Posted in Miscellaneous

My Favorite Overlooked Parts of Teaching

Hello everyone! I hope your new school year is off to a good start! I know mine is.

Today I would like to post about something different. By now you know I love kids as well as the idea of helping them and affecting their lives. Today I want to talk about the other parts of teaching that I love.

For one, I love coloring. I really do. I used to think it was weird to like coloring after the age of six, but I have since discovered there are many people feel the same way I do. In fact, I’ll bet a lot of you do! There is just something so promising about the potential in all that blank, white space on a coloring page. I love it.

Bright colors are another thing I love about teaching. I love the colors of markers and crayons and the way they bring life to projects in the classroom. I love that little kids love bright colors. I love decorating with bright colors. I enjoy doing crafts with construction paper, because you can create anything you want out of bright sheets of color.

I also love kids’ senses of humor. I often don’t understand it, but just the fact that they think it is hilarious gets me laughing.  I just love that teachers are lucky enough to get to enjoy that humor all day and get paid for it!

I love reading children’s books. Well, I enjoy some of them. Children’s books can be clever in how they tell a story in so few words, especially compared to how long it takes adult novelists to tell a story. And they can be so funny for adults as well as children! Confession: I still love to read the Junie B. Jones books by Barbara Park. They crack me up. A lot of my favorite books would be considered “juvenile,” such as Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine and Princess Ben by Catherine Gilbert Murdock.

Some Construction Paper animals I made for my VAEdu 326 class

Lastly, I love making crafts for and in the classroom. I guess this goes along with the first two things, but I love scrapbooking and it really comes in handy when it comes to teaching. When I did an unpaid internship at an elementary school a couple years ago, walking into the room full of die-cutting tools was like I had died and gone to heaven! Of course, I had to stick to the teacher’s lesson plans, but just imagining the possibilities of access to that room excited me.

I know I sound like a nerd for loving all of these things so much, but I am just telling it like it is. There are so many aspects of teaching that I love, and I keep discovering more. What are some of the overlooked parts of teaching that you love?

Posted in Miscellaneous

Historic Kirtland

One of the highlights of my summer was spending time at Historic Kirtland. I am from the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio, which is about one hour from the Historic Kirtland sites. If you haven’t ever attended Historic Kirtland, I would highly recommend it. I know the Kirtland sites have a lot of visitors each summer who make their way to each of the church history sites. If you haven’t been, definitely put it on your “Places to Visit” list.

Sister missionaries are specifically assigned to the Kirtland Visitor’s Center. I had  the opportunity this summer to shadow the sister missionaries who serve there.  It was incredible to study with them and teach with them on the tours. I have visited Kirtland at least once every year since I was old enough to remember. It was neat to put those facts and stories I heard so many times to use on tour with visitors. I was the one teaching this time, but boy did I still learn a lot! On the tour, we begin by showing a 20 minute video that narrates the tragedies and triumphs of the Saints’ time in  Kirtland from the perspective of Ann Whitney, the wife of the first Bishop of the Church, Newel K. Whitney. Newel K. Whitney had been praying for Joseph Smith to come to Kirtland, and one day in the winter of 1831, Joseph Smith walked through the door of the Whitney store, shook Newel K. Whitney’s hand, and said, “Brother Whitney, thou art the man! You’ve prayed me here, now what do you want with me?”

Throughout the tour you get to go inside the Newel K. Whitney store, the Whitney’s home, the Johnson Inn, the Sawmill, and the Ashery. It is really  incredible to see how generous and charitable the Whitneys were, not only to Joseph and Emma Smith, but to all of the people in Kirtland.

It was in the upstairs of the Whitney store that sections 84-98 and section 101 of the Doctrine and Covenants were revealed. Joseph Smith worked on a large part of the translation of the Bible in the Whitney store (the upstairs was converted into several rooms for the Smiths, including an office for Joseph). Jesus Christ, Moses, Elias, and Elijah all appeared in the Kirtland temple. The Kirtland temple is where Elijah came and restored the priesthood keys.

Doctrine and Covenants 38:32 says, “ Wherefore, for this cause I gave unto you the commandment that ye should go to the Ohio; and there I will give unto you my law; and there you shall be endowed with power from on high.”

There is definitely a special spirit at Kirtland. It has been a great experience to spend many days of my summer there. I’ve definitely been taking advantage of the last few days I have here in “the Ohio.” It’s neat to live so close to where some really special things in the Church history occurred. Have you ever visited Kirtland? Or have you been positively influenced by another Church history site?

Posted in Miscellaneous


     Recently, there has been a lot of debate on improving our school system to allow the U.S. to compete better with other countries. I love that there is a push to make education better and improve teaching practices while involving technology in education. However, I am very grateful for the school system that we do have.

While teaching English in Cambodia, I had an interesting conversation with a few of the students who could speak English well. They told me that there is a lot of corruption in their school system, and claimed they could spend five whole days talking about it. At first it caught me off guard, as I usually hear of corruption referring to government or business ideals. Schools always seemed clean and wonderful, so how could they be corrupt? The students explained that bribing and cheating is very common. The students who pay more money are ranked at the top of the class and sometimes don’t even have to take big exams—they automatically pass. In addition, students have to pay to go to school in the first place—there is no free public education.

Students in Cambodia

I was very disheartened to learn all of this. It seemed so unfair and strange to me since I had grown up in such a different kind of school system. While there are problems in American education, and there is probably occasional corruption and cheating, I became much more grateful for a school system that generally tries to be fair and condemn cheating. We are so lucky to be able to learn and teach in such an environment, and I too often take it for granted.
So next time I think a test was unfair, I am discouraged with my schoolwork, or I don’t like the score a TA gives me on an essay, I will try to stop myself and remember how lucky I am to be in a good school where we don’t have to bribe teachers to get a good grade.

Posted in Miscellaneous

I Learned it in Cambodia

Amid cultural differences, crazy games, and communication challenges, I’ve learned a lot from my experience teaching English to children in an orphanage in Cambodia. Here’s a look at some of the things I learned:

Lesson #1: Teaching is for those who want to be more humble. It’s hard. I had heard that before, but I thought I could handle it and figure it out. And I still think I can. But because I had to learn to control a class, teach concepts, and understand students’ backgrounds enough to help them, that process took a lot more time than I had thought.

Lesson #2: Be patient with yourself. Teaching is hard, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be discouraging. One of my last days teaching went quite horribly, and I realized I had been teaching everything the wrong way. At first I was so frustrated—I had expected to be able to do things right by the end of my time in Cambodia, and it made all I had done seem pointless. But I realized that I simply need to continue to patiently learn and improve how I teach. No effort is wasted if I learn from my mistakes.

Lesson #3: Go with the flow. One day at the end of class, I announced that we would play fruit basket, a game the students had been begging me to play for days. I knew they loved this game and thought we would have a lot of fun. To my surprise, the class sulked away, some claiming, “Me sick, me no play,” and others just sitting at their desks. To say I was confused would be an understatement. This was their favorite game! Why didn’t they want to play it? We instead practiced writing in their books. I’m still not sure why they didn’t want to play, but I learned a lesson: we are not working with a computer or machine, we are working with humans, and many times you just can’t predict what is going to happen. Be prepared to go with the flow instead of getting frustrated about something not going as planned.

Lesson #4: Don’t lose it. This seems obvious, but I was surprised at how easy it was to get frustrated and how easily that frustration could come out in the things I said and how I acted. But it is vital that no matter how rowdy or crazy the students are, you stay calm. You can be strict and in control, but always calm.

Lesson #5: Enjoy it. Remember what teaching is all about: helping people. Teaching is full of ups and downs, but time goes fast, so enjoy both the ups and the downs of every situation.

Lesson #6: Love the students. After spending a long time discussing important things to do as a parent, my human development teacher shared this quote from Urie Bronfenbrenner about what’s really the most important: “Somebody’s got to be crazy about that kid.  That’s number one.  First, last, and always.” I think this quote applies just as well to teaching. No matter what we don’t know, how rowdy a class is, or how badly a lesson goes, the most important thing is to love the students and really care for them and their learning. That is the only way we can truly make a difference in their lives.