Teacher – Student, Student- Teacher

This was originally posted on my private blog which is in a repository for ideas still processing. Some I cross-post after revisions, others I have not. Recently, I revisited some of these and wondered why I’ve kept them so protected. Perhaps it’s time to be more courageous and open myself to being more real. So, here goes – episode 1. 

So I recently gave my students the following options for a silhouettes thinkscause/effect writing assignment, all 17 of which are currently waiting in my inbox for feedback to enable draft 2…ugh. Nevertheless, it was a bit of a rough week as I’ve been trying to raise myself out of a type of mental and emotional quicksand and two of the three prompts seemed particularly apropos for me to attempt to write myself. I often catch myself wondering if I could do what I’m asking my students to do in my second language let alone in my first language. So, here’s a chance to attempt it in my first language, and hopefully do some of my own ‘processing’ along the way. I’ll choose prompt #3 for now. Bear with the “academic essay” tone.

1) What are some ways to improve your mood? In other words – what can you do to make yourself happy when you’re feeling sad or stressed out?

2) What effect(s) does technology, such as cell phones and TV, have on family relationships?

3) How do your values affect how you spend your money or time?  (This question has two parts – 1: What are your values, and 2: How can we see these values in your actions and spending habits?)

values quote

Roy Disney’s quote above serves as a great reminder for us to think about what we care about and where we want to go especially when we’re caught in the place of needing to make decisions. However, for someone having trouble delineating their values, it may be possible to uncover the truth of what you value by looking at how you spend your time and or money in daily living. Analyzing your time and money expenditures can be a valuable tool to help you understand what you care about and to recognize any disparities between what those things are and what you want them to be.

I have a hard time answering the question “what do you want for…(insert appropriate holiday here).”  This has become especially true the older I get. I’ve become so used to going out and getting what I want when I need it, that often I don’t have an answer to give. In the past few years however, my default answer has become “a gift card to REI” or “a Groupon for a new experience or new class like aerial dance or salsa lessons” and so on. As a Christmas gift to myself last year (only because I felt bad asking my family for it due to price) I bought a 1-year unlimited membership to a dance/martial arts workout studio that I’d been attending for the ten months prior. Even if I only make it to class twice a week, the experience more than pays for itself. I know that attending class gives me more energy, self-confidence, and endorphins to lift my mood. If I miss class for too long, I can tell that my quality of life suffers. 
Challenging the rock   Similarly, my sister and I have been taking turns buying punch cards to the local rock climbing gym near her house. Not only does it provide us with a chance to hang out and engage in a mutually enjoyable activity, but after two or three hours of solid climbing we both are left with the deep satisfaction that comes from accomplishing and surmounting an extreme physical challenge.  Looking back at these gift requests and monetary expenditures leads me to believe that one of my important values is either “healthy living” or “challenging my body.” To some degree, the two very well might be sides of the same coin. Furthermore,  the experience of watching my husband go from super-active Air Force Pilot to brain cancer victim who lost all physical capability was one of (if not THE) most painful experience in my life. Consequently, my subconscious brain has internalized the value of health and therefore seeks out any possible way to enjoy, preserve, and take advantage of the gift of health while I have it.

Street art Maria - mariposa y hummingbird

Bs As street art courtesy @mariacolussa

As a university level teacher, I am blessed with various breaks throughout the school year; additionally, my position allows for some paid personal time as well as an additional amount of professional development time.  A few years ago, I used said time off to visit South America twice! Likewise, in 2013, I used my long break between Fall and Winter Quarters to spend 3  1/2 weeks in Kenya, Africa. Clearly from these examples, I can determine that travel is an extremely important value in my life. However, travel seems more like an outward manifestation of some other value, or multiple values as opposed to the value itself. On this most recent trip which was part professional development, part new culture exploration, I found myself asking what it was that prompted me to spend so much time and money traveling – even in an extremely condensed time-frame. DSCN1453In my travels I’ve learned that at least part of what I enjoy the most is getting to see how people live in different contexts. I love a day when I can go to the market or walk through the streets shoulder to shoulder with myriad others, extranjeros or nativos, just being a part of humanity.  Similarly, I love seeing different visions of beauty. On my most recent trip, I discovered that street art is almost a national treasure, at least in the city of Buenos Aires. Therefore, I spent a good portion of my last day photographing various examples of BsAs street art. Finally, I love learning about different world perspectives, different views of history, different common understandings that make up culture. So perhaps a way of naming this value would be “building bridges” or “open-mindedness” or possibly “trans-border cosmopolitanism” although that last is a bit of a mouthful. 

To  be sure, I spend money on other things too. I don’t spend a lot of money buying stuff, but sometimes I will. For example, I spend money on taking classes or textbooks. I spend money on leisure books or e-books.  Reading, writing, encountering new perspectives, and engaging mentally/thinking critically are definitely values of mine. When I first moved, I spent time and money on my adorable little condo. I like to have a welcoming and cozy-simple home. True, I ought to share it more and wish I did, so I’m not the only one appreciating it, but I’m happy to entertain sporadically. Similarly, I often spend time and money going to lunch or meeting up with friends – time and money that I wouldn’t want back for anything! These areas of expenditure demonstrate that I value “always learning” and “making connections.”  Perhaps these values deserve even more time and attention. After all, without connection, and without broadening our outlook – what’s the meaning of living?

Ultimately, it is up to each of us individually to determine what  is worthy of our time and attention, let alone our financial resources. If something is important to you, if something brightens life and makes it more “colorful” as my students are fond of saying, then by all means, the expenditures are well deserved. However, if you’re finding that Rich - values image quote  most of your time and money is going to endeavors that weaken your spirit, hinder connection, or drag you down, then perhaps those would be expenditures to cut out. Either way, spending a few moments taking stock has the potential to free us to be the truest and most satisfied versions of our selves. It’s worth the sacrifice of time.


Critical Thinking 101?

So I was trying to grade my students’ reading exams today. An exam, btw, that my colleague and I came up with together. As I started looking at the first person’s exam, I realized that I wasn’t entirely sure that I could even answer all the questions so I went back and took the test myself.

One of the questions we asked was, “create 2 critical thinking questions using either when, why, or how.”  – A task that we’ve done some in class.  Anyway, it occurred to me as I was taking the test, that I’m not totally sure I know what “critical thinking” questions are.  It’s a term we throw around in education circles quite freely. And it comes up often in skill team meetings and I nod along with everyone else and agree that “oh yes, our students need to work on critical thinking” but, what does that mean exactly?

So, I googled it. Here’s at least one resource that came up that might lead to others, I’ll try to add more in a bit, but here’s some food for thought to start with. …


Here’s another, more in brief:

Back in a bit, after I finish grading a few more tests.

Teaching? Testing?

So, I’m not totally clear what this post will turn in to. I just finished reading the Washington Post’s The Answer Sheet post from a day or two ago. The topic was standardized testing and civil disobedience. http://voices.washingtonpost.com/answer-sheet/guest-bloggers/a-father-agonizes-should-his-s.html?wprss=answer-sheet
I’m not quite sure what got me interested in this blog anyway, but it’s mostly about educational policy and so on. Lately it seems like there’s been a lot of chatter (or backlash) against the school system and teachers in America. I admit, I haven’t been paying close enough attention so I won’t comment much on all of that.

However, one of my colleagues and I have been talking some about testing procedures. Assessment was one of the best classes I took in my MATESOL program and I left the class firmly believing in alternative assessments, authentic assessments, and most of all: purposeful assessment. And yet, I seem to be finding myself falling back into the more typical types of tests. Maybe it’s because I’m still a novice teacher. Maybe it’s the nature of the program in that we teach people to prepare them for university studies. Or maybe it’s because I’m trying to work with colleagues and trying to meet the learning objectives set forth by the administration. We’re encouraged (maybe required?) to make our tests “Communicative” in nature – so no multiple guess etc. That’s fine, but in some ways it still seems like we are testing artificially. I don’t know, maybe I’m just not completely understanding it.

I mean, how do you test reading comprehension anyway? To me, you read to learn to read. Vocab development helps and word parts help w/figuring out new words, but are reading comprehension questions and main idea questions, etc. really the best way to assess this? I guess I’m just not sure. Everything seemed so clear cut and easy and made so much sense in the assessment class. Now, … I guess we’ll see how the first set of finals goes.

Still have a lot to learn I fear.