The King of Suspense

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Anyone who knows me understands my deep love for anything from the 1940’s and 50’s. I have a deep respect for the people during this time and their resiliency. Last night during one of my Alfred Hitchcock marathons, I learned a new and interesting lesson about the greatest generation. For those of you who don’t know, Alfred Hitchcock is the king of suspense. From Psycho to The Birds, Vertigo to Rear Window, Alfred Hitchcock understood how to create suspense without any special effects or fancy editing. Last night I watched Rear Window, a movie about a man who, while homebound due to a leg injury, becomes obsessed with looking out his window and observing his neighbors’ comings and goings. During this time he witnesses mysterious circumstances that lead him to deduce that one of his neighbors is a brutal murderer. Wow! It is suspenseful and a movie that I would highly recommend. But this movie is far more than a horror flick; it taught me an interesting lesson about teaching.

First, it taught me that in today’s day and age, teachers are competing with screens. Whether these screens belong to cell phones, computers, tablets, or TVs, teachers are fighting to be as entertaining as the enhanced images on the screen. So how do we cope? I think we could all take a lesson from Alfred Hitchcock. He didn’t have fancy technology at his fingertips. Instead, Alfred Hitchcock utilizes music to capture the viewer. He uses intriguing scenarios and characters. And, most importantly, he used his imagination. So as we enter the classroom use these “special” effects, play music and sing songs, act as funny characters, and place your students in interesting scenarios. Capture their attention with simple means.

The second lesson I learned from Alfred Hitchcock came specifically from Rear Window. During this movie, the main character has a front row seat to all the comings and goings of his neighbors: their hardships, their triumphs, and their secrets. Now, if there was an observer in your classroom logging your every move, do you think you would behave differently? Of course. But what this movie taught me is that there’s always someone watching. Whether it is our students, their parents, administration, or fellow teachers, the actions we take on a daily basis may seem simple, but they do not go unnoticed. Be the best teacher you can be every minute of every day. The actions we take are being cataloged.

You can find inspiration for teaching everywhere. Open your eyes and let the examples around you teach you how to be the best teacher you can be.

Battle of the Books

Do you have students who feel like this about reading?

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Do you wish all your students were eager to read?

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Try getting them excited through a program called Battle of the Books! This program is designed to make reading “fun and exciting” for students in third through sixth grade through a competition within their grade. Each grade does not need to participate. This can be done by one grade-level team. As a teacher, you may choose to create your own book lists and questions for your grade level team, as well as adapt to younger grades. You may even choose to only have your own students participate in the competition as a class.

Preparing for the Competition
Each grade, third through sixth, is given a list of 10-15 books that are on their reading level. Teachers introduce these books through Book Talks to help get students excited about reading them. Students in each class then volunteer to read the books for the competition. A schedule is created for the students to know when they need to have the books finished by and when the competition will take place. Students are usually given three to four months to read all of the books.

Competition
As the competition draws near, teachers should get the students excited by making this a big event. Parents should be invited to come watch. Within each grade, a competition that is similar to a jeopardy style trivia tournament about information from the books is held. At the end, a prizes can be given to the winners.

This is a great way to combine literacy with students’ competitiveness. If they don’t already, they may even grow to love books!

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Being “Mormon”

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Judgment can be extremely powerful. Judgments can create or destroy relationships, build people up, or tear them down. As human beings, both my future students and I live in a world where we are constantly bombarded with the negative effects of judgment. My students, in fact, will experience judgment on a regular basis. During my schooling, I had my beliefs questioned on a regular basis because I was Mormon. I felt the judgment of my peers, even as far as being told that I could no longer hang out with one of my best friends as soon as her parents found out I was Mormon. In high school, one of my teachers questioned multiple parts of my beliefs in a lesson on Mormonism. I sat bewildered. As a sixteen year old kid, I was far from a theologian. I only knew what I believed and hoped that I would not mess up too terribly. I felt the eyes of my classmates boring into my head as I shakily answered questions about temple worship, Joseph Smith, and others.  As I met this judgment, I chose to use it as an opportunity to teach acceptance. I was able to explain that Mormonism, although different from other religions in some specific practices, fundamentally teaches good values regarding family, love, and daily worship. I saw the judging eyes of some of my classmates fade away as I explained that we all are fundamentally connected.  Through this experience, I learned both the negative effects of judgment, but also human beings immense ability to accept.

Experiencing this struggle, I realized the importance, as a future educator, to rid my mind of judgment. I will have students who are minorities or those who have had hate planted in their hearts for people they do not understand. I need my classroom to be a place that my students view as a safe haven away from the worries and the strife of the world. Through this, I will not only teach the three R’s (reading, writing and arithmetic), but I will also teach love, acceptance, and the value of an open heart. Through creating an environment of safety, the walls of judgment can and will fall.

 

Plato and Play-Doh

play-doh1Here’s another post from one of our guest bloggers, Jessica Lyon. Check out her previous post here!

In my final semester of coursework here at BYU, I am currently taking a classical traditions course by Dr. Stephen Bay (CL CV 201). As I sat in lecture today my professor contrasted Plato and Aristotle – both students of Sophocles. While they both had the same teacher, they had vastly different opinions on how people learn. Aristotle believed that to learn about something, you needed to become an expert on it. Plato believed that we learn by experimenting with the world around us.

I am in agreeance with Plato. Aristotle became an expert on almost everything, but when he died, most of what Aristotle had determined as “facts” proved to be completely incorrect. To me, this proves that knowledge cannot be transferred without having some sort of experience. In my last post, I talked about how in order to teach, all we need to do is facilitate, or encourage, knowledge. Plato echos those same sentiments.

Plato understood that in order to learn you just need to wonder and ask questions. Sophocles never formally taught or lectured Plato and Aristotle; they learned by asking him questions and experimenting with his philosophies. Wouldn’t it make sense to teach our students the same way the Greek philosophers were taught? Think of what our students could accomplish.

Here’s a challenge for you. Give each student in your class a piece of Play-Doh. Ask them to use the Play-Doh to prove to you if a sphere has sides or not. You don’t need to tell them how or what you expect to see, just let them go. I guarantee your students will come to the conclusion that there are no sides on a sphere. Probe their knowledge. Extend their knowledge. Encourage their knowledge… for that is your role as an educator.

Jessica Lyon is a senior from Cedar Hills, Utah studying Elementary Education. In her spare time she enjoys preparing her 3rd grade classroom for the Fall and learning about learning.