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Our Children Deserve Better: A response to the 2016 election

Posted by adrionna on Nov 13, 2016 in Wisdom and Life

It was you who decided that your children deserved better.

“They shouldn’t have to wear out their only pair of shoes or eat the same meal day after day after day. They should have the freedom to choose their own paths.” It was you who said, “Education is the key to the world.”

And so you placed books in front of us. With your patience, we learned how to read. Characters representing cultures, places, and stories that we had never experienced ourselves suddenly became our friends, and we learned from them.

Our teachers began to teach us more than just the facts of history – they taught us how to step into the shoes of soldiers and citizens alike. We began to realize that there is no true winner in war – just people who never took the time to listen and understand each other.

And now you’re upset that we are resisting some of the ideas that have always been in your nature. We do not see vulnerability as weakness. We actively work to tear down the masks of propaganda and closed-minded thinking. You don’t understand why we think so differently than you do.

But I think I see it now. I’m not mad at you. After all, you genuinely want the best for your children.

But you’re the ones who gave us the books.

So please try to understand – as difficult as it may be – that when we march together, this is our own way of telling you, “We have decided that our children deserve better.”

– Ania Dron Ray

 
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An Ode to Arkansas

Posted by adrionna on Aug 3, 2016 in Random Ramble

I’m from Chicago, Arkansas
where the skyscraper and the leaves
are sometimes just as tall as I
when it’s time to visit the Southern me.

The Southern “I” is a little bit different
quite softer, but more playful, too.
I yell across the room
and practice my “y’all” when speaking to you.

I’m from Chicago, Arkansas
but you’ve accepted me from the start
with loving arms and warm embraces,
I can almost say, “Now bless her heart.”

Like Momma’s fingers running through my hair
to create waves that curl and flow
Your breeze tells me, O Arkansas,
that there’s more of you to show.

So when others ask why I’m with you, Arkansas,
and they furrow and tilt their right brow
It’s easy for me to respond to them,
“I’m so much better for it now.” – Adrionna Ray

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Keep your finger on the pulse.

Posted by adrionna on Jun 22, 2016 in Information Station, Teaching

How do you get your students’ attention when they seem checked out before the bell even rings?
Why do students seem fine one period and then bonkers the next?
Do I really need to change my lesson if my students don’t seem “ready”? 

I remember the realization well, in my first few weeks of student teaching: what was exhausting about the new full-time teaching experience wasn’t that you’re on your feet most of the time, are expected to be in touch with each and every student, or even that you have poured your soul into this plan that doesn’t seem to be working. In fact, what made it exhausting was realizing that one class period would be the most amazing hour ever and the next hour, it seemed as though students couldn’t even lift their heads up – and I was teaching with the same enthusiasm! The mood swings are what got me – and they weren’t the consequence of my own hormones. I had to learn quickly how to be ready for (and accept – embrace, even) that classes literally changed within a 20 minute time frame. This is not something that was taught in my education courses.

Now, almost a full year into this experience, I have learned to put the mood swings in the following context. You must think of your classroom as a living organism. You are the heart and the head of the operation, but so many different things can affect your environment at any given time – besides the obvious germs your students bring into your metaphorical body, they also bring little stresses (like spats with friends and romantic interests) and serious traumas (the loss of family because of serious illness or violence). On any given day, the body you are trying to manage and teach can be weakened because of the broken wrist (student couldn’t do homework because his sibling was in the hospital all night) or the knee could be bruised (a student’s parent was angry and asked her daughter why she couldn’t be more like her sibling). On the other hand, we have students who are excited because the dance is right around the corner and finally – finally – all that studying paid off with an A on the World History exam.

We can have the BEST intentioned, BEST standards-aligned lesson on the planet, but if we don’t keep our fingers on the pulse of our classroom, that lesson could be null and void in five minutes. Don’t get me wrong — all the cuts and bruises and sprains are NO EXCUSE for not teaching your lesson. As growing human beings, we quickly learn that the world does not stop just because we have a cast around our ankle. Nor should teachers throw in the towel when they see a student struggling. On the contrary!! What does medical staff do even before the examination begins? They take our blood pressure – literally getting a reading of our pulse and how it could be affecting us. Similarly, it is important for teachers to get a read of their class’ pulse – whether it is before the bell rings or in a minute-long “check-in” with your students immediately after the bell signals the beginning of your adventure. The moment I see withdrawn faces and lethargic movements, I ask one of the students before the bell rings (or all of them after the bell has rung), “Aw, man, y’all look beat. What’s been going on today?” I very quickly learn that the tired eyes aren’t from laziness or a lack of desire to be in my English class. Instead, I learn that they’ve had 4 quizzes today (or they’re already feeling those ominous vibes from the quiz they’ll have to take in an hour). I now know that I might need to change my bell-ringer. Obviously they don’t need another deeply reflective question (they’ll have four of those in different content areas today. English loses for now. Oh well.) BUT they can handle a fun creative question that also gets at the heart of what I’m going to teach them (but they don’t have to know that).

Some examples:

My original plan – Bellringer asks students to recall as many literary devices discussed in class yesterday; students are also challenged to think of reasons why an author might use these devices in their writing.

My revised plan after I see blank stares – Students can turn to their partners (they need to be loud – they’ve been quiet in their seats all day!) and try to come up with as many literary devices as they can remember from what we discussed in class previously. Then, create examples of those literary devices that they could use in a funny fictional narrative (get those creative juices flowing!)

Instead of continuing the trend of being quiet, independent, and, frankly, brain-taxing, I make a quick decision to modify at least the beginning of the lesson to be more social, more loud, and engaging. After I get their attention this way, I can proceed to teaching them the way I had originally planned.

I took their blood pressure, did a quick diagnosis, came up with an action plan, and felt the change as the class’ pulse came back to normal. Now I’m able to proceed with my lesson – I just had to remember to check the pulse.

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“I’m so happy for you!” versus “I am so happy with you.”

Posted by adrionna on Apr 20, 2016 in Just for Giggles, Just Wondering, Random Ramble

I’m not sure when I began to use the phrase “I’m so happy with you” instead of “I’m so happy for you.” Perhaps it’s because the latter no longer conveyed everything I was feeling when someone expressed their exciting news with me. Let’s break it down:

I’m so happy for you!

It’s what I have heard people say to one another in times of celebration for as long as I’ve been alive. This is an exclamation of camaraderie and support, echoing moments when others have celebrated your achievements – big or small. So what’s wrong with it?

Nothing!

I have just found that there is more meaning in standing in solidarity when I say “I am so happy with you.” It means that I understand that my excitement, joy, and overall contentment cannot possibly overshadow that of the one who is directly affected by said achievement. It means that I have seen the hard work, the struggle, and the hope of the achievement, but I have not gotten my hands dirty in this endeavor. “I am so happy with you” means that I will celebrate with you for as long as you want to celebrate, joining you in jubilation and joy. Perhaps it’s how the preposition has changed through the years (has it?), but “I’m so happy for you” seems like my friend cannot be happy without my selfless desire to stop everything and be happy for them. I’d rather stop everything and be happy with them.

 

 
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How being a teacher helped me have the best stress-free wedding day ever

Posted by adrionna on Jun 30, 2015 in Love, Wisdom and Life

The fruits of my student teaching labors are so sweet – some “fruits” include realizing I’ve become more trusting of myself and my abilities as an educator and not taking so many things personally. These realizations of my growth haven’t always been so clear – some pop up in unexpected moments when I stop and say, “Wow, I learned that from student teaching, too!”

I had not expected so much growth from student teaching, however, to reveal itself on my wedding day, making it so stress-free and fun. Here’s what I’ve decided:

1. Teaching taught me how to be flexible. As a teacher, you work weeks, months, and even years to create the perfect curriculum with its accompanying lesson plans. You attend professional development meetings, make decisions for this audience you’ve never really had all together before but know you care about already, do tons of research, and collaborate with people who are more experienced in this field than you. Not much is different when planning a wedding. You meet with vendors, try to balance your own style with the preferences of your guests, do tons of research, and (hopefully) collaborate with people who are more experienced in wedding planning than you.

AND AFTER ALL THAT PLANNING, it hardly ever goes according to plan. So you need to be flexible.. flexible with people showing up later than when you told them to, people wanting to eat from the sweet table before they’ve even touched the 300+ piece appetizer table, etc. You are not dealing with 30 students here – you are dealing with so many people from all over the place.. things are bound to morph into something you hadn’t even considered.. and it’ll be okay if you’re okay with the organic flow that results from hundreds of fallible human beings being in one place. Teaching taught me that sometimes, the unplanned is way better than the planned – but you need to trust in the process and be flexible with it.

2. Teaching taught me that I need to trust my colleagues. I’m not incredibly experienced as an educator, but I do know that the teaching profession will be miserable for me if I don’t place trust into who I’m working with, whether I agree with them (their styles and methods) or not. Wedding planning gives you an advantage here – you get to choose who you work with! You choose your photographer, DJ, caterer, venue, etc. If you’ve done your research and met with them extensively, you have a solid idea of who you’ll be working with to plan this incredible day. From the moment I signed the contracts, I trusted that these people I hired will do a perfect job of executing my vision of my wedding day. It was a great feeling when my DJ came up to me and said, “The Polish folk dancers want to dance at 7:30 instead of 9, like you told them. I’ll take care of this.” And I trusted him completely. It was an amazing release of responsibility, control, and stress, knowing that I could rely on this support system that I had hired for myself. If you trust your colleagues in teaching, you will enjoy your job ten times more. If you trust your vendors at your wedding, you will enjoy yourself one hundred times more.

3. Teaching taught me that I need to forgive. When teachers make a mistake, it can be anywhere on the “Oops, I messed up” spectrum. It can be as little as accidentally eating someone else’s lunch (How can this happen? If you’re really stressed out??) or as big as enforcing a policy on one of your students that you never stated (Again, totally making this up. Who would do this?). The same mistakes happen at a wedding, along the same spectrum.. Low: “Oh, they’re eating the desserts. Before dinner” or High: “The cake never showed?!” Human beings are not perfect and they are not your slaves, even if it is your wedding day and you paid for it so underallcircumstances everything should be done according to your wishes because you’re the bride and didn’t you already mention that you paid for this!?

If you’re a teacher, you are naturally forgiving. You forgive students every second – when they’re sleeping during the lesson you worked on all night, when one student says a comment that cuts straight into your insecurities and you fight to keep your outer shell intact, and when they don’t say “thank you” after every time you go out of your way to make their lives a little better. Forgiving is in our blood. So when things go wrong at your wedding – when someone says something out of line, when someone keeps going to the sweet table after the DJ has already announced five times that the sweet table is not indeed open, when your groom realizes he forgot the snacks (that he individually packaged earlier that day) in the trunk of a car far, far away.. you need to forgive. Immediately. Every second. Any bit of bitterness, resentment, or ill-will that you harbor towards anyone on your wedding day will make it more sour than it ever should be.

Because I forgave mistakes immediately, my day was perfect. Because I placed my trust in my support system, my day was perfect. Because I was flexible and recognized that the day was going to be exactly how it was meant to be, my day was perfect. Yes, there were a few moments when I had a slight panic and could feel myself enter that awful heavy feeling of stress, but my awareness of the fleetingness of these moments, the opportunity to share the love I have towards my now-husband with my family and friends, and the pure joy I felt at being blessed to have these people in my life all helped me center myself and appreciate it all. You know, just like teaching.

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