How Film Worked Wonders with my Students!

I am back to tell you about an incredible unit I just completed with my seventh grade students.

I have been struggling to help them stay engaged with the literature we have been reading. When students are not engaged in the content you teach, the learning will not stick.

Yet, I can only do so much to make myself entertaining to students. I am competing with the excess amount of technology out there, So, if you can’t beat em’, join em!

Film or movies have bad stigma associated with them when used in the classroom. I remember in my teacher preparation classes never to just show videos or movies. For teachers, movies are known as taking the easy way out: a reward for students at the end of a movie, a way to fill class time when a substitute comes, or even tossing in YouTube videos which connect with the content, but have no end goal or purpose.

“Media literacy skills can be developed by asking critical questions about media messages, comparing newspapers to TV news, analyzing patterns of representation in documentaries, or studying television and film adaptations of literature,” says Renee Hobbs in her journal article, “Non-optimal uses of video in the classroom” (Hobbs 36).

Yes, we need to teach our students how to critically analyze written text. But, what about the texts that constantly bombard them everyday. Things such as advertisements, teen magazines, commercials, movies, TV shows..etc.

We must also teach our students to analyze media, so they are not consumed by information without knowing what it means.

Hobbs touches on this by saying, “Without a critical perspective, media use in the classroom may replicate the ways that television, video and other electronic media are used in the home, as a passive form of recreation, amusement, or escape that is increasingly a dominant, normative dimension of contemporary leisure among young and old” (Hobbs 37).

Therefore, I wanted to students to see why movie directors control a movie the way we do. We went through the beginning of Edward Scissorhands, and discussed the lighting, sounds, camera angles, language.

I told my students each added element of this movie has a meaning and a purpose. Then, we compared the written script version to further analyze the language. I explained to them, everything in written text has a purpose. The author never accidentally places a comma where they do, or exchanges an exclamation point for a period. Everything has purpose.

The students loved it. They were enthralled to get to watch a movie in class everyday, but they also had so much fun realizing things about movies they never knew before.

We, as educators, need to stop using media as a filler, a reward, or a hook to intrigue students. We need to teach students to be aware of what messages our culture is telling kids through diverse media formats. And that starts with showing them how to analyze the things they are consuming.

The beauty of teaching what students are already digesting is that they are engaged. They want to learn about the stuff they like. Why would we not shift education to meet kids where they are at? Trust me, look at the academic standards and using diverse formats is all over them. Not just using them, but analyzing them.

I saw my seventh grade kids comes to life in this unit! I saw the slacker kids speak, I saw my advance students come up with amazing analysis. It was a win, win.

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Meet the Expert

For my Teacher as Advocate badge, we were required to meet with Antero Garcia to discuss our questions and ideas about what it means to be an advocate in the world of education. The first thing I asked him was what he believes is the biggest issue is education, currently? To which he bluntly responded,

“Everything’s bad.”

He smirked, but was dead serious with this response. I was not surprised by his reaction, but was surprised by the next answer he gave me…He started to explain how something which has been on his heart is about the lack of support for teachers. There is no practical methods for helping teachers cope and heal when students are hurting. Helping prevent teachers from “burning out,” because how can a teacher effectively cultivate a healthy classroom environment, when they themselves are worn out. The more he talked about this issue the more I reflected on how exhausting teaching must be, and how vital it is to have outlets for teachers to be human.

Two weeks later after meeting with Antero, I unexpectedly received the opportunity to witness exactly what this “burn out” looks like. Each Thursday, for my education 34o lab, I help in a classroom at Blevins Middle School. On this particular Thursday, my teacher pulled me aside to prime me about what we would be doing for the day. She went on to tell me how her students were being disrespectful all week, and her response to their behavior resulted in a parent email which scolded her. She vented to me about the email did not accurately depict what was said in the classroom, and that the student had misunderstood what she said. For class, the students took a self-reflection on their behavior in the class. Long story short, the class discussion regarding this self-reflection led the teacher to break down crying in front of her students.

She was exhausted, over-worked, unappreciated, and frustrated. Therefore, Antero’s idea of advocating in regards to this issue, suggests how we can stop her from reaching this point of emotional stress in the first place. Which is why I am targeting my Advocacy Plan after this idea..because providing support for teachers should be highly prioritized.

 

Advocacy Organizations

As I am completing my Teacher as Advocate badge, I have realized that in order to step into the role of being an advocate, it is vital to humble yourself enough to receive help. Being an advocate means working as a team with fellow educators. Learning from other teacher’s experience, leaning on the power of administrators, and empowering your own voice are all needed for becoming a teacher advocate.

One way to reach out and receive help is through websites which are already on the move to being an advocate for teachers. One effective website I explored was, Students First. This website directs its focus on giving each student in America an opportunity to access “great schools and great teachers.” Their approach to achieving reform is simple in its connotation, yet packs a punch when linked to their call to action. They initiate insightful ways to make sure schools are hiring and encouraging great teachers while also  Students First also brings myths about educational reforms into the light in order to promote realistic approaches to fixing the problem.  The organization has had a huge impact on publishing resources such as articles for the public to engage with as well as creating and passing over 130 student-centered policies and laws across the nation.

I believe students first is a great non-profit which sheds light on important issues. The most interesting aspect of their website, for me, was their myths section. There are so many false beliefs regarding solutions to the educational issues which exist, and the public needs to be aware of them. Some of the language on their website was simple, and seemed to present issues as if the solution was simple. However, the organization has been sufficiently successful in advocating for what is best for students.

Another organization I researched was Teach For America, which contrasts with Students First because it aims to training and crafting expert teachers. I chose this organization because I have some prior knowledge of. Last semester, I looked into the internships which Teach For America offers for high school and college students. I filled out some of the application, but then never completed it because I received an opportunity to work for another company. The internship I applied for involved me being sent to an inner-city school to teach kids. However, besides internships, the organization hires people to commit to two years of teaching in a low-income community.

When I was considering applying for an internship with Teach for America, I asked my Educ 275 professor if he knew anything about the organization. He replied by telling me how they wanted him to work for them, but he declined because he did not like the way they did not allow for experimentation within the classroom. He stated they had a very specific way to teach the content, and branching out was frowned upon. my professor’s style of teaching was the opposite of that, so he politely declined the offer.

Overall, these two organization serve as a way to provide opportunities for bettering the education environment. Their approaches are different in the sense that Students First creates polices for students well-being, whereas Teach For America aims at recruiting teachers and sending them to impoverished schools.

Open Door Policy

Since the start of pursuing my career of being a teacher, I always assumed I would have an open door policy for my students and fellow teachers. However, lately I have been exposed to how much of a necessity it is for teachers to have moments throughout the day just for themselves. A moment of relaxation; a moment to to be alone. Therefore, the only cost to having an open door policy, is the moments you then give away to invest more time into kids. Yet, most of the classroom time will be dedicated to the content, so in order to provide a space for students to come to you with their needs would require implementing an open door policy.

I believe not having an open door policy is less safe than having one. Students need a place where they can come to escape the pressures of peers, or to come if they do not feel safe. Fellow teachers need each other in order to bounce ideas off of each other, or to vent about how loud and obnoxious their students are being that day. Creating an atmosphere where faculty and students do not have to feel isolated throughout the entire school, would pave a way for community to build. Teachers should not have the mentality at their school of “every man for themselves.”  And who would that benefit? Not the kids or the teachers.

As of now in the current stage of preparing myself to become a teacher, I know that the primary reason I want to step into this profession is because I value relationships. I value people. I do not want to shut my door and put my head down as I walk through the halls. I want to collaborate with my students and my teachers in order to build a community of people who love to learn from one another.

Leadership Compass Self Assesment

I have never been a fan of assessment tests until last year when I was frantically trying to pick a major. Meeting with my undeclared adviser, she pointed me to career counselor who prompted me to take multiple assessment tests specifically to help me narrow my skills and passions.I hated the idea of letting a computer tell me the passions and desires of my heart, thinking I knew my heart better than a machine. Laying my pride down, I realized I could use a little guidance, so, reluctantly, I took them. I took two of them and each of them gave me the same results–educator. Since then, my faith in assessment tests has been redeemed. Not because the machine knew myself better than I did, but because it gave me the answers I already knew.

However, the Leadership Compass Self Assessment test gave me results I may not have necessarily known about myself. Yet, I was not cynical towards this test.

The test is geared towards analyzing a person’s approaches to work style. There are four categories–Action, Vision, Empathy, and Analytical– which all have a series of statements you must check if it pertains to you. For me, the categories which I checked the most boxes were in the empathy and analytical categories. I had an equal number of boxes checked for each of them, and my lowest was the action category. Once you establish the categories you fall into, there is a synopsis at the end of the test with what strengths and weaknesses you may have in regards to the way you approach work.

After analyzing the results for analytical, I found the statements which were truest strengths to how I perform were:

  • Careful; thoroughly examines people’s needs in situations
  • Seen as practical, dependable, and thorough in task situations
  •  Maximizes existing resources; gets the most out of what has been done in the past

For weaknesses, I found the truest statements were:

  • May be indecisive, collect unnecessary data, become mired in details, or suffer from “analysis paralysis”
  • May remain withdrawn and distant

How these results may reveal for my future as a teacher advocate, is my willingness to want to step up for people in, but over analyzing the situation too much. Often times, ill be sitting in class and will have something really good to comment during discussion. Yet, something in me over analyzes my comment, causing me to hold back and not participate. This could happen to me during faculty meetings, or educational conferences in the future.

Now moving into my next category: empathy–the main statements which I felt showed my strengths in this department were:

  • Uses professional relationships to accomplish tasks; interaction is primary
  • Receptive of others’ ideas; team player; builds on ideas of others; non-competitive

For weaknesses, I found the truest statements were:

  • May lose focus on goals when they believe relationships and/or needs of people are being compromised
  • Has trouble saying “No” to requests
  • May over-compromise to avoid conflict

Relationships are something I value most in my life. My main reasoning behind becoming a teacher is so that I can build relationships with students in the hopes of contributing the their life in a positive way. This is both a strength and a weakness in regards to my professional career. I may value relationships too much to the point where I lose focus of my role as an educator and in return my students may not receive the best education. I will not be able to please all my students, and knowing how to say “No” will be something I need to work on.

 

Teacher Advocacy

Well, it is time to start another badge! After finishing my teacher ally badge, I have gained valuable information on what it looks like to invest in your students in an outside of the classroom. Now, looking at the advocacy badge, I am excited to learn about how to speak for my students beyond the walls of my school, and out in the public education sphere.

One aspect of the education system that I love is the opportunity for the faculty to become a team. After being in my EDUC 340 class, I have observed how close all of the teachers are with each other, and how sweet it’ll be to make friends within my career. There is no pressure to get to the top, or compete competitively with other colleagues. (Of course, some of those competitive desires will seep in when it comes to standardized test scores). However, teachers have an incredible opportunity to grow and learn from each other, which builds strong community.

In a blog post from Precious Crabtree titled, “How do you know if you’re a teacher leader?” The blogger challenges the misconception that administrators are the only ones who can advocate for students in regards to the politics of the classroom. They talked about how he/she began speaking at conferences and realized how strong of a voice they had merely by sharing their passion and student’s stories. Administrators are not the ones in the classroom with students all day, therefore, they should not be the main ones who are speaking on behalf of students.

So how do we become an advocate for our students?

From a blog post by, Jessica Cuthbertson, who talks about what this looks like; I made a connection with something I learned at the beginning of the semester. The first badge we did for my CO301d class was declaring over ourselves that we are writers. I always knew I loved to write, but labeling myself as a writer was outside of my comfort zone. Similaril with becoming a teacher advocate, I love kids and will be passionate about doing what is best for them in a classroom setting. Yet, labeling myself as a teacher advocate will allow me to practically fight for my students outside of the classroom. Here is what Jessica says:

“Teacher advocates see the bigger picture and purpose of public education. We ask lots of questions. We problem solve and push back against the status quo. We take initiative. We wonder out loud and imagine possibilities. We say “Yes,” often when asked to explain our work to others despite our busy schedules. We see advocacy as part of what it means to be an educator.”

 

 

Teachers of Literacy

As an English teacher I will do the obvious by teaching my students to read and write. However, I also want to engrave in them a desire to fall in love with the art of reading and writing. No matter what level of literacy they have, there are ways to make reading and writing not seem like a chore they have to do on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. Teaching them the power behind words, and not only just words, but THEIR own words, can change the way they view reading and writing.

In this class, my sophomore year in college, was the first time I ever realized I was a writer. I want to teach my students this earlier. I want them to know they are good writers no matter what the test scores say. I want to encourage them and show them becoming a writer is a life long journey which no one ever fully reaches the end. By teaching them this, they can see how failing is part of the process, and how there is no one definition of what it means to be a good reader or writer.

Implementing the basic lesson plans on vocabulary and grammar will not be enough. Teaching confidence is something which will make it last.

Fail Forward

As I dive deeper into my education classes my heart burns with passion for the reality setting in that soon I will become something I have always dreamed of. However, behind this passion lingers a menacing presence–fear. Behind all my fears of stepping into the classroom lies one underlying gut-wrenching fear: failing my students. I want them to succeed, to grow, to become more of who they are, to learn, to be good community members, to reach their full potential, to be inspired and inspire others, and the list goes on…

But, I am terrified I will not be able to be the water which nourishes the soil of my student’s academic performance. I am terrified of falling short, of making mistakes, of hurting my students. However, I think one way to overcome this fear of failing my students is to be honest and humble; especially in the first couple years of teaching. I need to give myself grace and realize I will need experience to start and figure out what works in my classroom. Yet, if you never water the plants and question why they are dying, how can you

Experimenting in the classroom in necessary, and there will many times where I do something with my students which I have never done before. But, not trying would be like not watering the plants and asking why they are withering away. Students will be bored if they show up to class doing the same thing every day, they will start to wither and check out. In order to keep class engaging, risks will have to be taken.

Students of Dyslexia

I am going to start off my being honest about myself, and how when I was a student my assumptions of other students were often hurtful.

I was always an adequate reader, and never struggled with reading out loud or in front of people. I remember in classes I would always be frustrated when we would take turns reading out loud and there would be that one kid who always read painfully slow. Out of frustration, I would heavily sigh each time they stumbled over the “easiest” words. But I was never alone. Other students in the class would look at each other and roll their eyes or put their head down with much exaggeration. Yet, because of our intolerance, none of us ever realized how the student may have a reading impediment. We just assumed they were “dumb.”

As I have remarked in my previous blogs, I teach at Blevins middle school every Thursday in a reading class designed to help students who are at lower levels then other students. About two weeks ago I was leading about five students through a discussion on an article we read as a class. The article was about Jackie Robinson and how he overcame the racial barriers of playing professional baseball in an all white league. One of the questions the students were asked during discussion was how they themselves could relate to Jackie. Looking confused, I probed them a little further by asking them what challenges they may have overcome in their life this far. A student named Gabby spoke up and talked with the group about how she has dealt with her Dyslexia. Bringing her issue into the light opened a door for two other students to share how they also struggled with Dyslexia. The three of them high-fived each other as they bonded over their struggle.

This deeply touched me.

So, when I was asked to research another marginalized group I decided to research students of Dyslexia and how teachers can help them in the classroom. Out of everything I researched, these are my main takeaways:

  • Avoid having these students real aloud in class, it is important to build their self esteem not destroy it. So having them read aloud will make them embarrassed
  • Do research. Be knowledgeable about Dyslexia and the affects it has on the student
  •  Ask, listen, and do something.
  • Reassure their failures
  • Reading and writing for people with Dyslexia takes a lot of mental energy
  • If distractions are present, Dyslexic students will not be able to understand what they are reading

Takeaway quote:

“Teachers often don’t realize that students who struggle to learn enjoy it the most.  Despite the difficulties dyslexics experience along the way, we often thrive when challenged, becoming even more intrigued and curious when faced with seemingly unsolvable puzzles. We are especially invigorated when our unique perspective is recognized and valued.”

The “Privilege Walk”

Perspective of African American woman in “Privilege Walk” video:

Hands slipping, at first slowly, and then all at once. I kept stepping backwards as people moved before me. And then when the final question was asked, I could see everyone in front of me as I was left behind…

The privilege walk was awkward, but facing reality is sometimes just that. I felt the tension in the room as people hesitantly stepped forward. I saw people glance over there shoulder to see who was behind them. Silence filled the room, as reality began to set in. I am an African American woman who identifies as gay, and with these identities, my privileges are not the same at others in the group. Privileges such as safety, and being able to freely love with no ridicule, and having your parents home on weekends, are privileges which people do not see as privileges. This walk was humbling, I believe for most, who may not see the privileges they hold in this society. Privilege is real, and ignorance of these privileges stand in the way of social change. I know who I am, and I am proud of who I am. Yet, not having the same advantages as most in this country often times makes me feel like less of a human being. I cling tightly to the belief that each individual in this world holds a unique set of traits designed to impact the world in some beautiful way. Yet, I believe as we unite together, as people from different races or cultures unite together; that is where these unique personalities can have the most powerful affects.

So, the privilege walk not only showed me how marginalized I am in society, but also showed me that I felt more comfortable when we were all holding hands then when we were separated by the end. However how can we there, if we have never been there?

Perspective of teacher:

As a teacher, I am hesitant about using this activity in my classroom. There are many things to consider while seeing if this would an effective learning opportunity for students. I believe it would be a risky strategy to use for middle school students because they may be unsure of what the questions are implying. So it would be important to adhere the questions to make them appropiate to the age group.