Posted in Miscellaneous

GettyReady

ImageWhile driving down the freeway the other day, I was surprised to see one of the billboards sporting Abraham Lincoln’s face. Always happy to see Honest Abe, I decided to check out the website—GettyReady.com—to see why the 16th president’s face was smiling at me on my way to work and recommending me to go to this site.

And now, I recommend it to all of you.

It turns out the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg is coming up next month on November 19th. On that day in 1863, seven score and ten years ago, Abraham Lincoln gave one of the greatest speeches in American history. In his speech, he not only paid tribute to soldiers who died in the bloodiest battle of the Civil War only months before, but he also spoke of uniting a country and progressing as a human race. In 272 words, Lincoln inspired a country, both in his own day and for generations to come.

Great, you may say, but what does all this have to do with teaching?

That’s where the Getty Ready program comes in. Getty Ready is a Utah-based program that’s encouraging children, parents, and teachers to learn, memorize, and apply the Gettysburg Address to their lives.

Memorize? You may ask. Who has time to memorize things anymore?

I know memorization in schools may seem old-fashioned and appear to hearken back to the days of one-room schoolhouses, but memorization is an essential part of learning and growing. If a student memorizes something the right way as opposed to simply reading it, think of how much more that text is going to mean to them. It will stick with them because they have internalized its meaning, not just words on a page. Even Elder Scott spoke a few conferences ago about the importance of memorizing scriptures, saying:

Great power can come from memorizing scriptures. To memorize a scripture is to forge a new friendship. It is like discovering a new individual who can help in time of need, give inspiration and comfort, and be a source of motivation for needed change.

If memorizing scriptures brings such support, just imagine how memorizing a seminal work like the Gettysburg Address will help our students gain an appreciation for words and language and the history of our country. As Lincoln so eloquently put it, our feeble words may not consecrate the ground of Gettysburg more than the men who fought and died on that field did, but with his words, we can “be dedicated…to the unfinished work which they who fought [there] have thus far so nobly advanced.”

So even if you’re not a teacher quite yet and don’t have students to whom you can teach the importance of memorizing, take it upon yourself to try out the power of memorization and Getty Ready to commemorate one of the greatest moments in American history with “an increased devotion.”

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Posted in Miscellaneous

Words of Wisdom for Practicum

Whether you are in your practicum semesters or just starting the program, here are the top three pieces of advice to remember during the practicum experience. These pieces of advice derive from various BYU Elementary Education professors and elementary teachers in the Partnership Schools.

1. Look for the good. You can learn something wherever you are placed.

You may be placed in a mentor teacher’s classroom where you don’t see eye to eye in some situations. This could cause you to feel like practicum was the worst experience ever. If you get caught in this situation, ask yourself, “What can I learn from this teacher? What are his/her strengths?”

2. This is hard work, but it’s worth it!


You can’t be prepared for everything that may happen in the classroom. Chaos may arise, but you are not alone in this learning process of how to teach and manage a classroom. All your classmates are experiencing the same feelings of stress and hardship. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help. There is so much support during practicum. You have a liaison, CFA’s, a facilitator, and your mentor teacher that you can go to for help and advice. As many teachers will tell you, in the long run, teaching is worth it.

3. Find some humor in your life. Laugh!

Students are cute and funny. They say the silliest and most honest things, so just laugh and enjoy your students. You will find teaching is a lot more enjoyable when there is always a smile on your face and laughter in the classroom.

Posted in Miscellaneous

3 Reasons Why You Should Consider a Career in Education

Today is BYU’s Major Fair. It will take place from 9:30am – 3:30pm in the Wilkinson Center Ballroom. This event provides a wonderful opportunity for students to explore a variety of majors, and it is designed to help them discover what interests them and what they would like to study. To celebrate this important event, I felt it appropriate to list and expound upon three reasons why I think everyone should consider pursuing a career in education.

1.     Teaching is the noblest of all professions.

ImageDavid O. McKay, former President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said, “In the light of self-evident facts, is it not apparent to every thinking mind that the noblest of all noble professions is that of teaching, that upon the effectiveness of that teaching hangs the destiny of nations?” Aristotle similarly stated, “All who have meditated upon the art of governing mankind have been convinced that the fate of empires depends upon the education of youth.” I believe with all of my heart that this is true. Children are voracious learners and are extremely observant. Their minds are exceedingly impressionable, and it is during the crucial early years of life that children develop the habits and behaviors that will eventually become who they are. Teachers have the unique and privileged opportunity to mold the minds of youth. They can implant into their minds not only the academic knowledge that will help them succeed in the workforce but also the timeless truths that will enable them to apply their secular knowledge with unyielding moral strength. There is no nobler endeavor than this!

2.     Children and youth need more positive role models.

ImageLast year, I had a very unique opportunity. I was invited by an elementary school principal to do a presentation at a school assembly to celebrate Red Ribbon Week. Because of the Avengers craze that had recently swept over the country, I decided to make superheroes the theme of the presentation. I invited a good friend to assist me, and we entered the school’s gymnasium dressed up as Superman and Captain America. You’d have thought that we were Justin Bieber walking into an arena full of teenage girls! The kids went WILD! They were so excited that real superheroes were in their midst. For the presentation, we spotlighted several of our “friends” such as Ironman, Spiderman, the Hulk, and Thor, and we talked about important attributes that each of these heroes exemplified. Afterwards we had the opportunity to “high five” all the kids as they exited the gym, and I wish I had a dollar for every time a kid told me that I was his hero! Children are always looking for heroes to look up to. Who better than their school teacher? The number of positive role models in the world is diminishing. Children need people to admire who exemplify Christ-like attributes, and teachers have a perfect opportunity to be that role model in the lives of their students.

3.     You can change thousands of lives for the better.

ImageMrs. Shirley Spencer was my 7th grade Math and English teacher. I will remember and appreciate her for the rest of my life. To this day I remember so many of the little jingles and rhymes she taught her students to help them learn and recall concepts. However, she taught me so much more than educational rhymes and jingles; she taught me how to be a better person. I remember one day in class when I said something very unkind to a friend of mine. She was deeply offended and told her mother after school. Her mother, very upset, called Mrs. Spencer that evening. The next day, I received two detentions along with a piece of my teacher’s mind. The worst part of that punishment was not the detentions but rather that I had disappointed someone whom I loved and admired. When I reported to the classroom for my first detention, I expected to face a stern, disappointed teacher. Instead, I found the same cheerful, loving woman I had come to love so much. Rather than make me write “I will not say unkind things to others” on the board a few hundred times, she spent my detention time talking to me about what I’d learned from my mistake. She recognized and capitalized on an opportunity to teach me something important that would leave a far deeper impression on me than a punishment would have. As important as it was to her to fill her students’ minds with academic knowledge, it was more important that her students developed strong moral character. Every teacher can have the same influence on their students as Mrs. Spencer had on me, an impact that children will feel for the rest of their lives.

How have teachers throughout your life impacted you?

For those of you who have already decided to pursue a career in education, what influenced your decision?

Posted in Miscellaneous

Authenticity in the Classroom

The word “authentic” has a very positive connotation. For example, this word may make you think of authentic Mexican food, authentic jewelry, or authentic clothing. But, have you ever thought about what it means to be an authentic teacher? As a result of observations in my Methods of Teaching class this semester, I got into a discussion with my roommate about how to be an authentic teacher. My class had observed two dance classes in two different schools, back to back. The first teacher had a really hard time connecting with her students. She did not talk on their level. The students were completely uninterested in her, and as a result, uninterested in the content as well. In contrast, my class found quite the opposite at the second school. The teacher related to the students, related the content to them, and spoke to them as people. This class ran quite differently than the previous class.

Not even two hours after this discussion with my roommate, I was working on homework for my Methods of Teaching class and came across a brilliant article in our packet of assigned reading. It is titled, “’Authenticity Makes a Teacher,” by American journalist, teacher, and lecturer Sydney Harris. The author presented the ideas I had just been talking about with my roommate but in a much more eloquent way than I ever could! Harris discusses that genuine authority “comes out of the depths of the personality.” He claims that if you want to have a light rein on your students and still be able to have enough discipline for the trouble-makers, you must be yourself. He says, you must find your “humanhood” or you are “still playing with masks and roles and status symbols, and nobody is more aware of this difference (although unconsciously) than a child.” One of my favorite lines is “only person is resonant to person.” It is an art to “tune in to the other’s wave length.” Harris explains, “until they have liberated themselves (not completely but mostly) from what is artificial and unauthentic…they cannot communicate, counsel, or control others.” Harris shows that the teachers we remember the most tend to be those that looked, talked, and connected to us as humans. They were not just a teacher during class, but instead, gave a “fullness of themselves.”

So how can you be more authentic? I think one of the best ways to be authentic is to relate to your students. Sometimes this can be hard if we are different from our students. Get to know their culture, race, age, generation, socio-economic status, background, etc. Realize what would relate to them based on these factors. Learn everything you can about these factors and add them into your lessons. Pay attention to who you are teaching. What do they care about? What concepts can you relate to their everyday life that will resonate with them? Help them make relevant connections. Sometimes, unconsciously, we give subliminal messages to our students. Not everyone is the same and it is important to show these differences. What motivates you may not motivate them. When you do this, it also shows how much you care about your students. They will notice, respond positively, and often reciprocate. My Methods of Teaching professor, Pam Musil, said it wonderfully. “If you establish a good relationship with your students, you can get them to do anything.” A great example of this is from the movie “Freedom Writers.” The movie is based on a true story of a teacher who, despite a different background than her students, found ways to be both herself as well as relate to the experiences and challenges they were facing. If you have not seen it, I highly recommend watching it!

Being both an authentic teacher as well as an authentic person is key. Sydney Harris ends his article saying that authentic teachers “are extremely rare, and they are worth more than we can ever pay them. It should be the prime task of a good society to recruit and develop these personalities for safeguarding our children’s futures.”