My mentor, Ann

When I think about my time teaching, the most beneficial thing I got out of a difficult experience would be the friends I made. Getting to know teachers as peers, not as a student, is such a privilege.

Today, I want to talk about my mentor, Ann Wilson. She was my Induction mentor during my second year, and that was a really strange year for me because I came out of a horrible experience, and I didn’t have a classroom. I was working with many different teachers and to be honest, felt lost. It was hard to know what my role was and everything was super unclear. She did so many things that helped me, even if it did not make the particular situation better:

  • She made me feel seen and heard. This, in turn, was how I wanted to make students and people in general feel.

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  • She gave to-the-point and meaningful presentations and it was Google Slides #goals. Teachers go to a lot of professional development, and a lot of it is not very applicable to your own classroom. However, Ann always made a point to involve participants and it didn’t feel like being talked at for an hour.

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  • She stressed the importance of revising in teaching and in everything else. She openly talked about how it takes a few years to master a grade level, and it wasn’t until your third, fourth, or even fifth year that you really know what you are doing. Mistakes are to be expected, but not fatal, and “you’re not going to go from here to there in one day.”

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  • When I was having a hard time working with some of the teachers, she told me that other people can do what they do, but you have to make sure your side of the street is clean. That was really incredible because it was so frank. Anyone else might’ve told me to just hold my tongue and deal with it, or even that the other party is right and I’m at fault. However, Ann acknowledged that sometimes other people ARE wrong, and even if they bully you, you don’t become like them. She encouraged me to do the right thing even if there is no immediate payoff.

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  • I loved the way she talked about running her classroom. I think I would have really liked to be a student in her classroom! She treats her 3rd graders like little people, and did not baby them which is something I have always struggled with doing. She gave students responsibilities, but she did have hard times too with certain students. I love how she talked about helping students grow as readers and writers, and all the math strategies she helped me come up with. Teaching is a craft and just like any craft it takes practice and a ton of research and finding what works for you. This is an approach I’d like to take no matter what job I have.

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In short, Ann encouraged me to revise often and write well. She also gave me a really good approach to living life, not only as a teacher but as a person.

Teaching and learning

I left teaching in February and it was probably one of the biggest decisions of my life. Like all big decisions, the consequences are huge. But as I reflect on my posts about food, I realized something else.

One of my teacher mentors, Ann, told me that to become a better teacher, she puts herself in the role of a learner a lot. For example, she takes yoga classes and thinks about how she would want the teacher to help her or push her. That has stayed with me. (Ann says so many wise things. She’s had a huge influence on me. Thank you Ann Wilson!!!!)

I’m no longer a teacher, but I still like to put myself in the role of the learner. It’s a little different from simply taking a bunch of classes or being a student. And I’m not doing it to earn a degree. I like when teaching and learning is very personal or in small groups.

Some of my favorite learning experiences as an adult:

  • Yoga class with Carrie. My instructor had a home studio, a garage that she converted. I loved it because it was so personal, the group classes consisted of regulars, and it was just the best yoga experience. It definitely made yoga into a practice for me.
  • Yoga via YouTube videos with Adrienne. I moved out of Carrie’s area, so I could no longer afford classes or find a yoga community (I was commuting and had no time for evening classes anymore.) I still wanted to practice yoga, and I’m able to do so
  • Cooking class at Hipcooks. I’ve been describing them in my food posts.
  • Painting classes at Paint and Sip. I loved the painting classes there! Justin is a great teacher. He is so kind and I really enjoyed painting there.
  • Crafting workshops at Paper Source. I love explicit and detailed instruction so this class is very fun! I learn to make my own greeting cards.

I realize that to be able to take all these classes is a huge luxury and privilege. Not every can afford it in terms of money and time. There is no way I would be able to indulge in these if I had a family to support or a really demanding job. However, I want to say that I am not making a lot of money, and I find ways to support these hobbies.

For example, practicing yoga through YouTube videos is free. You only need Internet connection, a screen, and space & yoga mat!

There are many workshops at local libraries too. They are free!

I’m able to take cooking classes by assisting the teacher and volunteering to wash dishes. I’ve been able to “take” classes for free by being there and assisting. Really, the amazing thing about the Internet is that there are so many podcasts, videos, and tutorials that are available if you really want to learn. I just want to say that learning doesn’t stop once you are out of school, but it is a huge time and money investment if you choose to take classes. One day, I might pick up adult music lessons too.

I’m a really big proponent of adult learning!

 

Reflections on teaching, 2018

Thank goodness it is winter break!

These past few weeks have been really eventful for me. I found Thanksgiving break to be breather, and when I went back to school I was totally dreading it. The month between Thanskgiving break and winter break I felt like I was in a fog. I wasn’t feeling well and despite not feeling stressed about school anymore, I also wasn’t motivated. I felt fine going to work every day but super exhausted coming back. Then I had this huge pain on my side so I finally went to the doctor and found out that I had pneumonia 😭😷. I felt like I was in a fog and out of commission the last week before winter break.

It’s been 2 weeks since then and I’m grateful I’ve had time to pause and reflect. I have been feeling iffy about teaching basically ever since 2016 when I started teaching, and at least once a year I get super sick and want to quit. I realized this is just not sustainable. There is no way I can keep teaching if I am feeling this way every year. I’ve tried to communcate with my parents why I feel this way and it’s been hard getting them to understand. I’m not quitting because it is hard or I’m losing interest, it’s that teaching seems to be hurting me more than it’s helping me. My mom finally understood a little when she was in the hospital with me and I’m glad.

Some reflections:

  • -I got worse at talking to children since I became a teacher. I used to find it fun to play with and talk to kids but now I don’t even feel good around some 5-year-olds 😞.
  • -I enjoy talking to adults and for the most part, I can chat with anyone. I love giving presentations and professional tasks.
  • -I do not enjoy Dual Immersion or foreign language teaching. I much prefer having one group of kids the whole day, same kids all year. I want to teach core subjects (math & English) and traditional multiple subjects.
  • -I really enjoy tutoring and art. I do not enjoy disciplining or managing, so I question whether public school or classroom teaching is for me. I can be a disciplinarian but it is going to be much harder for me than it is for other teachers.
  • -I don’t have a personality or presence where kids automatically want to please me or are scared of me, so I think management is always going to be a struggle for me. In addition, I simply don’t click with naughty kids. I can’t relate to them at all and maybe that’s where I need to be more compassionate.
  • -Teaching hasn’t been good for my health because I’m trying so hard to talk every day. I feel ignored/not heard/not seen, and my work is not appreciated. In other words, it doesn’t feel worth it because it is one-sided. And since I base my performance on how engaged students are, it’s only felt like a huge amount of work that’s wasted.
  • In order to keep teaching I need to be healthy in body and in soul. I need to have more compassion for myself and my students. Even though I can’t change kids or coworkers, I can change myself. I need to start with enjoying what I do, and let go of whether it’s effective or not, or whether kids are learning. Only when I begin to like what I do, do kids have a chance of liking what they do in my classroom. It’s ok if no one gets it or a thing completely falls flat. If I had fun doing it or I’m excited, it was at least worth it for a little bit. Because of that, I will start trying things I am excited about and letting go of how effective it was.
  • Trials & errors

    New coaster sensations of 2018

    I talked with Leslie, a veteran kindergarten teacher of 24 years, today! She is a friend of my HS English teacher Mrs. Sorey. Here is the gist of what she shared with me:

    Oh my pleasure honey! I honestly wish I had had someone share their words of wisdom with me…. but thru persistence & trial & error I learned:

    Boundaries

    Firm, fair & consist

    Expect a lot and they will perform

    Let them know you careabout(love)them.

    It is very much the message I get from the teachers who’ve been most impactful on me: Elaine (my coworker at IHCS), Roger (my college professor), Stephanie and Phil (my master teachers). I haven’t had in-depth conversations with a lot of teachers, but I am sure that’s what they would say to me too. Claudia, Laurene, Krystin, Ruijie, Glenn, and many other teachers. (In just 3 years, 1 student teaching and 2 contract teaching) I’ve had the pleasure of meeting soooo many different teachers and working with many different populations. It makes me realize just how difficult teaching in America is. Teaching in a pluralistic society is so much more challenging than I ever imagined it would be. My past 2 years have opened my eyes to that. Through teaching, I’ve encountered more people than I ever would have in an office job, and I’m really thankful for that.

    Because of, I’m interested in the relationship between teacher and students. Teaching is 90% classroom management, and relationships are a huge part of that. The recurring message I’ve gotten is that classroom management consists of:

    Relationships

    Expectations

    Practice and procedures

    It really is not a clip chart, treasure chest, PBIS or consequences. I technically had all of those things in my class when I was at IHCS, and if anything they made me a less effective teacher. I think this is where the art of teaching comes in, and where it’s not just a science. The past 2 years I was looking for directions where if you do x, y and z, then your classroom will be orderly and students will behave. It totally doesn’t work like that! I learned that it’s the fine art of:

    Tone when you are talking to students

    Building a classroom community

    Building on your own lightbulb moments

    Supporting each other (teacher to teacher, and teacher to student)

    Feeling safe and comfortable so we can learn

    Using tools and routines to help you

    There aren’t tokens for those things. I really feel that good teachers should run the country rather than Donald Trump. There are so many interpersonal and organizational skills needed to be a good teacher. I truly believe that being a good teacher means being a good person. Don’t you wish that more people in our world were firm, fair, consistent, and loving? I love teaching and yoga because of that! ❤

    My dream career and life ^

    Being a teacher pt. 2

    Lately I’ve been doing a ton of thinking, browsing, and reading about teaching. I finally started to put it down on paper / Google Docs. I worked on my classroom management plan.

    I am obssessed with class management because I’m terrible at it. I told my friend that it’s a matter of survival for me– I’ve picked teaching as my career, and I’m not naturally authoritative or good at disciplining, so to survive (literally, to keep a job in order to live), I need to get good at classroom management.

    Luckily, there are more classroom management resources out there than I could ever digest in a lifetime.

    Good ones that I cam acoss today:

    What Is Classroom Management? – A teacher once told me her mentor teacher told her that “Teaching is 90% classroom management.” Without it, no learning can occur. But it is SOOOO much more than just being strict or having students do what you say out of fear. More honest people have told me that I’m soft spoken, smile too much, and am passive, so I realized pretty early that presence and an authoritative vibe wasn’t going to take care of classroom management for me like some of the old school teachers I’ve had. (You know.. the teachers with a reputation.) I would have to work at classroom management and put in more effort to craft this teaching persona and develop ways of running my classroom. It really is “running a class,” just like how a manager runs his store/restaurant/team.

    Making Your Classroom More Like a Grocery Store – Bringing me to this next point — I love what this teacher said about making your classroom like a store!!!!!! My whole “thesis” about teaching is “Helping kids become adults,” so this makes perfect sense to me. As a manager, I am training little customers and employees. Instead of groceries, I’m selling knowledge and training them on basic skills. I especially love what he said about tricking customers into buying more than they came for– our business as teachers is to take the students who come in daydreaming and disengaged, and do our thing so that they leave the classroom at the end of the day with much more than they thought they would. Stores have a million ways to trick us into buying and so do teachers! We have our signs (anchor charts), music (songs), inventory (supplies) and most importantly customer service (ourselves) to make that happen. I’m fulfilling my dream of running my own store. (Fav store manager = Rei from Minamoto Kitchoan.)

    Classroom Procedures That Build Character – This also goes along with my teaching thesis. I want to help kids become adults with good character– basically, adults that I’d like more of in society. Some might argue that this is my personal biased agenda but it is not. Objectively, we want people who are helpful, kind, have integrity, and can support their claims with reasoning. This is more important than ever in the world we live in today. That’s why it’s super important to me that students are practicing content as well as behavior every day. And yes, it’s a practice because we all make mistakes, we are all practicing, just like in yoga.

    9 Strategies for Effective Classroom Management – I love videos on the Teaching Channel!!!! It really brings all the theories to life. I love seeing new and veteran teachers in action. I will be reviewing more videos soon.

    Being a teacher pt. 1

    My job is a teacher and it’s something I’ve been working on for the past 4 years. I’ve never explicitly talked about it here because I’ve had a really hard time with teaching.

    The reason I want to be a teacher: I think my mentor said it best: I want to help little people grow up to become big people.  Basically, I want kids to grow up to be good adults. I never tell people that when they ask because it sounds way too cheesy, but it is my true reason. I care less about the academics and knowledge I’m passing on to them, because the Internet can do that. They can get information themselves. What is really important to me is that they grow up feeling capable and that they don’t grow up to become racist/sexist/prejudiced adults. This task is proving much much harder and I realize that one person cannot do that. It takes a village and a world to raise a kid into an adult.

    That takes me to the next point, which is that I have only 180 days and about 5 hours with students per day — in those limited number of hours and minutes, how do we make our time count? What is the most important thing for us to do together ? This is dictated by standards and so many other things, but teachers can be really powerful too. In any lesson, the teacher is teaching content and behavior. A math teacher is teaching math and how to talk about numbers and back up our answers. An English teacher is teaching revising and how to give and take constructive feedback. I think those skills are the most valuable in the adult world and what I want students to practice in my classroom.

    The things I struggle with as a teacher: I struggle with classroom management and controlling student behavior. It may not sound kid-friendly, but a teacher absolutely needs control of the classroom in order to teach. That is my greatest weakness and something I really wrestle with. I’m not authoritative by nature and I’ve had to work hard at student behavior with poor results 😦 . I’ve read and gotten a lot of advice about classroom management, and the repeating theme is that teachers need to:

    1. Be consistent
    2. Set expectations and teach them to students
    3. Enforce consequences

    I struggle because even though I do those things, students do not behave. It seems that there is a personality/presence aspect that I have not mastered yet. How do I come across as being authoritative and someone that students can trust and rely on? How do I fit better into a school community, with staff, students, and admin? How do I captivate students’ attention and make school a fun place for them? I would like those things because I originally thought teaching could be a creative and meaningful job, but I have not been able to experience that yet. My goal this year is to have fun teaching, and hopefully kids have fun as well.

    To be continued!

    Currently reading:

    Reading Workshop Tips – Teaching in the Tongass

    How To Be Both Calm And Enthusiastic Next School Year

    Mirrors and Windows