Practicum (Fall 2011) – Day 9

Today wasn’t very eventful. The students are taking a test on Friday of this week, a test on literary terms, so the student-teacher helped them study. He had developed a Powerpoint presentation for them that went through literary terms, and I found myself surprised by some terms with which eighth graders are not familiar, such as foreshadowing. I can’t remember when I learned that term, but I’m pretty sure that I knew it by eighth grade. I am very strong in English, so I don’t mean to put people down; I just would have thought that those were basic concepts by eighth grade. If not, then there are some pointers that I need before I start teaching.

The student-teacher then taught the students how to write a book review, which I think is important. They practice writing and hopefully enhance their writing skills while using a form that they are probably not used to handling. I am all done with Practicum now; now, next semester, I start student-teaching, which really makes me nervous. Wish me luck.

Practicum (Fall 2011) – Days 7 and 8

On the seventh day of Practicum, which was November 29th, the student-teacher read a chapter of Call of the Wild to the class. There were two other Practicum students in the class with me, although neither was the one that I had previously met. The student-teacher talked a lot about leadership, encouraging the students to think about what it means to be a leader, which is, of course, important. On the eighth day, the students wrote their “Brain Breakfast” exercise about what they do when they are having trouble reading something. The student-teacher went over “fix-up strategies” with them.

What I found most valuable about this day is that the student-teacher seemed to really encourage interdisciplinarity. He wanted the students to be thinking about ways that what they were learning connected to other subject areas such as science, and I don’t know about all education majors, but I know that from my own experience, that is something that is strongly stressed. I certainly wasn’t bored, because I folded papers for the student-teacher, and I even developed a mini-quiz for the Host Teacher, with which she was really happy. Tomorrow is my last day, so I will be writing again very soon.

Practicum (Fall 2011) – Day 6

The sixth day of my Practicum experience this semester was a half-day for the students because of parent-teacher conferences. In fact, they had had half-days Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday last week due to parent-teacher conferences, but this didn’t affect me because I leave at 10:40, anyway. I am now going on Tuesdays and/or Thursdays because I had to find someone new with whom to carpool, and now, my situation is a bit worse, because now, I am not even the only Practicum student. Now, in the morning, there is the Host Teacher, the student-teacher, a teacher’s aid, and two Practicum students, which is just a little bit ridiculous. The other Practicum student is really nice, but I feel even more insignificant than I already did.

When I walked in, the student-teacher warned me that they weren’t really doing anything because of an assembly, and that was the case. Basically, I went with the students to a Book Fair, and it was refreshing to see a great deal of students really excited about going, especially since a couple of them even bought books. I would have loved to, because they actually had a really great selection of books, but I didn’t have any money on me, which was probably good, because I ended up spending a considerable amount of money on my boyfriend’s birthday this past weekend. Then, we attended the assembly, which entailed honoring students with perfect attendance, Honor Roll, High Honor Roll, etc. by giving away prizes via raffle tickets. The rest of my time was spent trying to pass time, such as hangman with the other Practicum student and the student-teacher. It was a really easy day. I attend Practicum tomorrow, so I’ll be writing again soon.

Practicum (Fall 2011) – Day 5

Currently at my Practicum site, students are reading Jack London’s Call of the Wild, and although I have never read it, picking it up and following again was an easy task, especially since I was lucky enough to have been there just as they were only on the second chapter. I was asked to read the first two chapters to students that had not been there the day before, in order to catch them up, and I really appreciated that opportunity. The student teacher gave the students questions to answer, and most of these questions were not beyond knowledge-based questions; in other words, they were asked to go back and find specific details from the book and answer a question such as “what happened to Curly?” and everything that I have been taught about education tells me that this doesn’t work, and I think that I was observing that, in fact. Most of the students were bored and frustrated, and it was obvious to me that they wanted to get the questions answered just so they could say that they were done and move on, not because they were interested.

I don’t know if the student teacher, however, did that of his own free will or if the Host Teacher wrote the questions and then just had him administer him. If the latter is the case, then I really hope that as a student teacher, I will not be asked to do a lot with which I don’t agree. If so, that will definitely be one of the most challenging aspects. Asking students knowledge-based questions does little to engage them, and they forget the material as soon as they “learn” it; this is why testing is not always beneficial. At the same time, though, knowledge-based questions are a part of the Regents exam, so there are going to be pills difficult to swallow, pills that I will have to swallow nonetheless. The student teacher showed them a bit of an episode of a show on the Science Channel, a show called Survivorman, and I think that that was a great idea because it could be related to Call of the Wild and keeps them engaged. First period was chatty, and once again, I heard my “f-bomb” again, but all in all, it was a pretty good day.

Pride Alliance in Need of Reformation

A couple of years ago, shortly after I officially came out and everyone that I knew was aware of my sexuality, I attended a handful of Pride Alliance (then referred to as Rainbow Alliance; thank heavens for that change, at least) meetings and unfortunately gave up after some time, as I was sourly disappointed. Out of the four of five meetings that I attended, only one discussed topics of importance, such as coming out and LGBT-related bullying. Other than that, all we talked about was sex, sex, sex. One time that I went, the students played a game which involved placing flavored condoms on bananas and then tasting them with their eyes closed and having to guess what the flavor was. Another time, anilingus was discussed, and a powerpoint presentation played which depicted various sex positions. Another time, various sex toys, such as dildos and handcuffs, were presented via a powerpoint presentation. I know that I was not the only one that this offended, as another male student whose name I will not provide said that he was offended. These kinds of meetings give power to those who disregard homosexuality as nothing more than promiscuous horseplay, and there are many that are against homosexuality for that very reason; they are so indoctrinated by representations of LGBT people (especially gay men) as promiscuous partiers that are not capable of settling down in a serious relationship but instead of have sex with various partners on a regular basis. What is Pride Alliance doing to remedy that by focusing so heavily on sex?

I have not gone much since, so I don’t know if changes have been made under the new president, but I have heard that it really hasn’t. I did go to the most recent meeting, which involved Rachel Walerstein providing a presentation, primarily on what it means to be an ally, and that was a lot more productive than the Pride Alliance activities to which I am accustomed. However, it is quite obvious to me that someone is trying to keep Pride Alliance as silent as possible, because I always remember having a large room with a computer and projector; the new room has absolutely nothing, only chairs and a white board with some markers, not all of which work. There are no desks or tables, and there is no computer or projector, and this made Rachel’s job as a presenter difficult. If we are to be honest with ourselves, we have to admit that Pride Alliance has virtually no presence on campus except on Coming Out Day when it provides t-shirts and, of course, when it hosts the Drag Ball. It needs a better room for meetings where productive activities can be conducted, and it needs a stronger presence on campus. I’m sure that I’m not the only one who feels this way; am I correct in saying that?

Additionally, it upsets me that Pride Alliance is a group listed under “Special Interests,” alongside groups such as chess, while Asian Culture Club and groups such as that are listed under Culture. In my opinion, Pride Alliance should be listed under Culture, as well, as it is a diversity just the same as a nationality/ethnicity is. A professor that is in agreement with me joked that it is not like one might say “Oh, I like being gay/lesbian” when asked what he or she is interested in. Homosexuality has a history, and gay men and lesbian women have been beaten down just like African Americans, Jewish people, etc. have been. Many forget, for example, that gay men were targeted during the Holocaust, as well, and they were beaten, tortured, and killed, forced to sleep in their underwear as they were watched all night. Does this sound like something as trivial as chess to you? When I went to Rachel’s presentation last week, I would estimate that there were probably less than twenty people present, which doesn’t compare to what was probably closer to fifty or sixty when I went a couple of years ago, so I’m sure that I’m not the only one who feels this way.

Practicum (Fall 2011) – Days 3 and 4

So, I have had interesting experiences at my field placement lately. Both last time and this time, I witnessed events that have made me very angry. Last time, the students did an exercise that involved them elaborating on what made them unique, and a female student said that she practices witchcraft and can even astral project; she said that there is nothing like leaving your body at night and seeing it lying in bed. Afterward, a science teacher came into the classroom during my Host Teacher’s planning period and gossiped with my Host Teacher’s aid. The aid told the science teacher about what the female student said, and they both proceeded to agree that the female student is “nuts,” which just enrages me. What sorry excuse of a teacher refers to a student in such a negative way? I don’t even need the two Psychology courses that I’ve taken to know a bit about how children operate; either she really does believe that she has such an ability, in which case a teacher should respect the student’s beliefs, or she has recently witnessed/been victim to something traumatic and is masking it with fantasy, but we are not to refer to our students as “nuts” either way. We are to respect our students as we would expect them to respect us.

Last time, I was there for the whole day, which was not beneficial at all except to get observation hours. I witnessed the same lesson over and over again and felt very bored most of the time, except when the Host Teacher had me grade tests. I feel very silenced, because I don’t feel like I have the right to say something when something happens that I don’t like, such as what the teachers were talking about, and also on that day, I heard a student drop “my f-bomb,” mine because I am not referring to “the f-bomb” that most would automatically consider when they hear that term; I am talking about “the-fomb” that I can’t say let alone write, the one used to refer to gay males. I heard a student use this word, and either no one other than me heard it or someone did and didn’t care to say anything, and it honestly wouldn’t surprise me if it were the latter because the student teacher uses the dreaded “r-word” that he should know better than to use; we were both in a class together last year that stressed the avoidance of that word in any context. “That’s so retarded,” for example, is not acceptable, which is how he used it when I heard him use it. Practicum experiences have definitely taught me that there are a lot of ignorant teachers, and it’s unfortunate because that will reflect from generation to generation; ignorant teachers create ignorant teachers.

Today, something somewhat similar happened, except it was even worse because it was encouraged. I was only there for a half-day, something for which I am grateful because the student teacher adminstered a pre-test to all of the classes, which took most of the period. Being there as long as I was was really boring, so I can’t even imagine sitting through that all day. During third period, which is a study hall, a couple of students were discussing matters with the student teacher, and they brought up a male student that they know that apparently shaves his legs, and one of them said that dudes don’t shave their legs because “shaving your legs is gay,” and the student teacher did not tell him that that was inappropriate; he agreed and then merely carried on the conversation, saying that males should only shave their legs if they are swimmers. This isn’t right, and he’s really lucky that I wasn’t an evalutator observing him while that happened. We cannot tolerate that kind of talk in our classrooms; not only did that statement put that particular student down, it put gay people down, and students need to be taught that that is utterly unacceptable, not encouraged. You hear so many people, especially teachers, say that “children are our future,” but they do little to show that that that is something that they actually believe, which is why I say that ignorant teachers create ignorant teachers, and ignorant people in general, for that matter. Even if we’re not teachers, we affect other people, and if we are narrow-minded and unaccepting of people and their differences, that will “rub off” on others. Well, I suppose I will end my angry rant there; I’ll be writing again soon, I’m sure, since, as far as I know, I will be there again on Wednesday. In case I haven’t said, the Host Teacher would like me back as a student teacher next semester, and I would really like that.

Practicum (Fall 2011) – Week 2

During my second day at Dennis M. Kenney Middle School in Hannibal, the class listened to the rest of “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe, which I am assuming they had begun on a day that I wasn’t there, since I only go twice a week. This led to the Host Teacher talking to the students about how a story typically plays out, starting with rising action, the climax, falling action, and finally, the resolution, or the ending, using “The Tell-Tale Heart” to exemplify this model. It was the Friday before Halloween, so needless to say, students were a bit excited, and since the Host Teacher was not going to be working the Monday after the weekend, she celebrated Halloween with them on this day.

The Host Teacher played Halloween music for the students, and she did a Halloween-themed Mad Lib with them. I don’t think that they all understood the idea of a Mad Lib, because they were filling in words that were fitting to the context of the story (which she provided them, even though I think that the exercise would have been more fun and funnier for them had she not, since usually, you don’t). Reasons such as these are why this Host Teacher really makes me feel excited to teach. She, like me, stresses good writing and discourages the use of words such as bad, sad, mad, and so forth, encouraging her students to use more descriptive words. I do, however, firmly believe that I would enjoy my Practicum experience without a student teacher sharing the room with me, but that, perhaps, is a story for another time. I was writing a blog entry for my third week at the school, and my computer decided to sign me out without my consent, and I lost the entire blog, which isn’t saved as a draft for some reason.

Practicum (Fall 2011) – Week 1

Last Monday, I went to my first Practicum experience of the semester at Dennis M. Kenney Middle School in Hannibal. Previously, I hadn’t had much of an idea where Hannibal is located, but it is very close to Oswego; in fact, it’s really only about ten minutes away. Just as you’re leaving Hannibal, in fact, you can see the towers on campus. So far, I am having a great experience. As soon as I entered the building, students were there to greet me, and they were incredibly friendly. They introduced themselves and asked for my name, shook my hand, and then showed me where the main office is. Everyone at the main office was really friendly and helpful, as well, which has not always been the case at every Practicum site that I have ever attended. At most of the schools at which I have done field placements, a lot of students are loud and rude, and people in the main office treat you like an invader, but this is simply not the case at Kenney Middle School.

My Host Teacher’s name is Nicole Arnold, and she is great. She seems to have a very positive relationship with her students. One student, in fact, showed Ms. Arnold a photo of something (if I am not mistaken) when she entered the classroom, and Ms. Arnold greets students as they enter the classroom. She, like I intend to do, focuses a lot on good writing habits and grammar. She, also as I intend to do, gives her students something to write about every day, and I consider this important, because so many students’ abilities to write falter by the time they are students in high school because they are not asked to practice it on a regular basis. While I was there, I corrected a few papers, looking for grammar errors and so forth, and I noticed that Ms. Arnold has a really good-sized library of books by her desk, which I also think is really important. So far, I am very much enjoying my experience, but because I have to leave approximately one hour early, I will sometimes be going twice a week instead of just once. I will be updating with developments as often as I can.

Meeting Jon Chopan

This semester, I am taking CRW (Creative Writing) 300, which is Living Writer Series, and the primary activity that the course involves is listening to writers speak and asking them questions, and today, I had such an opportunity. I listened to a writer named Jon Chopan speak. Jon grew up in Rochester, NY, which, as I’m sure you know, isn’t too far from here, and in an effort to blend fiction and non-fiction together, he is publishing a book called Pulled from the River. In preparation for the speech, I read the first thirty (or so) pages of the book, since it has not yet hit the market (it’s due on the eleventh of December), and I really enjoyed what I read, so I was really excited to listen to him speak tonight.

Jon shared a lot of interesting viewpoints, such as his belief that the job of a writer is to capture the world around him and then to interact with what he or she has captured. He also said that in order to be a good writer, you have to love everyone (you can’t hate anyone), and although I don’t know if I necessarily agree with that (just because I know as a fact that not every writer, such as J.D. Salinger, for example, is a “people person,” if you will, yet they are still considered great writers), I think it’s interesting that it’s a viewpoint that he holds. The last point that he made upon which I would like to touch is his viewpoint that fiction and non-fiction need not be regarded as being such different worlds, because it isn’t necessary.

Jon explained that Pulled from the River is highly autobiographical. All of the characters in the book were and/or are real people, and most of what happens in the book actually did happen, but a few “plot” points were either slightly altered from reality or fabricated completely, but what’s especially interesting is that enough of “the truth” remains to think of the book as a work of non-fiction, yet the alterations and the fabrications are still there, however minimal they may be, which means that the book, obviously, is not wholly non-fiction; it is also fiction. This is very unique, because it certainly isn’t something that a reader comes across every day.

What I will especially never forget, however, is the opportunity that I had to sit down with Jon for dinner after the speech. Anyone that wanted to go to the Water Street Café after the speech was welcome to do so, and I opted to do so. My reasoning was that it certainly isn’t everyday that one has the opportunity to have dinner with an “up and coming” writer with a book on the way, and I seized the opportunity. Much to my delight, the group that had opted to have dinner was very small, which allowed for a lot of conversation. He is a really fun, funny guy, and I am really glad that I was presented with and took this opportunity, and my only regret is that I didn’t bring a voice recorder to capture the speech. If you’re at all interested, again, his book is titled Pulled from the River; it is due in December, but it can pre-ordered now via Amazon.

Still Here to Tell the Tale

Hello, everyone, and welcome back to another year at SUNY Oswego (or, to freshmen and transfers, welcome to your first year). I, for one, am so ecstatic to be back and am looking forward to my senior year. There are definitely nerve-wracking worries, such as student teaching in the spring (with absolutely no education classes left save the Practicum that I am doing this semester), but I have a fairly good feeling that this will be a really good year, and my hope is that everyone else feels the same way – positive and confident. If you’re new here, just know that, for the most part, I have had a very good experience here at SUNY Oswego. My experience here has been great, not only because I feel like I have had a really good education, but because just about everyone that I have encountered is very friendly and welcoming, and I have yet to experience any kind of persecution due to my sexuality, and that is ultimately the first experience of my life about which I can say that. SUNY Oswego prides itself on being a “safe space” for people, so persecution because of race, religion, sexuality, you name it, is not tolerated, and based on my own experience, it isn’t even something that you have to worry about.

My plans for the future are somewhat complex, as I have yet to sort some problems out. My boyfriend is here and is way behind even though he is the same age because many of his transfer credits don’t count toward classes that he needs to take, so he is considered a junior even though he should be a senior. This means that we will not graduate together, and he will need to stay a year longer than I do, but I am not prepared to leave him behind. I am twenty-one, and he will be twenty-two in November, so we are certainly not children, and I’m more than ready to begin a life with him. I would absolutely love to find an apartment with him by the end of this year, stay in Oswego over the summer, and then complete my graduate work here at SUNY Oswego. However, money has to be taken into consideration, and the job that I have doesn’t pay nearly enough to provide me with confidence as far as saving up for an apartment is concerned, and I neither have the time nor the ability to work a second job (ability only because I have actually tried, and no one hires). I applied to be a DA, figuring that that wouldn’t be a time obstacle because I could get homework done while I was working, but I didn’t get the position, and even if I could rely on someone actually hiring me, there really isn’t anything else I could manage to do, especially since, again, I am doing my student teaching in the spring. There is no way that I could balance that and two jobs. I just hope that, somehow, everything works itself out, because this is really important to me. Does anyone know if it would be possible (and if so, how) to take out a loan to help me pay for an apartment? I am considering this also because the job that I do have is work-study contingent, and although I don’t know for sure, I don’t think that that will still be provided beyond my undergraduate years. Again, I am really looking forward to this year and am hoping for the best. Good luck, everyone.