Sunday, February 26, 2017

Pop Sonnets, Shakespeare, and Student Teaching

The last time I blogged, it was January, and I was blogging about my word for 2017: balance. Apparently, part of pursuing a more balanced life has been learning when to give myself space for rest because I have really fallen behind in blog updates. The past two months have been filled with learning and trying new things, and I'm so thankful for every opportunity I've had to grow in my classroom practice.

This semester, I've had the unique experience of having a student intern from a nearby university in my classroom. This is my second time to host a student intern, but it is my first time to have an intern as a high school teacher. It has been a truly wonderful experience! You become so much more self aware and reflective of your own teaching practices when you are trying to make your work transparent throughout the day. It's also been so much fun to work with Katie on integrating technology into her teaching. For her first solo teach, she challenged students to create a Mannequin Challenge of "The Pardoner's Tale" from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. The kids loved interpreting the text in this modern context, and the activity really forced them to break down the poetry and determine what was happening in the tale. We tweeted a sample of their work, and you can watch it here.

Just this past week, Katie completed her first solo week of teaching with my senior Honors British Literature classes. I was so proud of her for choosing to teach a unit on Shakespearean sonnets that incorporated challenging content and new technology for both her and the students to learn.  She challenged students to write their own Pop Sonnets. If you've never seen Pop Sonnets, they're AWESOME! Here's the link to the Tumblr account. Students chose popular songs from today and translated them into the Shakespearean sonnet form, complete with correct rhyme scheme and iambic pentameter. It was probably one of the most difficult things we've asked students to do this semester, and they were so frustrated at first. Often, honors students are used to picking things up easily at school, and while they may find a challenge like this interesting, they often quickly become frustrated when it doesn't come to them as easily as many of their academic endeavors do. It's a really great opportunity for students to flex their growth mindset.

After composing their Pop Sonnets, each student then posted their sonnet to a shared slide presentation and created an accompanying recitation track with background music in Garageband. This was a really fun and creative way for them to present their sonnets to the class at the end of the week and see who could guess what song had been translated into English sonnet form.

Here are links to the slide decks of Pop Sonnets that they created this week:

Test yourself and see if you can guess what songs they were interpreting as sonnets!

While some were more successful than others, I was so proud of the effort that every student put in to this project and even more proud of the respect that they showed to my intern teacher this week. My heart swelled with pride at how Katie navigated both her successes and struggles this week. Being a teacher requires so much juggling of tasks and time, and helping a student teacher navigate all those tasks in a day is a big reminder about what a big job we all do in classrooms day in and day out. Katie handled this week with a tenacity that made me so excited about her future in the classroom. She's is going to be a great teacher!

More than anything though, this past week served as an incredible reminder of how much I love teaching kids every day. I missed being with my students so much! I just love watching them learn and grow and work to their full potential. I love being there for all of that, and I love learning alongside them. I really do teach some incredible kids, and I'm excited to get back to work with them tomorrow!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Hey 2017, My One Word is Balance

In reflecting back on 2016, I couldn't be more filled with gratitude for the people and opportunities and experiences that came into my life, both personally and professionally. I travelled, I worked really hard doing a job I love and am passionate about, I got engaged to a man that makes my heart so happy, and I ended the year looking back at all these things and thinking about how quickly time rushes past us. All of the small, sweet moments and big, exciting occasions of 2016 make it special, and they make me excited about what 2017 will bring with it. They also make me want to not move so fast. This is why my resolution for 2017 is BALANCE.

I have always struggled with balance. I'm the kind of person that wants to hurtle into everything and figure out how to give all of myself to everything all at once. That, I have found, is very exhausting. It also makes it really difficult to truly give my best to all my commitments. When I'm busy trying to do all the things for all the people all of the time, I just end up needing to take a nice, long nap instead. Because of this, I really want to attempt a commitment to balance in every area of my life this year. 

I want to make time for my own wellness; that means quiet moments to unplug and be still. It means going to the gym when I'd rather do basically anything else. It means not filling every moment of my day from the time I wake up until the time I can't stay awake any longer. Stillness is something that I think I have long undervalued. I want to get better at quiet. 

I want to make time for relationships. This past semester, in particular, I would catch myself getting so caught up in the tasks of the day that I wasn't making the time for kids that I needed to make. If a kid asks me to read his fan fiction, I need to read it, give feedback, and support his writing. If girls come to my room just to hang out during lunch because high school is hard and kids can be mean, then emails and To Do List tasks can wait. All the busyness will be there after the fifteen minutes it takes to listen to them and remind them that there is a big, incredible world out there to conquer after high school. The same is true of personal relationships. This year I am so excited to get married, and I want to be present in every moment of this exciting time. I don't want to rush through any of it because every moment is an incredible gift. 

Balance is hard for a lot of reasons, but I think the biggest reason it's hard for me is that I don't want to miss any opportunity. Saying "No" is just not something I am good at doing. But I think learning to stay in my lane is part of finding balance, and I'm excited to explore what that looks like this year.