A reflection on my progress towards achieving my professional goals:
Professional Self: Where I need to learn and push myself is to find ways in which that same kind of critical thinking and engaging with a text can happen in venues other than in a seminar format. As I mentioned, I like projects, but I don’t want to be limited to the same kind of thing every time. My goal is to find ways that will engage my students and allow for more freedom and creativity in my classroom in order to achieve the same kinds of learning outcomes currently held. Also, I feel as if I need to find a way to achieve a balance in my class with what I want the students to understand about the way the world works while respecting their own opinions and ideas as well. I realized that when I design a project, often it’s a product of my own viewpoint. I’d like to find a way to allow my students to help design these projects so they feel as if their own ideas and viewpoints are also being heard.
I do feel as if I learned a great deal about opportunities which I can provide for the students to interact with literature. I loved the book-cast idea and the concept of performing literature. I needed a reminder about multiple intelligences and was struck with the many ways we can incorporate kinesthetic and musical learning in the classroom. This class opened my mind to the many ways we can engage our students in critical thinking beyond a traditional seminar. Likewise, engagement with the literature should not simply be evaluated in a literary analysis. The knowledge I gained about participatory learning enabled me to envision a class in which we all contribute to a shared learning experience. Some of that will come with time – I know I’m going to wrestle with giving up some of my perceived “control” of the classroom, but I am just as much a student here as they are and I have much to learn from my students, particularly with regards to technology. This attitude, I believe, will also provide me with the chance to have the students work with me to create our own learning environment, projects, a class blog, etc.
Literate Self: My goal for developing a more literate self is to expose myself to more Young Adult Literature. I think some of why I am so inclined to put the book down is because I just don’t know enough about the genre. For example, I read John Maberry’s Rot and Ruin, and I enjoyed myself. I got sad for Nix when she lost her mom, and I got scared when Tom fell off the car into a pile of zoms, so I’m obviously resonating with the book on an emotional level. I do get a little tired of the many conversations between characters about the comparison between zombies as the monsters or the monsters that are people. When I’m finished, I’m glad I read the novel, but don’t know what sets this one apart as an award winner from so many others on the shelf. My goal here is to learn what I can so I can make those kinds of judgments for myself, but also to bring that new knowledge into the classroom and into my discussions so my students can also come to their own informed decisions about the literature they are reading as well.
One of the items I was discussing with Will about multicultural literature is that, in some ways, I think more exposure is the key. The more we are exposed to those “differences,” the less different they will seem. I feel the same way about my literate self. Although it was literally the tip of the YAL iceberg, my exposure to young adult literature and the CCI’s gave me enough information to begin to understand not just the complexity behind YAL, but the importance of the genre in the development of teen readers. If any time was an important time in an adolescent’s life to be able to make a connection with others, even if those others are characters in a book, it’s the teen years. I certainly have a greater appreciation for the niche that these books fill and feel more confident in my own experiences with YAL. However, I also feel as if no matter how well I know a book or how strongly I feel about it, chances are the students I teach, at least some of them, will always feel differently. But I look forward to having those discussions.
Virtual Self: My goal for this is to begin to understand the ways in which developing an effective online and inworld identity can help to make me a more effective teacher. It’s all about baby steps for me, and right now, I need to familiarize myself with the technological tools that are available and understand the implications of these tools for the classroom. And, I’d like to not break out into a cold sweat every time I have to tweet or blog.
As you are probably guessing, this was huge for me! Not only am I much more comfortable with the idea of my own online presence, I’m just starting to have an inkling of how effective using social media in the classroom can be. I’m already planning on creating a class blog, bookcasts, voicethreads, and although I don’t think I can handle it this year, I want to start researching the possibility of using Twitter in the classroom. I no longer break into a cold sweat when I think about using technology tools, but rather, I’m looking forward to my break in the month of July to see what I can do with those tools. In many ways, this aspect of the course was exactly the shot in the arm I mentioned needing with regards to my teaching.
Reflection: In the past few years I’ve felt as if I needed a shot in the arm and realizing I’m heading into my 17th year of teaching, I now know why. I think in some ways the fact that I do have quite a bit of classroom experience is both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that the day-to-day on my feet teaching that occurs is something I have a grasp on. But with today’s students that’s going to only get me so far, and I’ve been relying too long on that experience. I need to push myself and strive to learn what I can to connect to my students which means learning about as many technological tools as I can. For the first time in years I am unsure of myself as an educator and uncomfortable with much of the information I am trying to process. After stepping away from my blog for a bit and then coming back to it, I feel as if I’m giving myself a pep-talk. I realize how often I try to push my students outside of their comfort level and encourage them to meet the challenge head on. I guess it’s time for me to do the same and live the words I speak.
In my initial reflection I spoke about being unsure and uncomfortable for the first time in years. Although five weeks ago I would have said I hated feeling that way, in the end it was one of the best things to happen to me. I’ve pushed myself (with a great deal of help from this course) in a direction I’ve been interested in taking for a while, but haven’t had the time, nor the opportunity to really explore. And that’s what this has been for me, an exploration. I’ve been challenged to stretch my own ideas about teaching literature and realize all the many other opportunities that are out there for me and my students rather than the methods I’ve been relying on the past few years. I’ve learned a great deal about literature and myself and I look forward to the challenges ahead. I have a feeling those feelings of insecurity and uncomfortableness will be back, but this time I’m going to revel in them because I know at the end I’ll have been pushed to be a better teacher.