aware of what language I used around my students. Instead of “mom” or “dad”, I ask if I can speak to their guardian. I follow my student’s lead; one of my students prefers to call her adoptive mother by her first name. I make an effort to learn the intricacies of my students’ families and do my best to remember them. I remember thinking that me making these subtle changes to the way I address my students’ family situations  would make my students feel worse, like I was picking them out and making them feel even more unusual than they may already. But I was wrong. I think my students genuinely appreciate the fact that I (and other counselors) make the effort to get to know them on this kind of personal level.

Easter is a precious holiday when we get the chance to spend time with our families and friends, regardless of who makes up those groups. I hope you all had a blessed Easter surrounded by those who love you the most!

Tuesday Trivia: April 7, 2015

How much do YOU know about Marquette University and the College of Education?
Test your knowledge (and win cool prizes) every Tuesday!


In light of the MPS school board elections today…

How many members sit on Milwaukee’s school board and how long do they serve?


Claim your chance to win by leaving the correct answer in the comments section below anytime today between 7am – 11pm. And don’t be afraid to play, even if someone has already posted the right answer! One winner will be randomly selected from ALL correct answers and announced the following day.  The winner will be posted on our Facebook page and notified by email.  Please note that you must have a valid email address listed in your comment or WordPress profile to win.

Tuesday Trivia: March 31, 2015

How much do YOU know about Marquette University and the College of Education?
Test your knowledge (and win cool prizes) every Tuesday!


What are the names of the 2015 College of Education Alumni Award Winners?


Claim your chance to win by leaving the correct answer in the comments section below anytime today between 7am – 11pm. And don’t be afraid to play, even if someone has already posted the right answer! One winner will be randomly selected from ALL correct answers and announced the following day.  The winner will be posted on our Facebook page and notified by email.  Please note that you must have a valid email address listed in your comment or WordPress profile to win.

The Number One Goal of Every Teacher Should Be…

Number_1_One-2…to be every student’s favorite teacher.
The teacher who has changed the student’s life.
The teacher the student always remembers.
The teacher the student thanks in a speech in which you would normally thank a teacher.

The teacher who walks into class every day with the goal of touching each student so deeply, of bringing learning alive in such a way that every student will never forget the lessons or the person who taught them.

The number one goal of every teacher should be to be every student’s favorite teacher.  Everything else will simply fall into place.

— Nick McDaniels

What is a Marquette Educator?

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