Author: remery

Blog 6- Suicide on Campus

from  nytimes_Suicide on Campus2015-1.pdf

“Citing a “perception that one has to be perfect in every academic, co-curricular and social endeavor,’ the task force report described how students feel enormous pressure that “can manifest as demoralization, alienation or conditions like anxiety or depression.’

Gregory T. Eells, director of counseling and psychological services at Cornell University, believes social media is a huge contributor to the misperception among students that peers aren’t also struggling. When students remark during a counseling session that everyone else on campus looks happy, he tells them: “I walk around and think, ‘That one’s gone to the hospital. That person has an eating disorder. That student just went on antidepressants.’ As a therapist, I know that nobody is as happy or as grown-up as they seem on the outside.’

Instead of thinking “I failed at something, these students think, ‘I am a failure.’’

These cultural dynamics of perfectionism and overindulgence have now combined to create adolescents who are ultra-focused on success but don’t know how to fail.

Eventually she came to view her students’ lack of self-awareness, inability to make choices and difficulty coping with setbacks as a form of “existential impotence,’ a direct result of a well-meaning but misguided approach to parenting that focuses too heavily on external measures of character.


As a mom, I see how the internet has affected my oldest daughter’s perception of herself.  My husband and I made the choice to take away her cellphone because of the time she was spending on instagram comparing her life to the lives of kids that she knew.  Explaining to her that they are editing their life to make it look beautiful wasn’t enough…  She had to actually see the difference between reality and edited beauty for herself, and she still struggles with this.  I HATE how easy it is to make your life look perfect on line..  Perfect food, perfect attitude, perfect beauty, perfect makeup….  I understand deeply how this obsession with perfection is damaging to my daughter.  I struggled with depression in high school, and I only had what I saw in classes and after school activities to compare my life to…  I didn’t have images from the internet in addition to what I saw in class and after school.  I am thankful I didn’t have to deal with the internet during high school.  I wish my daughter didn’t.  As much good as the internet does, it also has made kids today incredibly anxious and perfection-driven.

I get the hovering of parents.  I hold the fear of high school and mall shooting in my heart. I try not to let it change the way I interact with my kids.  I want them to succeed on their own, without my interference or ‘hovering’.  I want them to be able to fail without fear, and succeed without pressure.  SO HARD as a parent to juggle those two desires.


Blog 4- creating a safe and engaging learning environment t

from https://what I wish my professors had told me_EL201605.pdf

Be empathetic and take care of the needs of your students. That is the unwritten (and most important) role of the teacher.

“The kids will learn in spite of all the mistakes you make.’

When students know you care, they will work hard for you and will be more willing to accept your redirection when needed.

from  Let’s care shine through_edleadership201609.pdf

Care is in the eyes of the receiver. Care doesn’t exist unless those being cared for truly experience it.

In Pedagogy of Hope, Paulo Freire (2002) explained, “I do not understand human existence, and the struggle needed to improve it, apart from hope and dream. . . . I am hopeful, not out of mere stubbornness, but out of an existential, concrete imperative’ to transform the world.

Research has demonstrated that when educators focus on assets, rather than deficits, student success increases (Rios-Aguilar, 2010).

However, they recognized that focusing on academics alone wouldn’t be sufficient to prepare their students for flourishing lives; learning to respect another’s perspective, communicate in different social settings, and persevere in the face of challenges were just as significant as academic performance.

These culturally responsive 5th grade teachers held high expectations and assisted students in reaching them. While refusing to accept anything less than students’ best efforts, they provided supports.

The teachers in our study insistently communicated–through their attitude, tone, and demeanor–that what we’re learning is important.  There’s not a second to waste. This sense of urgency didn’t stem from  a desire to control or dominate students.

As these teachers’ practices show, culturally relevant critical teacher care is more a verb than a noun. It’s tied to concrete action–not simply feelings or words.


When I read these articles, they get me excited to teach well, and with my whole heart.  I am reminded of what my acting teachers would talk about- “Commitment is the key”.  The best actors commit 100%, they throw their whole mind and body into the role they are acting.  They do not consider the audience an evil critic, but a partner in the game of imagination.  When an actor attempts to watch themselves, they are thrown out of the world they are creating, and it becomes fake…  The audience may not realize what is going on, but they are aware that something isn’t quite right- that the actor hasn’t given their all.

I think there’s a truth that is carried over to the realm of education- your audience is the class, and if students sense you holding back, critiquing yourself or them, they are unwilling to give their all as well,  To a small degree, a classroom is a world that the teacher and students create together.  Some students hold back because of fear, some hold back because they don’t understand the world being imagined together. Some hold back because their body or mind is so tired they just can’t participate in holding that world together…

I particularly appreciated Jennifer Collins’ reminder that there are no perfect lessons.  I know this is true from my own experience- sometimes the lesson I planned for a day doesn’t work because the students had an earthquake over the weekend, or an emotional earthquake, or they just didn’t sleep right last night.  Sometimes the lesson doesn’t work because I had an idea that I can’t adequately develop yet that needs more work.  Sometimes the moon is full, and monsters are on the prowl…

Here is a website with some excellent management tips:

Blog 3 Personalized Learning

Of course, there are benefits to personalized learning, but definitely consequences.  The benefits I see are the ability to allow students to progress at their own pace, meeting them right where they are whether that is ahead of other students or behind them.  I love the idea of tailoring education to fit each specific student so that it is not a “one size fits all” approach.  Most of the US education system is built around the middle road and getting everyone to walk along that road together. The consequences are that it is SO MUCH work for the teacher…  Meeting every single student and finding the right road for them?  I can’t even begin to imagine trying to do that for every student in a 30 person class, much less a 300 student school!
I can give one example of a successful program for a specific student- Tanana Middle school is trying a program called Synergy.  For two days a week and about 3 hours each day their students work on a project they have dreamed up on their own.  While some students had no idea what they wanted to do, my daughter knew exactly her interests and goal.  She is working on learning how to use a computer animation program coupled with a WACOMM tablet.  The tablet allows her to directly draw into the computer program so she is moving her own characters and creating short animation videos.  They are amazing- first steps in what I expect to be a long process for her.  She has struggled with making them do exactly what she wants, and she loves the struggle.  Last year she hated school and fought us every morning.  Now she goes even if she feels bad.

So, I can’t say that recreating every aspect of school to create an entire personalized learning education for every student would be the right choice.  However, I can say that adding elements can harness the creativity and energy and interests of my student.  I like that it has been introduced slowly, and not taken over the entire curriculum.

I thought this article had some good ideas:

Blog 2 DACA

I’ve had a hard time processing this material because it makes me so upset.  As someone who worked in Fort Worth Texas with English Language Learners, I worked with students who I’m sure had family members who were not in the US legally.  I didn’t hear many stories from my students about where they were from, or where their family was from…  I had one 16 year old pregnant student who was staying with an aunt so that her baby would have US Citizenship… She was smart, hopeful, and had made some bad choices.  She wanted to stay away from the dangerous elements from back home in Mexico, get her high school degree, and be a good mom.  She believed that her future had to be away from her home town.

I don’t have a good solution for this problem.  I wish I did!  I wish I could wave a magic wand and just fix this for all the kids and their families…  Some of them should stay here, and some of them should go to their parents’ home country…  I don’t think it is fair for children who grew up with the US as their home to be permanently punished for their parents’ choices, even if they were illegal choices.  I think this is a way more complicated problem than a lot of people with simple straightforward answers believe it is.  Most of the dreamers are so afraid of getting caught and being deported that they rarely broke the law, or got noticed at school.  Their goal was to hunker down and just pass through the system without any ripples.  However, there are always students who mess up and make bad choices…

I read an article about a woman who is teaching in Houston- she has a secondary education degree from a university down there and has been teaching for a few years, maybe 3, and she is one of the dreamers.  She is afraid to tell her students that she might be forced to leave.  One of her co-workers who is also a dreamer already left because he didn’t want to be forced to leave.

Personalized Learning

I love the idea of Personalized Learning, but I admit I see potential problems. The idea that we can just scrap everything we’ve done in the past and switch over to something untried, untested and brand new is not really wise, practical, or frankly possible.
Most of our infrastructure is built around the idea of large group education. I can’t see us switching over whole-scale any time soon. However, the benefits to using personalized learning are immense- more engagement for students, more explorations and enquiries, more curiosity fulfilled, more students met at the point of their need. Combining the old with the new seems like the best way to access the potential of personalized learning while valuing the benefits of our present learning system.
Tanana Middle School is using personalized learning in a really interesting way. They have a time frame three days a week where students were allowed to come up with an idea they were interested in exploring. To explore their interest they had to find a teacher sponsor who could direct and guide their exploration. I know one student is building a 3D Printer, another is working on digital animation. Students are engaged in active learning and seeking information about subjects that really interest them.

An interesting article I found had many examples of personalized learning that works:

Rebecca’s Introduction

Hello! My name is Rebecca Sirevaag and I am looking forward to this class. I have lived a lot of different places, but consider Fairbanks my home. My family has been here since the early 80’s and I attended Lathrop High School and then UAF.

I have a BA in Theatre, with an emphasis on Acting and Directing, and I have a very strong Music Minor. After graduating from UAF, I moved to Fort Worth Texas where I worked in a small traveling Repertory Theatre group called The Company. We performed in schools, camps and a variety of venues.   I was based in Fort Worth for five years and I LOVED it. While there I also tutored English for the Fort Worth ISD in grades 6-12.

Then I moved to Seattle WA, where I taught Drama for two years in a private school called Chrysalis Individualized School, which focuses primarily on kids who struggle with the regular school setting.   Many of my students had learning challenges such as ADHD or dyslexia. I had the opportunity to teach k-12 drama there and I wish I could go back to that school.   I learned so much from my students!

While in Seattle I met my soon to be husband, Jake Sirevaag.   My first pregnancy was life altering- I almost died, my daughter almost died, and I wanted to be closer to my family (who were all still in Fairbanks).   So we moved up here.   I worked as an ERRI tutor at Woodriver Elementary and realized all my jobs kept leading me to schools.

I have been taking the required classes I need to teach English and Art for the last few years, and have finally entered the last few steps of this process.   I hope to be an English and Art teacher here in Fairbanks, using my Theatre background and non-conventional interests to rope in my students.

I love to read!   I am mostly drawn to fiction- Fantasy and Science fiction are my jam, but I read mysteries, YA fiction, Graphic literature, Shakespeare, and most anything that catches my eye. I am currently reading a non-fiction exploration of our modern fascination with zombies titled “Living with the Living Dead”.

My sister and I have sold our art jewelry at the Tanana Valley Farmer’s Market for the last 10 years as Two Sisters.   We make unique one-of-a-kind pieces using an eclectic assortment of materials, including metal-smithing, beading, and wirework.


My husband and I have two amazing and challenging teenage girls, who amaze, delight and confound me on a daily basis.   Abigail is an eighth grader at Tanana, and Deborah is a 10th grader at Lathrop.   Together we enjoy camping and exploring Alaska.

My Education Program for becoming a teacher…   I want to become more comfortable with larger groups of students.   I want to work with an excellent and creative English teacher who uses multiple methods for engaging her students.   I want to engage students who haven’t previously enjoyed reading, and show them how exciting it can be to enter a book and step into a new world, whether it’s non-fiction or fiction.