Author: aklarson3

Suicide Awareness (Blog 6)

This article really hits home for me.

One of the biggest misconceptions people have about depression, anxiety, and suicide is that they think they can tell or “just know” when someone is experiencing it or contemplating suicide.   There is a stereotype about what people with depression or anxiety look like, and how they act.   However, I can tell you, one of my defense mechanisms is to show everyone good things, and keep the negative feelings and thoughts to myself.   For a long time, that is what I did.   However, part of my treatment is opening up to others.   When I open up to others, it helps me heal, and it helps others to know they are not alone.

I have struggled with anxiety and depression for almost my whole life.   The pressure to be perfect and do everything right is overwhelming.   Just in the past month, I have struggled every day to continue to do what I need to do…I have had good days and REALLY REALLY bad days.   On the good days (like today), I can get my homework done, I can take a shower, I can do laundry.   On the bad days, I can barely leave my bed, let alone be functional in the world.   This leads to getting behind on homework, house work, and real work, leading to even more anxiety.   It has a compounding affect.

I already knew, before reading this article, how prevalent depression and suicidal ideation were in academia.   I have met students in my time at Tanana Middle School who have anxiety, depression, and who cut themselves.   My own experiences with mental illness have helped me to connect with students who need someone who understands.   I have also learned compassion, patience, and understanding, which I hope will allow me to better serve my students.   I have learned to see the signs of mental illness in my students, even when they are trying to hide them, because I have such a deep experience with it myself.   I know this does not mean that I will be able to help every child, but I believe that I will be able to help some to find the resources they need.

Classroom observation reflection (Blog 5)

My current mentor teacher begins lessons by getting her students’ attention and then waiting until they have all quieted down before speaking.   This teaches them that she will not try to talk over them, so they need to be quiet.   During the lesson, she takes short breaks in instruction to have the students discuss what they are learning with each other, then she brings them together and asks a student or two to explain what they discussed.   This allows the students time to absorb information, as well as a short period to socialize (they definitely do), so they are less likely to chat during lesson time.   Finally, when closing out a lesson, she reiterates what she has just taught and gives the students clear guidance on how they should be spending the remaining class time.   By clearly stating her goals for the students, they know exactly what they should be doing, and the transition to work time is seamless.

During the class period there are several opportunities for transitions.   At the beginning of class, my mentor teacher has a warm up activity that the students work on for the first 10 minutes.   This gives the students time to mentally transition from the class they just left and into the math class.   It also allows a couple of minutes for students to get some of their initial socializing out of their system, so they are less likely to disengage and socialize during the class period.   Second, she transitions the students into their work time by being clear about her expectations for their use of time, while handing out the assignment.   She does not hand out the assignment before it is work time, because she does not want the students to try and work on it while she is giving her lesson.   Finally, she gives the students a five minute warning that class is almost over, and suggests that they finish up their current problem and ask her any questions they might have before they take their assignment home to finish.   This allows one more opportunity to ask questions and wraps up the class in a smooth manner, rather than having students rushing to pack their stuff and get out the door right as the bell rings.

When students stay on task and complete their work quickly, my mentor teacher gives them a small “treat” to encourage the good behavior.   I think this is a strategy I might use.   Positive reinforcement of the preferred behavior works well to promote good student behavior.

Things I’m glad I know now…

There was some really great information in these articles.   I especially liked the article “What I Wish My Professors Had Told Me.”   This article has a number of things which can serve as good reminders on bad days, such as “Loving Kids Is Not Enough” and “Dismiss the Notion of Perfect Lessons.”   They are good reminders that we are here to teach kids, and it may not always be perfect, but as long as we persevere and give the students what they need, then we are succeeding.   When I have a bad day, or lose sight of what I’m doing, I can pull these articles out and read them again to remind myself that what I’m doing matters and that I CAN do it!

This article has some “hard earned” classroom management strategies:

Personalized learning…good or bad?

While I think there are many benefits to the idea of personalized learning, there are some very serious drawbacks.   My school is trying to seriously implement personalized learning this year in multiple ways, and not all of them are successful.    In the classroom, personalized learning at my school takes a myriad of forms.   In some classrooms it simply means that students have alternative seating available and flexibility with their assignments.   In other classes, the assignments themselves are adapted to student need based on standardized test scores.   Students have a wide variety of options in most classes.   However, in classes that are a little less varied, such as math, the students are expecting to be given more choices now.   This leads to less engagement in the material, and a little more defiance and disruptive behavior.   Additionally, in classes where students have alternative seating options, they frequently hide themselves away in a corner and play games on their Chromebooks rather than work on their assignments.   The success of personalized learning in the classroom, as I have observed, depends quite heavily on the “withitness” of the teacher in that classroom.

Beyond the regular classroom time, they have created a new advisory class called “Synergy” where the students, in theory, come up with some long-term project they are really interested in pursuing.   The idea of Synergy is a really awesome one, however in practice it isn’t so great.   The students don’t really have a clear idea of what they are expected to be doing.   Instead of thinking of projects which will stretch their minds and creativity, most of them went for the “low hanging fruit” with no clear plan of how they wanted to proceed.   It’s like an overdone middle school science fair where none of the kids have any idea what to do, and they all think they can finish it “the night before.”

DACA should stay…at least until congress can pass legislation to replace it.

DACA is a valuable program that seeks to protect children of undocumented immigrants.   In 2012, then-President Obama signed an executive order establishing DACA after several failed attempts at legislation.   His goal was to protect children of undocumented immigrants who had been brought into the country very young.   These young people had no choice to come here, and he felt it was unfair for them to be at risk of deportation.   I agree with President Obama.   Children should not be punished for the choices that their parents make.

President Trump declared that he is ending DACA.   I think this is a terrible mistake.   I can understand the need to create a permanent solution to the problem, rather than the band-aid that DACA was.   However, we should not end DACA without a permanent legislative solution in place.   Why do we need to rush to end a program that protects productive members of our society?   They have been here all along, and they pay taxes without the benefit of social service programs or student aid.   There is no true downside to their continued residence in our country.