Relationship, Relationship

Generating, as my high school cooperating teacher called it, “a kid friendly vibe” was my major concern going into student teaching. Having worked with emotionally disturbed students, deaf students, and other special needs groups – often small groups – I worried I might not have the skills to connect with a normal kid. Turns out I was wrong.

Whether I was wrong about my ability to connect or that there might exist a normal kid I am still not sure. Every student I come into contact with has such a rich palate of interests and motivations that I am considering, not for the first time, removing normal from my vocabulary. Not only am I reconsidering normalcy as a non-starter for student evaluation, I am realizing my quirky humor and interest in their lives resonates with the kids.

Relationship, relationship, relationship.

This mantra has been repeated to me over and over. I am not sure what the big deal is? It seems so easy to develop a positive relationship with students. Now there are the few students who I have yet to reach in my current placement. Using the pictorial attendance sheet I marked kids I knew something non-academic about with different colors of pen. The pictures without marker are fairly few but I now know who to talk to over the next week, or run into during track practice, or catch at the library.

Meeting the kids in their comfort zone, their place, makes a difference. This is one of the reasons I use social networks. With my classroom blog, youtube channel, facebook page (not profile), and other social media outlets I think I can show the kids I can live where

they live. Just like connecting with a student over a game of basketball or comparing books read, this is one more way I can build – err – relationship.

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Writing for School vs Work

We write in a variety of ways. I write more casually here on this blog than for a school paper. While working in New York I wrote very concise memos – sometimes without punctuation at all. Sports writers follow a distinct style as well. In fact almost all situations call for us to write to different styles and situations yet in school were are teaching students essay writing and poetry. Even though I know I fill out forms more often than I write prose I choose to teach students the essay over something a bit more prosaic but useful. When I graduated college I had to learn how to write for work. They did not want my flowery, long-winded, and non-communicative five-paragraph essay that I spent much of middle and high school mastering. Employers wanted direct, point by point, specific synopses and catchy public phrases. Given that state tests pull closer to the essay where and how am I going to fit in a “Real Life” writing project?

This is just something I am thinking about. Perhaps the students can do a project, exploring real world writing…then write a five-paragraph essay on it – of course.

PLN Article

Last fall I wrote an opinion piece where I played devils advocate in ISTE’s “Point/Counterpoint” article for Leading and Learning. You can check out the article here.

Ever since writing that article I have laughed at myself. Here I am, someone who loves collaborative, ad hoc professional learning networks, and I write a piece that someone will eventually use as a reference to refute my claims that networking in educational chats on twitter or other social networking tools, should count as professional development. If we reap what we sow I am hoping for a hard freeze. Given that many of the presentations I attended during the ASCD conference referenced the high degree of value derived from these networks I think that freeze may already have occurred. If so I wipe my brow and plan to forge ahead with encouraging these networks of advanced collegiality.

Resumes and References

This next week I head out to the Portland Professional Educator’s Job Fair. Every year this event draws districts and educational entities from Oregon and the surrounding states. With the state of educational funding this year I am approaching the fair as an adventure. No doubt there will be a few positions open at schools this year due to retirement and other teacher-attrition factors. Still, when hearing of districts claiming wholesale freezes on hiring, one begins to have doubts and worries regarding their chances in a stiff job market.

Despite these worries I look forward to the chance to meet administrators and human resource managers from districts all over the state. Thinking about the diversity of schools and people I saw at the ASCD conference I am even more excited to meet the wonderful people who, thinking as I do, work to educate children. Some of the districts I hope to meet with include; Portland Public Schools (Sunnyside Environmental looks interesting as do the middle schools), Seaside School District, Gresham-Barlow School District, Beaverton School District (Though I do not know if they are hiring), Clackamas County School Districts (Especially North Clackamas and Oregon City), Forest Grove School District, Reynolds School District, Tigard-Tualatin School District, and Woodburn School District. There are also a few smaller districts that I hope to talk with if they are sending a representative through their education service district. One attending agency/district caught my eye particularly.

The Oregon Virtual Academy would fit my goals if they are looking for full time positions. If not I would still like to keep up the online instruction and continue practicing engaged online learning as part of my career. Doing this at the community college level offers certain advantages and I am curious about the challenges of teaching online in the K-12 environment.

I do not mention any charter schools here. This may seem like an oversight but it is not. Each charter school in Oregon must align itself with a public school district and so while I may not mention them here, I am thinking about the opportunities they provide.

I hope my next blog post continues to be positive and I have my fingers crossed for an interview or two while I am up there!