Posted in Miscellaneous

Education: What’s the Big Idea?

      What’s the point of education? Why do we bother spending ten to twenty years of our lives in a classroom? We want to learn, of course, but why?

      When it really comes down to it, we learn so we can have the ability to do something good in the world, to improve something, to add something better. Many organizations focus on education in third world countries because they want them to be able to not only better their lives, but their communities as well. Education is meant to have a ripple effect. This ripple effect is reflected in BYU’s motto: “Enter to Learn, Go Forth to Serve.”

      It’s easy to forget the big picture of education because of its commonplace for all of us. But all of those math problems, vocab words, and history projects are meant to give students the abilities they need to add something good to the world. That’s why education is so important to the community, and so exciting to me personally. I want to be a teacher so I can be part of this effort to drive the world toward something better.

     There is so much good that can be done. There is plenty of work for each of us to do. Whether it be changing government policies, helping people who are sick, marketing a helpful invention, or uplifting others through music, there are endless ways to improve the world and help others. Our job as teachers is to help students prepare for whatever way they choose. We can remind students of to help them see the big picture more clearly. Students are not writing a paper, studying a war in history, or learning multiplication tables just because someone told them to; they are doing it to develop skills, background knowledge, or critical thinking so that they are equipped to go out and make a difference.

     How has education prepared you or someone you know to improve something in the world?

Posted in Miscellaneous

Honoring a Wide-Reaching Teacher

This post is almost a continuation of my last post. Today I would like to tell you about a teacher who affected my life very deeply, although I never met him.

My grandfather, Vere Johnson, grew up in the farming community of Beaver Dam in Northern Utah. On his first day of school in the local one-room schoolhouse, he decided to get up and explore the class, to the annoyance of his strict school teacher. She sent him straight back to his seat and then proceeded to smack his head against his desk, causing his lower lip to swell. He thought to himself, “If this is what school is all about, I will have nothing to do with it.”

Vere lived true to his promise. By the time he reached third grade, he still faithfully attended school due to his mother’s orders, but he had never learned to read or do any math. That’s when the school was fortunate enough to get a new teacher, Ross Coombs. This new teacher watched Vere in class and called Vere’s mother in for a conference. Mr. Coombs told her that he didn’t know why Vere wasn’t learning anything, considering, in his own words, “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with [Vere]– mentally.” He gave her a composition notebook full of history writings and told her to read it to Vere every night and come back in a week. When Vere came back, he had the whole notebook memorized.

After this experience, Vere put his efforts into his schoolwork. In a short time, he not only caught up to his classmates but became one of the top students in his school. During World War II, he put himself through dental school and met his wife while getting his degree. He and his wife later had eight children, all of whom hold college degrees and have encouraged their children to get as much education as possible.

Let’s just play in the world of “what could have been.” If Ross Coombs had never given my grandfather a second chance, it is very possible that Grandpa Johnson would have become an illiterate farmer after suffering through all those years of schooling. He never would have met my grandmother, and I would not exist. And even if, by some miracle, my grandparents had still met and gotten married (although I can’t see my grandmother not marrying a college graduate, considering all the work she put into her education), it is also very possible that my father would also have placed a low value on his education and never discovered his love for chemistry. Thank goodness for Ross Coombs and his faith in my grandfather.

Who motivates you in your pursuit of more education? Is it you? Have your parents helped push you in the right direction? Have you had amazing teachers that had faith in you? I would love to hear your stories!

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Posted in Miscellaneous

An Internship Experience

Allison, one of the very first bloggers for the McKay School, has had the opportunity this past year to do the Elementary Education internship. She taught fourth grade in the Nebo School District. I know that many people majoring in Elementary Education will soon be making the decision between an internship or student teaching. I interviewed ‘Miss Mills’ and got to hear about her amazing adventure as a first-year teacher and intern.

Allison said after everything she learned at BYU, she just needed to put the things she learned to use in a classroom. That is where her internship experience comes in. An important lesson that Allison learned was that mistakes are normal. She said, “During the nine months I worked at the school, I made countless mistakes, but the experience taught me lessons that I will carry with me into future teaching jobs.” It’s important to keep in mind that everyone makes mistakes and that lessons won’t always turn out how you planned.

Some days as a teacher are harder than others. But, Allison said that “the days that I chose to write compliments to students, taught with my personality, knew the material, and anticipated how the material would be received by the class were the days that I remember best.” Those days, she says, make the hard days so worth it. Allison talked about the days that she could just see the students’ potential through the light in their eyes, and it brought tears to her own eyes. She loved seeing the light and love that came from the students.

It’s so fun to hear about the happy moments in Allison’s classroom. She said, “…I will always remember the fun times we had as a class. I remember moments when one student would say something so funny, I would burst out laughing and the whole class would enjoy the happy atmosphere. Other moments when we would play review games and the class was just so happy to participate and show what they knew. The best moments were when I was able to see these students become young men and women—when they would apologize and help each other, when they saw a need of a lone friend and take them under their wing.” Allison said, “Those moments will be etched forever in my memory.”

One time, Allison took her class outside and they practiced making angles on the field. How fun! She said that the students were creative with it and really enjoyed it. Another time, Allison came back to her classroom after a substitute took over and she found a beautiful green poster that said, “Sign here if Miss Mills is the best” and the whole class had signed it. Allison said that it totally made her day. Allison had the chance to read what a little girl in her class had to say about the fourth grade. This student said that she liked math and science because Miss Mills made it fun. She said that she just loved her teacher. Throughout the year, Allison hadn’t felt like she had totally reached this little girl or related to her, so this note brought tears to Allison’s eyes. Allison said, “That is the amazing thing about being a teacher–you never know who you are touching and how.”

“Incredible” was the word Allison used to describe her internship experience. She said it was both challenging and rewarding. Allison says that the lessons she learned will not be wasted. She loved how forgiving and loving her fourth graders were. Lastly, Allison says, “… For those of you who are thinking about interning, I would say, DO IT! You’ll never regret it.” Whether it be a student teaching position or an internship, it sure sounds like an excellent experience! If you are trying to choose between an internship or student teaching, which are you leaning toward and why?

A blog post on “A Student Teaching Experience”… COMING SOON!

Posted in Miscellaneous

Effective Communication

As many of you may know, the NBA Playoffs are currently taking place (go Thunder!). Because of this, communication has been on my mind. In the NBA games I’ve been watching, I am noticing the difference it makes when players communicate effectively.  I say effectively because there is a difference between yelling at a teammate in a condescending manner and calmly setting up a play. When good communication happens, the ball is passed well and the players have better positioning on the court on the defensive end.

Within the teaching profession , more and more schools are moving toward helping teachers feed off each others’ strengths and weaknesses by having them work in teams. Much like in the sport of basketball, or any team sport for that manner, teachers also need to learn the importance of effective communication. In my opinion and through my research, I have discovered five characteristics of productive communication:

1. Pay Attention. Every teacher wants to feel like their opinion and view are  valued, and when someone is speaking it is important to give that teacher your full attention. This key is also important because if you are asked a question regarding a statement, it is nice to know what everyone else is talking about.

2. Empathize With Others’ Opinions. This is important because every person has their own opinion and this opinion needs to be respected.

3. Use Constructive Criticism. Nobody is perfect, and there will be times where you may want to help a team member out by offering advice. However, when giving this advice, make sure to use a calm tone and let them know that you want to help make their idea even better and not just shoot it down.

4. Don’t Beat Around the Bush. I have been in meetings before where someone in the meeting wants to say something, but they give such a long introduction that the rest of the group loses interest by the time the person gets to the point.

5. Be Present, but Not Overpowering. I feel that the other team members should know you are there because you are participating. However, it is also remember that you are not the only person there and it is important that every person’s voice is heard.

There are so many more keys to good communication, but these are the five that I found to be most important and that encompass most other keys. Communication is used so often in everyday life that it is usually given little thought. However, just from researching how to better my communication, I found that there were a lot of aspects that I could improve on. I feel that effective communication is an important and necessary skill to acquire so when I am placed into a situation where I am the new teacher in a team, I can use my skills to gain respect from my fellow teachers.