Posted in Miscellaneous

Prevent Bullying Now!

Image Growing up, I thought that bullying could not be as bad as people said. I had experienced hurtful remarks and even cried a few tears, but it was nothing I could not overcome. It wasn’t until my freshman year of college that I really came to understand the true effects of bullying. As a seventeen year old, I chose to graduate early and leave my beloved home and travel to college. Bright-eyed, I moved into my first apartment. I couldn’t believe that I was finally at BYU, and other than a few aches for home, I was excited to start my adult life. I quickly made friends and felt like everything was going my way. Slowly I began to feel animosity from  one of my roommates. When I asked what was wrong or what I did, she promised me everything was fine. But, I knew something was wrong. I began racking my brain to figure out what I could have done wrong. Day by day the situation worsened. As the semester continued, I was tormented by my roommate. Never in my life had I seen someone be so ruthless. While I was spending time away from the apartment with friends or school work, this girl convinced all my other roommates that I was a problem. A bug that needed to be squashed. Each night, as I came home, I was met with a new level of hatred. I quickly learned to come home at the last possible minute and leave before anyone else awoke. But still this tormenting continued. Soon my personal items were being trashed, thrown away, or stolen. When boys came to pick me up for dates, they were met with rude comments about my character or other remarks.

I slowly began to fade away. My very personality was washed away and I soon began to believe these remarks. In fact, I wasn’t very pretty or smart. I didn’t have anything to add to conversations, and I was a bother to everyone around me. I became a person I didn’t recognize. It took a courageous girl I barely knew to save me. One morning while I was still asleep, she snuck into my apartment and moved me out. When I awoke, most of my personal belongings were in a new apartment with a wonderful group of girls who took me under their wing. For months, I had nightmares about this bully. My self-esteem destroyed, I struggled to enter into social situations, which I had always enjoyed. Even my relationship with my family suffered. Now, years later, I cannot look back at this time in my life without deep pain and sorrow. Bullying is not something to joke about or misunderstand. Bullying is life changing and has the power to truly destroy an individual.

As teachers, we must work hard to combat any strife that may befall our students, especially bullies. Today, bullying is an issue that must be addressed as a part of any working classroom. Do not let it happen. As teachers, we have the power to save our students from the pain a bully can cause. Insist on a zero-tolerance policy. Protect your students.

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Posted in Miscellaneous

Personal Reflections About Literacy

Reading and writing have both played significant roles in my life. I don’t remember when I first learned to read, but I do have very early memories of my mom reading to my siblings and me. We read the Book of Mormon early each morning as a family. We read scripture stories on Sundays and during Family Home Evening. At night, we read picture books. One of my favorite authors was Bill Peet. His illustrations were always so engaging, and his stories were full of adventure and excitement. Cowardly Clyde, Cyrus the Unsinkable Sea Serpent, How Droofus the Dragon Lost His Head, and The Whingdingdilly were among my very favorites.

Cowardly Clyde (Reprint) (Paperback)Stories were always an integral part of family’s interactions together. One of my favorite bedtime activities was listening to my dad’s Mary, Sarah, and Carl stories. These were the names of three fictitious characters that were about the same age as my older sister L’Anita, my younger sister Bethany, and me. These curious children had some of the most grand and exciting adventures together! They lived in the countryside, isolated from civilization, so there were always fun adventures to be had. They loved to explore and would often embark on day-long outings in hopes of discovering secret places and hidden treasures. These stories were always so magical to me, and they were the foundation upon which my love for reading and writing grew.

You can imagine how exciting it was for me to be able to read these stories and others on my own! Some of the first books I ever read were the Frog and Toad books. Oh, how I loved these two warty friends! I always wished that I could join them on their escapades. Probably my most favorite book in elementary school, though, was Shiloh. Dogs were my favorite animal, so this heart-warming dog tale was very near and dear to my heart. I loved my life as a child, but being able to read suddenly opened up worlds without number into which I could enter and be a part of. I felt as if Shiloh was my own dog and that I was the one having all the adventures with him. I remember riding right alongside Harry Potter during a Quidditch match and casting spells myself at the dreadfully annoying Draco Malfoy. Reading was especially rewarding during difficult days. Bad days never lasted very long because I could escape into someone else’s life and enjoy the excitement and fun of their experiences. And even though I eventually had to re-enter reality, much of the joy I experienced with my fictitious friends lingered with me.

My love for reading eventually grew into a love for writing. My experiences with the stories I’d read expanded my imagination, and I began creating stories and characters of my own. My writing abilities expanded to poetry, as well. In fourth grade, I wrote a poem and entered it into a literary contest. The theme was “Anything is Possible.” I actually remember the poem! It went something like this:

“I wish I could fly in the sky so high

And see all the beautiful things go by.

I wish I could have the wings of the things

That fly in the sky so high.

I wish I could fly! I wish I could fly!

Anything is possible, so why can’t I?”

Well, I won first place! I received a plaque with my name on it and was absolutely thrilled. This experience boosted my confidence in my writing abilities, and I continued to compose. In seventh grade, I entered another poem into a literary contest and was awarded again, this time with a publication of my work in a collection of literature written by students of all grade levels. I was so excited to be a published writer!

As I’ve grown older, my writing experiences have unfortunately been increasingly disappointing. I feel that the older I’ve gotten, the less I’ve been allowed to use creativity and imagination in my writing. In high school, my writing opportunities consisted of research papers and formal essays. Employing humor and creativity in my work was frowned upon, and I was even penalized at times for being too “informal.” Writing began to feel more like a chore than a chance to create something special and unique. I felt like my childlike imagination was being choked away by weeds of robotic formality with its unnatural tones and forced use of advanced vocabulary. The voice in my writing was not my own, and I felt like I was writing what the teacher wanted me to write rather than what I felt naturally inclined to.

My reading experiences were very similar. No longer was I allowed to read engaging stories that taught important lessons and principles while masterfully employing the use of various literary techniques and functions. Instead, I had to read the “classics,” books that, in my mind, were entirely incapable of communicating any messages to me. I tried tirelessly to dig through these stories to find meaning and purpose. I labored painstakingly to discover the “main ideas” the author was trying to communicate. But in the end, there were only specific answers that were acceptable. And guess who decided what answers were acceptable or not; that’s right, my teacher. Again, there seemed to be no room for my imagination to direct me to my own personal discoveries. I was forced to conform to a specific train of thought and understanding about literature.

These experiences and many others have shaped the way I view literacy now. I’ve developed through these experiences a belief that the purpose of literature is ideally to establish a connection between the writer and the reader. After all, the intent of most writers is to communicate something to their readers. There are any number of ways these connections can be made. Because each person is unique and different, the connections made between writers and readers are likely different for everyone. Literacy, therefore, is simply the ability to connect with literature. Being able to read a work and come away having learned something is, in my mind, a manifestation of literacy. As a child, I learned so much from Bill Peet’s stories. I was literate! Sometimes the messages we understand are different from those that others do. They may even be different than the ones the writer was originally trying to communicate, but that doesn’t mean the reader is not literate. Let me use an example to illustrate what I mean. I have often studied the scriptures with the intent to discover principles that I can apply into my life that will help me become more like the Savior. I may be reading about the importance of keeping the law of chastity, but come away feeling that I need to serve others more. The message I gleaned from my study was completely different from the message being taught by an ancient prophet. Does this mean that I am not literate, that I am not capable of understanding what the author was trying to say? Of course not! I was still successful in meaningfully connecting with the literature I was reading. This is literacy.

People cannot be forced to be literate in the same way. I hope that I, as a teacher, can learn to avoid forcing my students to learn from literature the things that I want them to learn. Instead, I hope to be able to teach them how to make their own discoveries in their experiences with reading and writing and use what they learn in meaningful ways.

Posted in Miscellaneous

Substitute Teaching

Big subs

Throughout the month of May, I was able to be a substitute teacher. Going into it I thought, “How hard could this be?” Let’s be real though, being a substitute teacher is exhausting, and in my opinion, harder than being the actual teacher. If there is one thing I wish I had been taught a lot better throughout my elementary education courses, it would be classroom management. Students will take advantage of you and push your buttons. The key is to set your expectations from the very beginning of the day. Trying to use the management system that the teacher already has in place is the best. Even then, students will try to walk right over you. Don’t get me wrong, subbing has been one of the best experiences I have had to prepare me for teaching.

​Here are some tricks and tips for subbing that I picked up along the way:
​- Don’t forget to tell your students your name.
​​- Try and get to know each student’s name in the class.
​- Set your expectations at the very beginning.
​​- Always have a few games in mind to fill time.
​- Get to know the other teachers and staff at the school.
​- Be flexible!
Posted in Miscellaneous

Gratitude

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I am blessed with not only the opportunity to write for this blog, but also as a secretary for the Air Conditioning Shop in the Brewster Building. I am blessed to work with a group of men devoted to creating an environment of comfort and ease for the students and faculty. As I answer the phone I find that no one is calling to say, “Thank you, my room temperature is very comfortable.” Instead they contact the shop solely to describe their concerns. Yet the operators receive these complaints with a smile and spend hours trying to make sure that the area is comfortable and that their hard work goes further unnoticed by those they work so hard to serve.

Each day, as I walk into any given campus building, there are a few things I am sure to find: working lights, clean spaces, proper learning equipment, and comfortable temperatures.  It never occurred to me that these comforts not only take an immense amount of work to create but that they go entirely unappreciated.  This is not to say that those on campus are ungrateful, because that is far from true, but instead to show that there are those who need our gratitude.

As a teacher, we will spend time working individually with each student regarding one problem or another. As the student struggles, it may be easy to get frustrated. But I believe that the antidote to this frustration is gratitude. Be thankful that the student is willing to learn and try, and be grateful for the small steps toward mastery. Students will not become scholars in a day, but as we open our hearts and show gratitude for the small steps, they will follow suit and grow.

This past week I have been blessed to watch my older sister, a model parent, struggle to teach her son about gratitude. Upon receiving a snack or other object, she prompts him to say thank you. I have watched as his willingness to be grateful grow and his joy in doing so has increased. Gratitude creates joy. I ask you to be grateful for the temperature in each classroom you enter, or to notice that someone swept the floor while you were gone for the night, and to see that your students are making those small steps that will make them competent learners. These things happen every day, and as we notice and observe the small and simple acts of those around us, our lives will be changed for good and we will be fulfilled.