FEA Conference 

My favorite break-out session was one called FIP. It was about a model of classroom where the student has a lot more say in what they are learning. All the students learn the same thing but at different speeds. The students decide what they need to work on, future goals, and how they will reach them. The teacher guides all of this and then helps the student acheive what they need to. We haven’t learned about something like this in class as it isn’t exactly self-directed learning but it was interesting. I’m not sure what the parts for section one are yet but maybe I could use this as evidence in one of my papers. 

I’m not really sure how I contributed to make this a good experience. I don’t think I made it any worse, if that counts. I just tried to do what we were told and go from place to place without causing any trouble. I’m not sure if that was helpful or not but that’s about the extent of it.

If I had this to do over I would have finished my lesson plan. I had begun working on a lesson plan for competition but never finished it. I was enjoying it and wish I had made it more of a priority. I was writing an ELA lesson plan for second graders on discriptive writing and would have taught it to my second graders at Jefferson. I wish I had finished it so I could have had that experience. Otherwise, I enjoyed myself. 

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Grit

I think the only characteristic of grit that I have is that of long-term goals. I have long-term goals. Very long ones. I mean, decades ahead type goals. But that’s about it. That’s the extent of my grittiness. I’m not trying to be self-deprecating, just honest.

Take courage. I am in no way courageous. Nothing I have done in the past 18 years has required courage. If one person says anything about Africa requiring courage I will smack you upside the head the next time I see you because it required nothing of the sort. I’ve known for years that I wanted to, needed to, go on that trip. I wasn’t nervous or scared for a single moment, so it never required courage on my part. So please do not give me credit where credit is not due. It is certainly not due there.

Okay, I guess I’m somewhat achievement oriented. I do try to do a good job and 95% of the time finish whatever it is I’m supposed to do. However, I’m not really sure if I’m dependable. I think others know that better than yourself. Frankly, in my book, it’s just safer not to depend on anyone for anything at all. Moving on.

I do not feel that I am resilient. This is due to the fact that I think I am a pessimist. My motto is “Hope for the best, expect and prepare for the worst”. If that isn’t a pessimistic motto I don’t what is. I’m not confident, at least not when it comes to people my age. Old habits die hard and up until now people have rarely given me cause to feel comfortable around them. It’s merely the only types of experiences I’ve had with people for so long that I’ve come to, yet again, “Hope for the best, yet expect the worst”, of them.

Lastly, I do not feel that I am in any way excellent nor do I believe that I will do anything that remotely amounts to something even approaching excellence. I am one person on an entire planet full of billions of other people. Each of those people has their own life and their own plans and their own dreams. I am merely one tiny, insignificant, blip on the radar of the span of our planet’s history and future. When I die nobody will remember me or care that I am gone after the people who knew me are dead. And I’m okay with that. I’m perfectly okay with the triviality of the 80 some years I have left. I don’t mourn the fact that I am highly inconsequential, not at all. In fact, I embrace it. This way I can go quietly and it will not have an effect on anything at all.
So, in conclusion, I do not think that I am a gritty person. Other than the fact that I have goals and try to do a good job I don’t amount to much. In the grand scheme of things I am highly unnecessary. I sit here, as the majority of humanity does, breathing oxygen and taking up space and consuming precious resources, and will one day die a death of little consequence. Call me morbid, call me cruel or cold or whatever you will, but I’m just being pragmatic. I think that’s why I’ve never had too many friends, because I view everything too honestly to fit into a society that is so gorged on optimism. But I figure it’s better to view everything in the greater context of everything else and realize just how unimportant it really all is than to think that you’re going to make some major difference for the betterment of the long-term world. That way you can never be disappointed when things fall short because you assumed they would anyway. You can still try to do something wonderful and good and who knows, maybe you will succeed, some people have; but that way, if you do fail, it won’t hurt you. Also, if you do happen to succeed, it will be all the more sweet because you never thought you would. Okay, I’m done being a Debby Downer about life in general now.
Bye.

In Response to Lexie’s Question

Lexie was the first person to ask a question and therefore I will answer it. Her question was: “What is your favorite memory?”. So, here we go.

It all started on an airplane.

In June I went on a missions trip to Burkina Faso, West Africa. You already know this, so there’s no need to explain the trip. However, I will tell one story of it.

We spent two days working at a ministry called Pan Bila. Pan Bila is a home for girls that are either pregnant or have young children that have nowhere to go. They’ve either gotten pregnant out of wedlock and so been disowned by their families or were released from prostitution. Either way, the girls are living on the the streets of Ougadougou (Burkina’s capitol) and the streets of Ougadougou are not a safe place for these girls late at night. Released from prostitution may seem like a good thing but this is not neccessarily the case. Some of the girls are sold into it by their families so that the rest of the family can eat so of course they won’t be welcomed back. Even if this wasn’t the case, the girls can rarely make it home (no street signs, maps, or telephones here) to the villages where they once lived. If somehow they did, they are pregnant and so unmarriageable. Their families will want nothing to do with them. That’s where ministries like Pan Bila come in.

Pan Bila takes in up to sixteen girls at a time and give them prenatal care if they have not yet given birth. When they go into labor they are taken to the hospital (an unimaginable luxury that they would have never been able to afford) and then return to Pan Bila with their new child. The children are cared for and the mothers have somewhere to live and work. Very rarely are these girls welcomed back into their communities, if they can be found at all, and so they are taught life skills. They learn how to read and write, do arithmetic that would be needed for business, and learn things like soap making and weaving. They learn how to crochet and cook, along with hygene and nutrition. Through all of this they spend time in nightly group Bible study and nearly all who leave the center (typically within six months to a year) have put their faith in Jesus Christ!

Anyhow, here’s my actual memory.

Shile we were at Pan Bila our task was to tear down a nursery. The intention was to build a new one so the mothers would have some where safe to leave their children while they did everything they have to do during the day. Learning to read and make soap while having an infant strapped to your back is quite distracting I’d assume! Being unused to the 118 degree heat (no, I’m not exaggerating) the “white people” had to take breaks every thirty minutes or so. It wasn’t an option because quite often you don’t realize you’re dehydrated until it gets dangerous. There was a covered area where the babies stayed and that’s where we’d take a break for ten or fifteen minutes at a time.

There was one little girl who kept watching me all morning and after lunch she wandered over and just looked up at me, staring with her big, beautiful brown eyes. Obviously she spoke no English and I very limited French, but I said Bonjour and knelt down in front of her. I put my arms out and she seemed very comfortable to be held. I picked her up and played with her for a few minutes then put her down, figuring she’d want to go back to her mom. On the contrary, however, she lifted her arms right back up. Of course, I picked her up again and knew instantly that I was doomed.

I swore to myself that I wasn’t going to do it, wasn’t going to fall in love with a baby in Burkina because I knew I’d have to leave him or her behind. When it happens, though, there isn’t much you can do to stop it. Like I said, it took about five minutes for me. This little girl wasn’t quite two years old at the time and her name is Alice. There’s an accent mark over the “A” but I don’t know how to put it there. Alice was so quite, so serious, and so unlike children her age I had met before. She wasn’t warry of strangers, that was obvious, and I wondered what it was. Nathanja, who helps run the center, enlightened me.

“In Burkina,” she said “Child mortality is one out of three. For every three children a woman gives birth to, one will die before the age of ten. That’s why families are so big here; people have eight or nine children because so few will reach adulthood. Because of the inevitable loss of a child, the mothers don’t become attached. If you watch, the mothers here will fill their child’s needs but no more. You won’t see them talking to their children unless they are scolding them, they won’t play with their children or cuddle them. They love their children, it’s impossible not to, but they don’t form a bond with them. That way, if the child dies, they will still be able to do what they have to”.

I realized why Alice looked so sad after that explanation- she had never been loved. At least not in the way we see it. I was determined to show her as much love as I could the next two days. Whenever I wasn’t working I was holding, playing with, and talking to Alice. I know she couldn’t udnerstand what I was saying, but I talked anyway. I’d bounce her on my lap, tickle her, spin her in circles, bring her high above my head and then turn her upside down. She loved it all and would shriek with laughter while we played. She’d come running up to me when I stopped working, arms raised, and watched me like a hawk when I wasn’t with her. I’d hug her and kiss the top of her head and by the end of the second day she was hugging and kissing me right back. The missionary that we were staying with, Pete, mentioned at one point while I was holding her that he hadn’t seen me that happy or with that bing a smile on my face since we got there. He was right, I couldn’t remember the last time I had been as happy as I was those two days.

At the end of the second day though, I had to say goodbye. As we were leaving Alice came running up to me with her arms high in the air and a smile on her face, just as she had so many times before. This time though, I didn’t pick her up. I bent over and ran a hand over her head and, barely being able to get the word out, said “no”. No is the same in French as in English, there’s just a different tone to it. So she knew this word. It was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do, walk away from her, leave her there. I regret every single day that I gave up my last chance to hold her, hug her, give her a kiss, and whisper into her little ear that I love her and that God loves her too. I miss her constantly and will never forget her.

Okay, don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry.

Not crying. So, in answer to Lexie’s question, my favorite memory really spans two days. It is filled with hugs and kisses, laughter and smiles. Alice’s fingers running through my curls and tugging at the hair that is so different from her own. Her being entranced by the medical bracelet (epilepsy) I wore and spinning the little charm with the information on it over and over. The weight of her in my arms and her even breaths when she fell asleep in my lap. It is the overwhelming joy that a little girl gave me for forty eight hours. It is the immense love I felt for her and that will never disappear. It was knowing that I made another person happy and showed her a love she’d never been given before. It is all of these things and so much more that I could never really explain. Alice took a piece of my heart that I will never get back but knowing that that piece is full of nothing but love, I am perfectly happy to give it away.

So I Was Told to Post on My Blog…

These were the instructions: “Write about something, anything, it just has to mean something to you”. That’s it. Nothing else.

This is my worst nightmare.

I like structure, instructions, rules and regulations. Guidelines and strict perameters so I know what I’m doing is right. I was given none of those. I was left alone, told to look inside my head, and pull something personal out of it to write about. This is impossible.

I am not good at this. The whole “talk about your feelings” or “how do you understand ——” type stuff. I don’t really know how to do it. Oh sure, I can write. I write poems and books (42,000 words into one at the moment) all the time, but personal stuff has never been something I could do. I’ve never kept a journal, though I tried. I desperately wanted to because all of the important characters in the books I read did. Their entries were thoughtful and very intraspective. Mine were a list of what happened that day in paragraph form. I always gave up after a few weeks. So this is a not going to be much of an entry, sorry PK!

In fact, I’m kind of out of ideas already. And yes, I am fully aware that I have written about nothing other than the futility of this assignment, but I can’t get past there. I don’t typically give up on stuff, I never have. Occasionally though, I hit a wall. These walls are tall and thick and impenetrable. So rather than choose the topic of this post you get to. I know I haven’t cleared this with you PK and if you don’t like my idea tell me and I’ll scrap this. However, here’s my proposition. If you have a question for me, something you’d like to know about me, post it in the comments. I’ll pick one or two of the questions and address them. I doubt this will work as I can’t imagine there will be questions but I’m at my wits end here. I hope this is all right because so far this has taken thirty minutes and it’s been pretty much a useless rant against lack of instruction. So, I leave my next post (which will be the real one that PK wants) in your hands. Ask away! PLEASE! Just ask me SOMETHING! ANYTHING! Well, within reason. Use discretion.

See you in the morning!

Mckenna

Work Smarter: 5 Tips for Checking Writer’s Notebooks Efficiently  

I really liked this blog entry because I enjoy writing and want to include that in a big way when I become a teacher so this has given my ideas on how to check student’s writing without it becoming overly time-consuming.

9/8- Plutarch quote

Plutarch once said “The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled”.  I think this quote is very important to education. The point of education is not to fill a mind with a never-ending stream of facts that students cram into their brain for  a test and then forget a week later. The point of education is to foster a love of learning that will last until the day a person dies. I think most teachers have this love not because of education, but in spite of it. From eight in the morning until three in the afternoon students are shuffled from room to room, given an endless stream of information, and are then told that in four days there will be a test on this information. You study like the wind, pass your tests, and then forget everything that you supposedly just “learned” to make space for the information that will be on the next test. So much emphasis is placed on exams, grades, and standardized tests, that the true reason for education has been lost. A love for learning is natural- how else could you explain how an infant learns to crawl, walk, talk, etc.? There is an inevitable stage that begins around the age of two known as the “Why?” stage, and, though thrilled that children want to know things, is the eventual dread of parents, babysitters, and teachers of young children everywhere! The questions never stop, they want to know why the sky is blue, why the grass is green, why the sun is warm, why squirrels live in trees, why there is a hole in the sidewalk, why, why,why! It never stops!

Or does it?

When does this stage of constant “why” taper off? This seems to draw to an end around the age of five or six. When does a child enter the formal education system? I don’t think this is a coincidence.

As soon as a child begins school they have so much information thrown at them that, frankly, they have no interest in yet. But that doesn’t seem to matter. Letter grades, meeting certain levels of preordained achievement for their age group, and scoring well on the government mandated tests that every child is subjected to year after year throughout grade school, seems more important to many teachers and school systems than whether or not their students are truly learning. I’m not saying this is everywhere, many teachers are concerned that their students aren’t learning the way they should, but many others are content to meet the required material for the school year, assuming that their students have learned what they are expected to. This rigorous course of study quickly saps all desire for learning out of a child because their brains are too tired at the end of the day to take in any more information. As they get older, they begin to stress about getting the perfect scores, sometimes making themselves almost physically sick about it, and yet they never consider whether or not they’ve really learned what it is they are trying so hard to get an A on. I’ve fallen into that category more than once, and I rue the fact that I remember almost nothing from all those classes I studied so hard for. The only teacher I remember who taught me to love learning was my first grade teacher, who taught me to read. Through reading I learned to love learning. We need to teach our students that learning isn’t something you do nine months out of the year, five days a  week, seven hours a day, and then you stop once you graduate. It’s something you do until you take your final breath. We need to make that stage of the never-ending why last in our children all through their education and then they will naturally carry it into their adult lives. By never ceasing to ask why, our children will remember what is to love learning, to want to understand every single minute thing about the world surrounding us and what it contains. If we can do this, if we can keep our students asking “why”, then I believe we will have succeeded as educators. The children themselves lit the flame, and by never stopping the “why”s, we will have kindled the fire.