Author: envansiegman

Suicide- The Pressure of Perfection

This article put a lot into perspective for me. Academics can be extremely stressful for students, especially those that do not have a supportive background or those where learning does not come easily for them.   In the case of Kathryn, who was the primary focus of the article, she excelled at academics.   She received all A’s in high-school, got into her dream college, and had huge plans for the future. However, upon her arrival into college, she became bogged down by self doubt. Almost every part of the article circled back to the doubts she had with herself, the doubts that she perceived that her parents had about her, the doubts in her sexuality etc etc. Schools can be a place with so much pressure.   Although school is designed to help students and open a plethora of doors for students, the reality is that Education can be a place of stress, doubt, and fear for a lot of students.

Kathryn dealt with doubting herself.   She feared that she would not be good enough to complete her degree, she feared that her parents would be disappointed in her, she struggled with her sexuality, she strurggled with what her peers thought about her.   And these emotions were coming from someone who had had a ton of opportunities, and was smart and well off.   Even when students seem to be okay, or seem to have a ‘perfect’ life, that is not always the case.

As the article put it, a lot of students have ‘Penn Face’, or the state of acting happy and self assured even when sad or stressed.   This was the case with the popular students who committed suicide at Penn State, App State etc.

Every student is going through their own set of problems, difficulties, and life situations.   This knowledge can help to inform my practice.   It is important to understand that every student in the classroom comes from different backgrounds and has their own unique set of insecurities and self doubts.   When these doubts are combined with education, it can leave a lot of students feeling dumb, inadequate, or behind.   For a lot of students, school does not come naturally for them, they may not have any family guidance or support, they make work a full time job and have no time for homework etc.   When students are not supported, or when teachers fail to be understanding or build relationships with them, the classroom can be nothing but a place of disappointment and depression.   It is so crucial to observe students, understand their situations, and help them through problems. You never know what may be going on within the classroom.

Personalized Learning

During this school year, I have heard a lot about personalized learning.   Although I see a large amount of benefits, I also see some major faults in the concept of personalizing education for every student. The entire concept of personalized learning is one that sounds appealing and useful within our educational system. In fact, this idea of catering education to fit the needs of every specific student is a concept that is not new.   Allowing students to have a hand in their own education, their own learning styles, their own pace and needs etc. is fantastic.   But as I’ve heard more and more about personalized learning, the concept has begun to seem a little….too fantastic. One of the main benefits of personalized learning is the fact that students would have the ability to chose the assignment or lesson that they want to focus on.   This allows students to feel in charge of their own education, and focus on the material that interests them.   Working at their own pace encourages students to accomplish things at their own personal capacity, and move forward without feeling held back by strict lesson plans, or students that are slower than them.   This personalization of learning is ideal.

However, this is the exact problem that I have with personalized learning.   I feel as though the concept of personalizing learning is a little bit too idealistic. Although some students would thrive in a less structured environment, would be able to fly through assignments, and would ultimately receive more success….by the same token, some students would lack motivation, fall behind, and would miss out on the support from their peers,

I appreciated that the article touched on this topic for a moment. “Might students with challenges like language acquisition, low proficiency in reading, emotional insecurity, a lack of background experiences, or even a weak attention span have trouble finding success with this learning structure?”

I feel as though personalized learning contradicts a lot of what we have learned about education for years.   We have always been taught that inclusion is key! We need to find way to include every student. We need to structure the educational system in a way that brings even the lower achieving students up to the top, instead of creating classes that segregate students and give higher achieving students more opportunities.   We need to mix groups of low achieving students with high achieving students so that all students can have a fair chance and an even playing field.

But now, the idea of personalized learning feels like the high achieving students would be able to quickly move ahead, and leave low achieving students in the dust.   If students with more educational difficulties saw their peers several units ahead of them, wouldn’t this only work to discourage them and make them feel inadequate and dumb in comparison?

Within my own classroom, students are given several assignment to work on at once.   During work time, students are able to choose which assignment they would like to focus on at that particular moment   This is a good example of personalizing learning while still keeping every student on the same level.   I think that some implementations of personalized learning are very helpful, whereas the concept as a whole has some serious flaws.   it will be interesting to see how the idea develops and strengthens.


I found this article very interesting.   What is the future for students with learning disabilities? Or Lower Achieving Students?:

Class Room Management Observations

Managing a classroom can be tough.   Students get off task easily, become distracted by the smallest things, and can entirely miss directions due to their preoccupation with their peers and cell phones. In order to manage the chaos, teachers must come up with a game plan and develop unwavering rules.

One of the key lesson openers that my mentor teacher utilizes is a hook prompt to begin the class.   On the first day of the school year my mentor teacher projected a writing prompt up on the board as students entered the classroom.   The projection had instructions on the board, a time limit of 10 minutes, as well as an easy to understand prompt that required students to write about a personal experience. As students entered, my mentor teacher stood at the front of the classroom quietly. Instead of giving verbal instructions, he allowed students to sit down, become aware of their instructions, and hopefully begin following the directions on their own.   Some students began writing, others continued talking with their peers and wasting time.   After several minutes of realizing they hadn’t been given instructions, and the teacher was quietly standing at the front of the room, the distracted students began to feel uncomfortable with the situation and they too got to work.   After about 4 minutes, everyone in the room quieted down and began writing. When the room was finally quiet my mentor teacher began to speak. He said “Great. Instead of following instructions, a lot of you wasted 4 minutes of class time.   For every wasted minute, I’ll take away one additional minute. You wasted 4, so I’ll take away an additional 4.   You are now down to 2 minutes to draft a response to the prompt.” With that, some students whined that it was unfair, but most began to quickly write.  The next day, the exact same procedure took place. During the first week of class, every day there was slightly less time wasted.   By the second week, students would enter the classroom, sit down quietly, and begin drafting responses to the prompt on the board. this is a strategy that I would love to implement in my own classroom.

This lesson opener works to communicate rules, consequences to actions, and the importance of utilizing class time to get to work and not goof off. At the beginning of the year the prompts were personal prompts, but as the year has progressed,the prompts have been directly connected to the literature we have read.

It is important that the lesson opener works to engage students, while also setting the tone for how the classroom is going to be run, and what students think they can get away with. This is also an example of one of the transitions that is utilized within the classroom.   As student transition into the classroom, they know what is expected of them right off the bat.

The closing of the class period, which is considered a transition from work time to the end of the period when students are packing up, is also a time that needs to be structured.   My mentor teacher makes it very clear that students should not begin packing up their belongings until he has explicitly said to do so. When students begin to transition out of the classroom, they already have completely lost focus, and their brains have wandered on to the next class or their next task.   My mentor teacher always rounds out the instruction, reminds students of the upcoming due dates and expectations, and then gives students the last minute of class to begin packing up.   By forcing students to wait to pack up, it communicates that class time is still class time until the minute that it is finished.   When students aren’t busy packing up, they are far more likely to pay attention to the directions and due date reminders, instead of packing up to leave.   It is important for lesson closures and transitions to minimize distractions.

One of the main management strategies that my mentor teacher utilizes is movement throughout the room. Instead of standing in one location for the whole period, he wanders around the classroom, has conversations with individual students, and creates close proximity with the students that are acting out. Movement throughout the classroom helps students to remain engaged, but also keeps students from becoming as easily distracted. When students know that the teacher will be coming around the check for progress, they are far more likely to stay on task.

When the class transitions to the computer lab, my mentor teacher goes over hallway expectations prior to leaving the room.   Although this may seem childish, it is still important, even for high schoolers.   Students need to know that rules during class time extend even outside the main room.   By going over rules before leaving the room, students know what is expected of them.

Building Relationships: “Kids Before Content”

Within the article “What I Wish My Professor Had Told Me,” the author, Jennifer Collins, discussed her real-world view of teaching, and what she wished she had been taught before going in to the teaching career.   As a veteran teacher, Collins was able to provide feedback directly from her years of teaching and connect detailed examples of classroom struggles, most of which I have seen within the classroom that I am working. It was extremely helpful to see the perspective of a long-term teacher, and to hear the advice she had for pre-service teachers like myself.   Within her article she touched on a point that I found extremely interesting.. She wrote that “loving kids is not enough.”   This point intrigued me, because more than any advice I’ve heard, I have been told that a love for kids is the most important quality for a teacher to posses. However, Collins went on to explain that although love for students is critical, it is not overwhelmingly helpful unless you can pair that love with a deep understanding of the content, a good grasp of your role within student lives, and a knowledge and ability of how to connect with students, even outside the classroom. Collins explained that good teachers need to be able to see the larger picture. Teachers cannot simply ‘love’ the students, teach the content, and leave each day.   Teaching is about understanding student needs, educating them beyond what they will need for the course, giving them advice when they need it, preparing them for the real world- socially, mentally, academically etc. This part of teaching can be difficult.   Some teachers, although they love their students, are simply unattached and unwilling to go the extra mile for their students.   Teaching requires time, patience, and an ability/desire to build a relationship with the students.   And yes, it also requires love. Collins did an excellent job of showing the reality of teaching.   I am so used to seeing the same canned answer over and over again, “to be a good teacher, you just have to really really love kids!”   Collins spelled out the difficulty, the setbacks, and the reality of what teaching truly is.

Collins went on to discuss that there is no such thing as a perfect lesson plan, no matter how much time you spend trying to make sure things go off without a hitch.   The reality of teaching is that students will throw curve balls, ask questions, come to class unprepared, and will ultimately throw away the potential of making it through your lesson plan.   However, adaptability is critical, and being able to listen to the needs of students is essential.   Collins discussed that good teachers need to “put kids before content” sometimes.   Sometimes, instead of following a precise lesson plan, teachers must adapt to the student needs, and allow for some rabbit trails or good discussion.   The relationships that have been built will also inform your ability to decide which students need what instruction, and which students seem to be struggling in certain areas.   If teachers don’t know their students, it is much harder to effectively teach them.

The concept of building relationships with students was further discussed within“Let Care Shine Through’ by Bondy and Hambacher.   The authors discussed that, more than anything, building strong relationships with students can make or break you role as a teacher. Teachers have to unique opportunity of being actively involved in student lives each day.   Building relationships with students can communicate that you care about them, even when it seems to them that they are alone/not smart enough/ have no future etc. Bondy and Hambacher touched on this subject by explaining that a critical part of teaching is practicing empathy for students. Teachers must have the ability to sympathize with students no matter what they are going through.   Teachers need to be understanding of what students are going through, and work with them on a personal level when needed.   When students see their teacher as someone they can go to, and who understands them, it strengthens the bond between students and teachers, and makes for a far more effective learning community. These relationships also make students far less likely to act out or misbehave because it fosters a community of mutual-respect.

These tips have informed my practice in so many ways.   I want more than anything to be a teacher that has the ability to form and build relationships with students.   Creating a functional relationship can help me to break through to them both personally and academically.. I hope that I am able to be a strong figure in the lives of my students, and that I am able to educate them to the very best of my ability.   This article paired nicely with the reading, and outlined some strategies for building relationships, and how it influences classroom management.

DACA: Thoughts

DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) is a program that offers protection and relief to young undocumented immigrants from the threat of deportation.  The purpose of the program is to protect the rights of vulnerable youth who came to the United States when they were children as illegal immigrants. The program supports the children by protecting them from deportation, but also by providing them with temporary work permits to work in the US, temporary social security numbers, the ability to study in the country, and relief from living in the country in fear. Nearly 800,000 young, undocumented immigrants have reaped the benefits of DACA, and have been granted the opportunity to stay in the country with their families while also being given the privilege to earn their keep.

In light of the policies passed by the new Trump Administration, these nearly 800,000 young immigrants now face the threat of deportation, being forcibly removed from their families, and having to leave the country that they have always known and the opportunities that the United Stated provides. I believe that this is wrong. Trump has been very vocal about his disdain for supporting and harboring illegal immigrants or refugees within the country.  However, his main argument has to do directly with his claim that he wants to keep the country safe, and aid in the economical crisis.  In this particular case, these young immigrants pose zero threat to the country, have lived here their entire lives, and have the desire to get jobs that pay back in to the American economy.  To further this, DACA has strict requirements for eligibility.  Applicants have to have lived in the country since before their 16th birthdays, and must have lived in the country consecutively for at least 10 years. Applicants must have or receive education in the form of a high school diploma or GED, and must have clean background checks.  For these reasons, their deportation makes even less sense. These young immigrants are not criminals, national security threats, or uneducated people hoping to receive personal gain from the hard work of American citizens. These immigrants are educated, safe, and have proved to be a constant and hardworking support for the country. It is not right that these young people should run the risk of being deported despite the fact that they want to work, study, and provide for the United States of America.