Thursday, May 29, 2014

Reading Buddies

The highlight of my Thursdays is Reading Buddies time. Each 5th grader is paired with a 1st grader and they sit around the room and read together. The 1st graders get to practice their fluency/reading and the 5th graders get to practice being good role models. Even though my class can be rowdy and very mobile in class, during reading buddies they are so engaged and take on personas that I don't get to see every day in the classroom. Today one of my shyer boys was reading a book with his buddy and they each took the roles of different characters and even had voices to go along with the characters! Another student read with great expression and clarity because he was excited about being able to read to his buddy without having the other 5th graders "judge" his reading ability. A third student who can sometimes be in her own world and not necessarily interact with her peers all that positively was so patient with her buddy. It is amazing to see how they transform when they are surrounded by a different audience. Seeing them doing something that they are enjoying is encouraging and brightens my day. It also gives the first grade teacher and myself a little break during our long Thursdays with no specials. :-)

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Retrospection about the Future

You are probably reading this title and wondering if I know what retrospection is. The answer is yes! It is looking in depth at the past. Today my mom showed me this video.

It made me think about the generation of which I am a part, which my students are a part. What happened to the days where creativity and critical thinking were essential? Running around town, hanging out on the box (my friends and I used to spend hours talking by an electrical box at a friend's house), building sledding hills from the staircases, and reading a book on the porch because we only had 40 channels (most of which were the news).  I remember being faced with difficult problems in school and not being told the answer, but having to use what I did know to figure it out. There are glimmers of this creative and critical thinking still: in the student who draws and writes, in science class when students have to figure out for themselves how to build simple machines and get excited when they finally figure it out, in the student who tells me about playing school at home. For the most part though, we have become a lazy generation.  Why aren't we trying to make a change and seek human interaction? Why do we submit to the trends of technology even if we think the latest apps are dumb?

What has happened in the last 10 years? I have students who see a slightly unfamiliar math problem and give up immediately because they know eventually we will go over it. I have students who told me that they were looking forward to vacation because then they could play extra video games or spend the day laying on their beds texting their friends. What happened to going on vacation and experiencing the world?  I have students with attentional issues, who are rude, who feel lonely and cannot get along with peers. Could these things stem from the influx and availability of technology we have at our fingertips?

Phones, computers, and televisions all have a way of holding our attention for long periods of time (to watch a movie, to watch 5 episodes of House in a row, to play a video game always having to get to the next level). What suffers because of this? Students do not know how to focus on the things that are PRESENT and REAL, whether that is people or schoolwork. They spend more time texting or snapchatting their friends than actually talking to them! No wonder they are rude, no wonder they are lonely, no wonder they have problems getting along with peers. They are in need of human interaction! We can be emotionless with technology. It is easy to communicate with technology because we can disconnect, really think about how to respond inoffensively to someone, or say things that are just plain mean and follow up with a "jk." How is this ok?

Everything is at our fingertips: no need to do real research, no need to learn how to spell because spell check does the work for us, no need to learn interpersonal skills/nonverbal communication, no need to think for ourselves and solve problems. Have we become slaves to our technology? Have we become like robots, relying on technology for our every move?

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The home stretch

I can't believe it is May 4th! April passed by much more quickly than March did. In April, I had a nice spring break visiting friends and family and then it was right back to the groove of things up here in Massachusetts. Spring decided to arrive fashionably late up here. This week it finally arrived with rain, weird New England weather, and this weekend some plants came out of their hibernation. I participated in a run for Colleen Ritzer, the teacher who passed away in October, today and it was beautiful! Over 3000 people participated in this fundraiser for the Colleen Ritzer scholarship. We ran through a bird sanctuary and there were inspirational quotes throughout the 5k. It made me reflect about the kind of legacy I want to leave behind, what I want to be remembered by. "No matter what happens in life, be good to people. Being good to people is a wonderful legacy to leave behind" -Colleen Ritzer

Spring is my favorite time of year, but it also seems to be a time of stress, transitions and good byes. Tonight I had my last youth group, and had to announce to my students that I would not be returning next year. I've grown to love these kids, especially the girls in my small group. It is hard knowing that soon I will have to say goodbye to friends, who I have lived close to the last 5 years, and say goodbye to my students who are funny, creative, and interesting kids, and who I have invested so much time into this year.

I know the next 37 days of school will go by quickly, and I am excited to be done with MCAS mid-May and excited for all the end of year celebrations. Pray that I can have a smooth transition back to NJ and that I would be able to get a job that I love, working with a unique population of students.