Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Wednesday, 1/23/13

Dear Journal,

Sweetest thing happened today.

My little curly-headed rebel (I use the term affectionately) found out one of the many stupid choices I made during my academy years.

His eyes widened and his jaw dropped into the cutest look of incredulity I've seen to date.

"You're a bad girl, Miss Beth??"

"Well..I've never been one to follow rules because I was told to, if that's what you mean."

"I-I-I thought you were a goody-two-shoes cause you're so quiet and you always wear a long skirt and like read your Bible and stuff."

(Have I mentioned how much I love the candid open-ness of teenagers?)

Before the conversation was over, he knew me a lot better. I told him that, yes, I'd spent much of my life hating the rules, misunderstanding the reasons, believing everything was stupid, and making a lot of bad choices; but I also told him there was nothing down that road. I had tried to "be my own person" but ended up just making choices that hurt other people. I told him about how true freedom (the real way to "be your own person") is found in choosing the right and fences are for protection. I told him there is nothing in the pleasures and fun of the world that holds a candle to Jesus.

He listened. He didn't blow it off like I've seen him do so many times. He apologized twenty times for misunderstanding me.

Before my next class began, as I put my things in order on the podium, I looked up to see his black curls bobbing through the door. Sidling up to me, he put his arm around me in a quick squeeze. "Miss Beth? I just want you to know I love you."

And I realize once again what a gift it is to know pain.

I've regretted the rebellion and rued the pain that caused it. But God has worked them both alike for the good.

The one is best equipped to help his brother through the rough place in the way who has first been there himself.

It is sweet to know, yet again, that my loving Jesus brings beauty out of the ashes of our lives.

"Sorrows come to stretch out spaces in the heart for joy." (Streams in the Desert, 1/18)

*               *               *

Everybody talked in speech class today! I don't know if it was because we were going over the section they had read in Counsels to Speech and Song or if they're just warming up to me. I did Eugene Prewitt-style, "So what do you remember from your reading?" and they just yakked away.

I was warmed to see their responses to their reading. Some of the toughest hearts in the class were sharing how the words had hit them just where they needed it.

It is getting easier to prepare classes. I feel like I'm slipping into the groove a little better.

Showing speech videos is making its mark. They're getting natural at picking out the good and bad things the speaker is doing, and the framework of a good speech.

Our business office manager has been begging to come and teach the seniors how to do a resume. I think that's a great idea, and I'm going to work it in by having him do it as a demonstration speech. I'll have the kids analyze his presentation just like they do the videos. He has the perfect personality to handle it. I asked him also to tell them about ways that good speaking skills are needed in the business world. He has worked for years in one of the top auditing firms in the nation and has lots of experience. I'm hoping that will inspire them to put something into improving their speaking skills.

They have been honest with me that the only reason they're even taking the class is because its a requirement to graduate and they just don't care about it.

Well. I aim to give them something to care about!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Monday, 1/21/13

Dear Journal,

Wow. What a difference one weekend can make!

I was dean on duty in the girls dorm this weekend and spent hours chatting, snuggling, taking temperatures, and supervising surprise birthday parties. And the inevitable happened...I'm falling in love with my kids.

And all of a sudden teaching has gone from grayscale to full color. I have a reason, a purpose, I'm needed. God put me here to minister to people. I knew that, and was operating in faith, but now my people have faces and their needs are beginning to be confided in shy little hints. I'm not just checking assignments off a list and filling the class time with material anymore. I'm carefully crafting lessons to meet real needs for real people who I love.

And Mr. Moody, after I so hard-heartedly made him take his special make-up quiz in Computers, has decided he really likes me for some reason. After church he came over to me, and, looking down ten inches at my five-foot-two self, shyly wrapped his arm around me and tried to lay his head on my shoulder like a little boy who needs a Momma. Too bad my shoulder wasn't tall enough to do the job... Hopefully he felt some Momma anyway.

Today I taught speech class. It's getting easier.

I'm trying to work them into thinking more analytically, and also trying to model for them what a good speech is actually like, so I'm going to show them a video speech at the beginning of each class period and have them analyze it. I created a paper of questions for them to fill out, which makes them think about everything from the speaker's eye contact to the thesis statement. Then we share and discuss. My hope is that this will get them familiar with the elements of good speaking and prepare them to be evaluated in the same way that they are evaluating these speeches.

Ms. Wanda suggests I create random call cards. (A method for calling on students. Just simple index cards, one for each student in the class and labeled with their name. A student picks one card, and whoever was chosen speaks. They then choose the next card.) This ensures that everybody is talking and that they are ready to talk because they are anticipating being called on at any time. That will be very beneficial in this class.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Thursday, 1/17/10

Dear Journal,

Chewing on the ramifications of this:

God desires us to deal with our children in simplicity. We are liable to forget that children have not had the advantage of the long years of training that older people have had. If the little ones do not act in accordance with our ideas in every respect, we sometimes think that they deserve a scolding. But this will not mend matters. Take them to the Saviour, and tell Him all about it; then believe that His blessing will rest upon them.  {CG 287.1}

I'm coming to see that the most effective tool I have as a teacher is prayer. I am not able to hasten them to maturity, and I am liable to misunderstand their motives and misjudge their behavior, but I can bring them daily before the mercy seat knowing that I can ask in faith for great things for them.

We lost two students today. One was in my speech class. I am surprised at the gut-wrenching sadness I feel to watch him walk away since I scarcely know him.

I long for him to know peace.

I have no idea where he will go or the choices that he will make.

But I can take him to the Saviour and believe that His blessing will rest upon him.

And when class doesn't go so well-- like today-- I'm glad I can take myself to the Saviour, and tell Him all about it and believe that His blessing will rest upon me as well.

What I need to work on:
I'm having a problem with the students being distracted by the internet while they are supposed to be working on their Scripture Typer, while they're working on their assignments, while I'm lecturing... just all the time. I don't know the best strategies to fix this and I need to research.

Ms. Wanda says I should walk around while I lecture. So I'd best learn how to think, talk, look, notice, and correct all at the same time. (Is there an app for that?)

I did reassign the seating that the previous teacher had. The change went over like a lead balloon, but the class was quieter and I was able to access my biggest challenge students much easier.

I don't know the answers. I am disillusioned with myself and my ability to put into practice the strategies and theories I have been taught and that I know work.

But I can take it to Jesus.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Wednesday, 1/16/13

Dear Journal,

Ms. Wanda is the master of the thought-provoking question. Today she had freshman Bible thinking through how they would feel if they were a firstborn child on the night of the first Passover.

"Have you ever slept with your shoes on, before?"

"So that night you laid down in bed. How quickly do you think you would have gone to sleep?"

"What if you asked your dad, 'Dad? have you put the blood on the doorpost yet?' and he replied, 'no, not yet, it's only 10:00. I'll do it later."

Or, "Dad? did you put the blood on the top AND the sides?" "Well...I put it on the door. Don't worry about where it is. That would be legalistic. God understands my heart."

"How would the father have acted if he loved his son?"

"Is God particular? Does He care if you do things just like he says?"

She finished with a few deeply provoking thoughts about how if we truly love God we will be watching, working and seeking out every requirement that He has given. This is what it means to be ready.

I'm in awe.

I've discovered the trick to getting my seniors to talk! Put them in cooperative learning groups. They talk to each other when they won't talk to me. Today I planned to show MLKjr's I Have a Dream speech and have them look through it to discover how many main points he had as a springboard to my powerpoint on preparing an outline. They got so into it, and they were so engaged in what they were doing that we completely ran out of time and the powerpoint is going to have to wait until Monday's class, but I was so happy to see them actually doing something that I don't care a bit.

Thank you, Spencer Kagan!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Tuesday, 1/15/13

Dear Journal,

Today the freshman said, "Hey! I really like this class now. It's a lot better than it was last semester. No offense to [the previous teacher]. Like we do so much interactive stuff and it's not all just book work and lectures. I learn so much more when I can actually interact and do stuff."

And I merely smile at the whimsy of teenagers.

They can glide from peaks to valleys and back again so effortlessly.

I think that's one of the reasons I like them so well. They're so transparent--still unspoiled by the political facade of "niceness" they will learn to wear as adults. You don't have to wonder what they're thinking. And the same is true of their moods that we used to say of the weather, "If you don't like it, wait five minutes." There will be another mood change and those sunny smiles will be shining again.

That aside, I love the little shout-out for interactive methods. Here's to teaching youth to be thinkers and not mere reflectors of other men's thoughts.

So today the class worked on finishing a quiz I had given them on Thursday. The quiz was to make a poster describing the steps of creating a Microsoft Access database and putting information into tables. I planned to have them finish the poster and then use a cooperative learning technique called "Carousel Feedback" which goes something like this.
  1. Posters/projects are displayed
  2. Teams stand in front of their assigned project
  3. Teams rotate clockwise to the next project
  4. Teams discuss their reactions to the project and record feedback.
  5. They continue rotating, discussing and giving feedback until they get back to their own project.
I created a rubric for them to use for grading the posters, and was quite pleased to see how much more seriously they took the project after they got the rubric in their hands and realized what their peers (and I!) were going to be expecting to see. They buckled down and worked! The group with the sorriest looking poster (all picture and no content) decided to completely throw it out and made a new one that was quite detailed.

And my heart just gets warm to see them trying so hard to do their best. I'm starting to feel the joy of teaching again. I'm remembering why I love this. I love to watch people choose to improve themselves.

Lesson learned: Rubrics are very, very, very, very amazing tools. I shall use them often.

On Thursday I was struggling to know how to help Mr. Moody participate with his group. He was just sitting on a chair socializing while they did all the work. I went ahead and implemented my idea to have him take his own quiz. I was duly impressed with how well he took it.

Today while the other two members of his team were diligently working away finishing their poster, I came up beside him and asked him how the poster was coming. I told him, "I know you didn't get a chance to do as much of the work on it as you would have liked, but you know all the steps yourself don't you?"
Yes, he did.
"Ok then, I thought so. I'm in a tough situation to be able to give you a good grade for this quiz since you weren't able to participate much on the poster, but what we can do is, if you will just type me up a word document with the steps then I can grade you on that."
He humbly nodded and went straight to his computer.
Thank you for that one, Lord...

Monday, January 14, 2013

Monday 1/14/13

Dear Journal,

I observed Freshman Bible and taught Senior Speech today. This is my second time teaching Senior Speech. The first time I didn't say a word about it because I was rather discouraged about it.
I had been nervous going into the class, and didn't feel prepared at all completely prepared. I only got more nervous throughout the class and I thought it went pretty poorly overall. Ms. Wanda agreed in her cute, little honest way. In debriefing on the way home she turned to me and said, "So Beth, tell me what was your main objective for the class today?"
And yours truly smiled sheepishly and said, " fill all the time."
She laughed and said, "I could tell."

So that was the last class period, and I was anxious to do better. I prepared my lecture better with a clear objective this time and felt MUCH more prepared.

There is something about this class that is just profoundly intimidating. There's only five of them, but the dear kids will. not. talk!! They stare impassively at you. If you ask a thought question there will be awkward silence for several long moments, and then a few more long moments, and thheeeennnn someone will break the silence.

So scary!

Ms. Wanda says they intimidate her too. She loves to ask questions. The almighty question is the backbone and heartbeat of her classes. But this senior class has challenged her a great deal because of their utter vacuity of interaction.

Ah well, the greatest weakness of my teaching is my absolute inability to give a lecture. And what better way to learn how to lecture than to teach a class where the students force you to be the only one talking?

I lectured today.

And then made them practice.

Ms. Wanda said it went well. I thought it did too.

I gave them a quiz over the previous lesson and told them to expect one every day. If they won't talk, they have to take quizzes or I'm going to have no clue if they're even listening to and processing what I'm saying.

I lectured about how to choose a topic and how to know your audience. Then I gave them a chance to practice the steps of selecting a topic and got them thinking about their audience. They did pretty good.

I'm going to find videos of famous speeches and start showing them one or two at the beginning of class to set a standard for them of what good speaking is. With the background some of these kids have I don't think they've had much exposure to fine speaking. They certainly seem to have little desire to learn the skills! Maybe if they hear enough really good speeches it will spark in them the desire to try for themselves.


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Thursday 1/10/13

Dear Journal,

They say you've got to get back on the horse that throws you.

Well, today I did.

That little scripture song that's my ultimate favorite in canvassing kept running through my head.

The Lord God will help me, therefore shall I not be confounded; therefore have I set my face like a flint and I know that I shall not be ashamed. For the Lord God will help me, Isaiah 50:7.

He said it. And I hold Him to His promises. In the end, the one who leans on the Lord cannot and will not be confounded.

And class went much better today.

I am sold on having an established bellwork routine for the beginning of class. Something that gets them busy the moment they walk into class, keeps them quiet, and benefits them. By the time it's over, you have everybody in learning mode and ready to go. No goofing off. No helpless struggle to gain their attention. No stress. I'm DEFINITELY repeating this in the future.

The routine I told them was that they will come into the classroom, go directly to their computer, sign in to Scripture Typer and work on their typing/memory for the first fifteen minutes of class (I have an 80 minute class period so I have time for that, I am so utterly blessed!) I stressed the need for quiet, framing it by telling them it was because people would be trying to memorize.

I knew that since today was the first day of implementing the routine that it was going to be very critical to establish the proper protocol.

As usual, they came bounding into the classroom in high spirits, jabbering and laughing and shouting to each other. I met them at the door with "Shhhhhhhh, quietly find your computer and begin working on your scripture typer."
They found their computers, sat down, and promptly forgot all about being quiet. So I kept repeating it. Practicing the technique I saw Ms. Wanda use yesterday, I continued to repeat my instructions and called out individual names when necessary. The more conscientious of my students started helping me out with "Hey, she said to be quiet!" Within 3 minutes, the entire class was seated and quietly working. Yay! Some still hadn't quite figured out Scripture Typer, so Mr. Sarr and I floated around trouble shooting. By tomorrow everything should be in place for them to get right to work immediately.

After gaining that initial control of the classroom, everything went MUCH smoother than the last class. I realized on the spot that I needed a good way to focus everyone's attention at the end of the 15 minutes of Scripture Typer, so I impromptu told them, "When you are finished with the current verse you are working on, press windows key+D and turn your attention toward the front." That didn't work out so good, because they got confused about what windows key+D was, so I told them,  "If you don't get that, don't worry about it, you can still turn your attention toward the front." I got them all after a bit. I think a better procedure for next time would be to have them raise their hand when they are finished. That way I'll have a good visual of who is finished and who isn't, and the people having to hold their heavy arm up in the air will pressure those who aren't finished to hurry up!

Since my previous explanation of databases had miserably failed, I began with a brief review/explanation in which we talked about how a telephone book was an example of a non-technological database and compared it to the database they had created in their exercise in the last class. We established what a field is and what a record is, and then they completed another practice exercise. I then told them they would have a quiz.

For the quiz, they would work in groups to create a poster explaining the steps of creating/naming a database, creating tables and entering the fields and records. The poster that has the most complete steps and is the most "poster-like" will be posted on the wall as a resource for the class. They were allowed to use their computers, but not their books.

Making the groups was a challenge since I don't know the kids hardly at all and have no idea who works best with who or what kind of "bad history" might be between somebody. Mr. Moody is a tough one to place in any group. He has anger challenges. His group was the only one unhappy with their team.

He didn't much participate in the making of his chart either... though I asked him once "Mr. Moody, how's your poster coming?"
"Oh, it's coming great Miss Beth! It's looking really pretty from what I can see!"
"Don't let her do all of it!" I warned.
He made a half-hearted attempt after that, but pretty soon was back to sitting on a chair and socializing.
I got up and wandered over to him, and he stopped socializing, but getting him to really do anything was challenging. His dear teammate tried her best too.
I guess I'll have to do something to his quiz grade... :-/
Maybe I should talk to him about it, and help him see the tough position he's put me in --that I want to give him a good grade on the quiz but I can't for that kind of work-- and give him an opportunity to redeem himself by writing me out a list of step-by-step instructions.
Doing the "quiz" that way, was really just a right-brained activity to get them to engage in what they learned in a meaningful way. So if he did that, then he'd still be getting the benefit the others did.

They didn't quite finish the posters by the end of class. One group was done, but the others weren't. So I'll give them some time at the beginning of the next class to finish it... I just got to come up with another activity for those who are already finished to work on during that time.

My take-away from the day is that the things that made the biggest difference between today and the last class were:

-I prayed more and leaned harder
-I prepared more
-I smiled my face off
-I held firmer control of the classroom (amazing how kids like a controlled environment so much better than an uncontrolled one in spite of everything they think/say to the contrary)

And today three of them lined up at the door to hug me on the way out.


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Wednesday 1/9/13

Dear Journal,

In Pilgrim's Progress, Christian passed through the valley of Humiliation after his lovely experience at the palace Beautiful.

I follow in his footsteps.

My last year at OHC was filled with the best experiences, the sweetest fellowship, the closest connection with Jesus, the most amazing canvassing programs I've ever led, the love and affirmation of some of the world's most talented and affectionate academy students... Those times were sweet.

Now I'm here -- learning more every day just how green I am, just how much I really don't know, everything I'm not good at. I feel like a little girl, scared and alone in a crowd of unfamiliar faces.

Humanity liked the comfortable fellowship, but my heart knows that the valley is what I really need. Humanity had too much push and shove around needs to be put in its place.

Today I observed Ms. Wanda teach Freshman Bible, and I taught Senior Speech.

Watching her was delightful. I really enjoy seeing the creative things that seem to flow out of her so effortlessly. It is a comfort for me to realize that she once struggled through the experience that I am now and that the effort and experience have yielded this beautiful result. One day, I too will be a walking encyclopedia of teaching resources, a confident and assured classroom manager, and a clear and concise explainer. Although, when I get to that day I'll probably struggle with pride, so in reality its better to be here where I'm forced to lean hard on my Lord.


Ms. Wanda did something for the memory verse test that I thought was really cool. She had each student find three other people to repeat their memory verse to before they came to get their paper to write it. They are freshman, and their memorizing skills are not what they one day will be, so she is "scaffolding"-- giving them a framework to climb on in order to build their skills. I love how she does that.

Her classroom management is a marvel to me. Today while the students were working on something, Firecracker started conversing with one of the girls like she was his girlfriend, asking if she was ok, getting really close to her, and reaching out to caress her hair. (He had just done the exact same thing to another girl on the other side of the classroom. Bless him, I'm sure his little boy heart has no concept of what that does to a girl..) He glanced up to see Ms. Wanda looking at him.

"What?!!" he said, "Did I do something wrong?"

"I didn't say you did anything wrong."

"Then why are you looking at me like that?"

"I'm just looking." She smiled.

He moved back into his desk.

"Be careful." She said with meaning, as she turned her attention back to the rest of the class.

I was especially interested to see how she handled it when two of them ignored her instructions and kept talking with each other since that's one of the big struggles I had yesterday.

Firecracker, and another dear boy I'm going to call Mr. Moody, were having a conversation while the entire class was supposed to be taking their memory verse test. 
Shhhhhh.... Ms. Wanda warned.
They kept talking.
Shhhhhhhhhh..... she warned again.
Still talking.
"Firecracker! Mr. Moody!"
They kept talking!
"Hey!" (louder now) "Mr. Moody!" she caught his eye. "You guys need to be quiet during the test."
They got back to work.
What I got from that was that she stayed on them, even when they were ignoring her, and she didn't let them get away with it. If she had given up after the first or third time and let them keep talking it would have communicated that it was ok to ignore her.

She's on top of them, and keeps the classroom running like a well-oiled machine, and they love to do what she tells them because she has a warmth and lovingness about her that communicates she believes in them. I'm working on pin-pointing how she communicates that warmth. I think the biggest thing is her smile. I need to smile more. Jaimie always tells me I look really scary when I teach because I get serious and focus hard on what I'm saying.
I think another thing is the way she handles classroom discussions. She focuses in on whoever is talking as though what they have to say is very important, and she always affirms them for sharing. She'll say, "Very insightful" or something like that. 

Like I mentioned before, she is experimenting with the inverted classroom in her Bible class this semester. Today the students had done their reading of the story of Moses before they came to class, and had made a T-chart contrasting Moses before his wilderness experience with Moses afterwards. 
They had written that T-chart on the left side of their notebooks (the left brain activity side) and now she had them complete two right-brained activities on the right side. They had to write out an answer to the question "Why should we study the book of Exodus?" and they were to create a job description for Moses. There are students in this class who have absolutely no familiarity with Bible stories. Not all of our students are Adventist. We have in this class one of the Catholic faith, and one Muslim. Understandably, the young Muslim has had less exposure to Bible stories. So Ms. Wanda is combining familiarizing them with the stories with taking a deeper look at the application of those stories to our everyday lives. She is doing an excellent job.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Tuesday, 1/8/13

Dear Journal,

So if today had been a canvassing day, it would have been one of those days where you smile bigger, act cheerier, affirm a few more people, and give out a few more hugs because you had a miserable day and you don't dare dwell on it or it will pull you down.

Even at the breakfast table there was a sense of foreboding. Ms. Wanda had had a nightmare. A terrible nightmare.

Apparently Laurelbrook had decided to punish three students by burning them at the stake! Crowds were gathering and news publicity was going balistic. She searched everywhere for the president and finally found him holed up in a little cabin. "We can't do this!" She told him.

"Look! I'm with you on that!" he remonstrated, "This was all Mike Mudd's idea!"



So I taught Computer Literacy class again. Thought I got all the issues fixed with Scripture Typer so that we could finish getting that set up so they can use it as a beginning-of-class bellwork procedure.

I also prepared a few questions to ask them in groups (like Ms. Wanda pulled off so beautifully yesterday) to get them thinking about why they were studying computers and to indirectly answer the question one of them had asked the previous class "what on earth would the Bible have to do with computers?"

Then I had a couple exercises from the book for them to work on for learning Access.

I arrived at the classroom 40 minutes early to work with Mr. Sarr on getting the computer issues ironed out.
I had a step-by-step procedure written on the board for them to follow to get all their settings right for Scripture Typer. (Fred Jones calls that a Visual Instruction Plan in his book Tools for Teaching and he's right on the money! Having a clear visual step-by-step model on the board for the students to refer back to is amazing. You don't have to repeat yourself and explain the concept over and over again. They can just look up at the board and read it. I plan to develop that as a regular habit.)

Class started, and I pointed everyone to step 1 on the board. "Go to and sign in to your student email."

They did so, and 6 of the students couldn't remember their password. No problem, Mr. Sarr had the server page pulled up on the teacher computer at the back of the room to give it to them... Except, Mr. Sarr was nowhere to be seen at that moment, and this green little teacher ended up just looking like a fool that had no idea what she was doing.

I tried to move them on to set up their computer folders, but I had already lost them. Some were rolling their eyes at me. Others were chatting with their neighbors and ignoring what was going on.

Finally Mr Sarr appeared and began helping them with their password issues, at which point 7 out of 10 computers stopped loading the pages. It was a mess.

So I finally got their attention, split them into pair-share groups for discussion and started asking my questions. Bless them... I know it's rough having a green teacher, but wow...
Those same sweet kids that got right into discussions and had a great time talking for Ms. Wanda yesterday, somehow turned into real little grumpies this class period.

But some good things happened! When some of them were still engrossed in their computers, I calmly said, "Nobody should be needing to use their keyboard for this discussion," and they all pulled away from their computers and started paying attention. While one kid was reading a Bible verse, two in the opposite corner of the room started talking and looking at something on the computer screen, and I implemented some good old MBWA (management by walking around), just strolled over to where they were and they stopped talking in good order and started paying attention.

My nervousness got the best of me when I tried to introduce databases though... my whole explanation flopped like a dying fish so I just cut it short and got them into their exercises from the book. Things went smoother then, until the end of class where I let those who had gotten Scripture Typer working go a couple minutes early, and the rest had to stay.

Little Firecracker had dallied at his work and was the last to finish, but as soon as he got his exercises done he hurried up and signed out of his computer and said with a charming little grin, "Ok Miss Beth, I'm going now. I'll set Scripture Typer up first thing tomorrow."

So you're a manipulator are you, little cutie?

I calmly reminded him that he still had a couple minutes before class technically let out and told him that yes, he did need to do it now. He was unenthusiastic and highly impatient. Several choice words later, he finally got it done and huffed out of the classroom with a parting sarcastic remark that I don't care to repeat.

I looked up to meet Mr. Sarr's understanding eyes.

"We all have days like that," he said. "All of us."

I'm grateful for my experience canvassing which has taught me that tough days are only, well, tough days, and they can only make you stronger if they aren't allowed to get you down. I'm glad I've had enough experiences where the teenagers that hated me and complained about me the most were the ones that turned into my closest most loyal friends. I know it'll be the same here.

Debriefing later in the kitchen over toast, Ms. Wanda asked about every detail. (She had been gone at a board meeting this afternoon.) She told me to just start the next class period out with a smile and tell them "Well we kind of had a rough time of it last class, but thankfully we've got those problems smoothed out and let's go on."

They acknowledged that some things could have gone smoother, but they affirmed several things I had done right, and assured me that I had especially done the right thing by holding my ground with Firecracker.

The conversation meandered to discipline for specific student issues, then lapsed for a few moments as each of us was busy in somber thoughts about the needs of the poor, hurting students we have been given to love.

Then, instantly breaking the mood--

"Just please don't burn them at the stake!"

Monday, January 7, 2013

Monday 1/7/13

Dear Journal,

I didn't teach today, just observed Ms. Wanda teach the other two classes that I will be teaching for the rest of the quarter-- Freshman Bible and Senior Speech.

This woman is one amazing teacher. Watching her today reminded me of everything I loved about being her student. Having now had the experience of teaching a class (at OHA) I recognize the genius of her management and techniques with new eyes. Let me tell you about what she does.

Meeting Disruptions

You know the kid I mentioned in my last entry who I labeled a "helpless handraiser?" (It's a good thing he doesn't know I called him that, lol, he'd really say I was racist. Everything, and I mean everything, from his test scores to his rumbling stomach was termed racist.) He's in this class too, and he's a double handful of gunpowder. I'm going to call him Firecracker for the blog.

Ms. Wanda returned a graded test to them at the beginning of the period and Firecracker immediately started waving his hand. "Hey, Ms. Wanda!" he blurted before she had a chance to call on him, "How come I got a 50/85 on my memory verse?"

With characteristic deliberation, she allowed a slow smile to spread across her face before she responded good-naturedly, "You know."

He made no further comment.

In this class, Ms. Wanda has been having the students keep an Interactive Notebook. This is genius. (You can check out this site for info and examples.) Basically it is a notebook where the students complete both left and right brained activities for each lesson. The left side is the input side, where they take notes, write research, etc. The right side is for output, where they complete some sort of right brained activity expressing their understanding of the concepts learned. (She showed me some of the right-brain stuff they had done last semester. For the lesson on Noah she had them work in groups to create a radio ad as though they were a modern day Noah warning the world of the coming judgment. Absolute ingenuity!! They did an incredible job too, with scary music in the background and everything.)

This semester, she is switching from having them do their interactive notebooks in a spiral-bound journal to a 3-ring binder so they can easily organize and add pages, etc. Office Depot didn't have enough black notebooks, so she was forced to get two white ones. And wouldn't you know it, EVERYBODY wanted a white notebook.

Kids. Lol.

It didn't phase Ms. Wanda for a minute. "All right, everybody that wants a white notebook put your hand up. Pick a number between one and ten."

Hands shot up and they began shouting out their numbers. As soon as somebody said Ms. Wanda's magic number, she unceremoniously handed over the white notebook and went on calmly passing out black notebooks to everyone else.

I gotta remember that one.

Wait Time and Eliciting Real Thinking

Ms. Wanda is also the master of asking thought-provoking questions and allowing wait time. She asks a question that gets little wheels turning, and then simply shuts her mouth and waits however long it takes until someone answers. She wants to know what they're thinking, and that's the only way to get it out of them. They are accustomed to this, and they know that she's not going to just ask a question, pause a moment, and then hurry on with the answer. So they listen to the question! And they formulate incredibly thoughtful answers.

A good example of this was in the beginning moments of Senior Speech.
"Why do you think we spend a semester teaching you speech?" she asked.

Awkward silence hung for several moments, while some students looked at her blankly, one ran his finger back and forth across the front edge of his desk, and a third carefully emptied a package of powdered energy drink into her water bottle. Teachers hate awkward silence, but she refused to rush on.
"You all are still the un-talkingest bunch in the school," she smiled. "Haven't changed a bit!"
They grinned and acknowledged the truth of her words. She repeated the question, waited another minute (Yes. Minute. An unbelievably agonizing amount of wait time for a teacher!) and they started shooting answers. Good answers.

Today in Freshman Bible she was establishing a framework for studying Exodus, and she wanted to make sure they understood what "Type" and "Antitype" were. Rather than slapping it into her powerpoint and just telling them, she split them into groups and asked them to write her a definition of the two words. They gave her blank stares, but got right to work figuring it out. (Firecracker bounced all the way across the room to beg for my iPhone so he could look it up. This kid!) Of course, she floated between the groups and ended up giving most of them the definition herself, but the genius of it is that they were eager to hear it from her because she had caused them to need to know it. I bet they're going to be a whole lot more likely to remember it too.

Making the Best Use of Class Time

Ms. Wanda spends very little time in class telling the students things or giving lectures. She believes in drawing the students to think for themselves, and recognizes that they will not if she is merely telling them what she wants them to know. She has been studying a technique called the "Inverted Classroom" which theorizes that if kids came to class already familiar with the topic/content of the lesson, the class time could be spent in activities which help them  get beyond just the mere knowledge level and into actually assimilating that knowledge practically. To accomplish this she is assigning them a reading assignment for homework along with an analytical activity which will get them into the content before they even get to class.

Today, since we will be talking about Moses next class period, she assigned them to read a chapter about him in Patriarchs and Prophets and create a T chart on the left side of their interactive notebook comparing Moses before herding sheep with Moses after herding sheep. Then when they come to class on Wednesday, we'll start with a discussion of their T-charts, and the whole "lecture" part of the class will already have been taught, after the discussion we can start right in with some of those good thought-provoking questions and take it right to the next level-- application.


But my very favorite thing about Ms. Wanda is her compliments. Genuine. Heartfelt. Specific. Frequent. They always made me want to build the moon, stand on my head, or just do anything for her, and I can see they have the same effect on these students. A couple examples:

After she passed back the test: "It was obvious that you all learned quite a few things!”

After they struggled through the discussion about what "type" and "antitype" mean: “Good job! You guys wrestled through that really well.”

There is nothing demeaning or belittling in her tone when she says "Good job." Her tone is warm and encouraging and she smiles like she is just delighted in them.

I want to learn how to do that.


As we walked out the door, side by side, I felt a sense of awe that was almost discouraging. She's so good!! So with it. So prepared. Always has a thought-provoking response. I thought of my own experience teaching last semester when I never felt truly prepared for a class period. I would do my best to wing something each day, often making up the homework assignment on the fly at the end of class. I didn't have a neat assignment schedule like other teachers. My spontaneous personality just doesn't seem to fit the organization side of teaching at all. Would that doom me to fail as a teacher?

She turned to me with a chuckle, almost as though she was reading my thoughts. "Well, Beth, you just saw me wing Senior Speech."

"You? Winged a class?"

She smiled her cute little slow smile. "Yeah, I just figured out what I was going to do for the homework assignment as you all were discussing the Gettysburg address."

A surge of hope shot through me.

"I never try to make an assignment schedule the first year I teach a class," she told me. Her classes evolve with her students. She is constantly assessing where they are at, how well they are comprehending, and what will best meet their current needs. She works the core standards in just fine.

Maybe I will do okay at this after all...

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Thursday 1/3/13

Dear Journal,

Today was my first full day on Laurelbrook campus. Today was also my first day of teaching on Laurelbrook campus.
Somehow I hadn't envisioned those two events happening so very close together, but I do enjoy a good challenge to knock  me out of my comfort zone once in a while.
I may or may not have been unspeakably nervous all day before my class.

The class I taught today is Computer Literacy. It is an entirely freshman class intending to teach typing skills and familiarity with Word, Excel, Access, and PowerPoint. The teacher who taught it the previous semester took ill and is no longer available to teach it, hence the reason I'm teaching it straight off the bat.

The Plan

In planning what to do for the class, I realized two things:
     a.) I do not know any of the students, nor they me.
     b.) I have no idea what the previous teacher taught them, or how well they grasped it. (The previous teacher was not readily available to speak with. The principal was able to tell me what chapter in the book they had gotten to.)

In light of these facts, I deemed that the objective for the first class should be to get to know my students and figure out where they were at with the material. So I combined the two in this little activity.

Computer Literacy Review

1. Create an Excel Spreadsheet listing:
·         3 hobbies you enjoy
·         3 things on your Bucket List (things you would like to do sometime in your life before you die)
·         3 things you like about your mom
Sort the data alphabetically
Create a heavy border around your data
Create a new row at the top above your data, type your name in the first cell, merge and center it over your data box.

2. Create a Word Document answering the following questions:
1. What is your name?
2. Where were you born?
3. What led you to choose to come to LBA?
4. If you could meet one Bible character, who would you like to meet? What is one question you would ask him/her?
5. What do you like best about Jesus? (Make a bulleted list with at least 3 things)
Insert a clipart of your choice.
Change the shape of the bullets in your list to something other than the round default shape.

3. Create an Access Database listing the names, and birthdays of everyone in the class. Create a report showing the birthdays for each month in ascending order.

I figured that either they will know everything like the back of their hand and drum it out like a well-rehearsed band move, or they will get stuck partway through which will give me a fairly accurate picture of where they are at and what was covered. (PowerPoint has not yet been covered in the class, but I was given to understand that they had studied Word, Excel and Access.) In the chance that they DID know everything well and finished before class got out, we would spend the rest of the time talking about their answers together and getting to know each other better.

I also planned to have each student set up an account with Scripture Typer ( which will integrate typing practice with learning the memory verses I will be assigning them in Bible. Yay! for integrated learning! I did the pre-work, setting up a group on the Scripture Typer website where I can share each weeks memory verse with them in a way that they can easily access. I email invited each student to the group using their email addresses, under the belief that they would be readily able to access this account.
My idea is to use the Scripture Typer review as Bellwork each day when the students first come into class. I would like to establish a routine where they quietly enter the class, sign into their computer and immediately begin working on their typing. Doesn't that just sound dreamy and delightful??

The Implementation

Mrs. Wanda introduced me, told the kids who I was and that I would be teaching this class as well as their Freshman Bible class. They groaned. "Mrs. Wanda!! Noooo!! You're not going to be teaching us any more?"

Great. Off to a wonderful start here!

Fortunately, one of the students I had already met randomly at the Southwest chapter of ASI this spring, and she was delighted to see me. She, along with a young man who immediately wanted to know everything about OHC summer canvassing programs and how he could be involved, helped me feel a lot more comfortable.

After briefly giving them a little of my background, I started walking them through the process of getting set up on Scripture Typer. This was pretty much an utter failure. They were completely unaware that they HAD personal email accounts.

So we scratched that, and moved on to the activity. Mr. Sarr came in and helped fix our technical problems near the end of class.

The activity seemed to be pretty enjoyable for the kids overall. Two quiet individuals in the back row worked diligently and steadily and were quite proficient at nearly everything. One young man in the front had absolutely no idea what was going on and asked for help multiple times. When I asked him, "Did you all cover this in class at all?" the two on the back row answered "Yes" in unison. Lol. I suspect he is what Fred Jones terms a "helpless handraiser" who enjoys getting teacher attention by raising his hand a lot. I need to formulate good management techniques that will help him. The rest of the class fell on a predictable continuum between these two extremes.

I'm not sure how the entire class got passing grades for last semester, as most do not seem to have much familiarity with any of the three programs. Perhaps they forgot a great deal over Christmas break!

I presented the activity with little structure, in sort of a "Impress me with how much you know" fashion. When they would ask what it was supposed to look like, I was intentionally ambiguous. "Make it pretty."
At the end of the class I asked them how they felt about having such an ambiguous assignment.
They weren't too sure they had liked it. Most didn't feel competent to do it.
I told them that this was a foretaste of what could easily happen to them their first day on a job. I told them that I take it as my personal responsibility to make sure they will be competent and prepared to handle computers in the workforce. This communicated to them one of my over-arching objectives for the class.


I definitely need to get on top of discipline and structure for the class. They're going to cream me if I don't put my foot down right away. My little front-row handraiser has a cute little way of bobbing up out of his seat and meandering over to help his lovely female classmates. :)

I need to begin implementing "praise-prompt-leave" to help curb the helpless-handraiser issue. I'll explain what that is later.

I need to get the issues with Scripture Typer worked out. The students have not yet been able to join the group, and I don't have their current memory verses entered. There also seemed to be a problem with the site not working that I need to get resolved before we can begin using it. I hope that can get straightened out soon, as I would like to use this as my main typing practice.

I need to set times for future activities. "Work on this until 5:15, then close what you are working on and direct your attention to the front. If you finish before 5:15, work quietly on such and such." etc. This will solve problems that came up when some students finished sooner than others.

A Note of Explanation

Professional- only because it has to do with my profession of choice and that's what my handbook said I had to call it. I am assigned to journal the experience of my student teaching. Feel free to snoop.