Tag Archives: Learning

Falling Down: a #LessonLearned by Katie Sluiter

Today I have Katie Sluiter at my place, you guys! You have no idea how long I’ve been following, KT! I’ve been reading Sluiter Nation like… forever. And as soon as I learned what Twitter was I found Katie at @ksluiter. I fell in love with Katie because she was a teacher. And then I learned she struggled with postpartum depression, which I am pretty sure I had after Tech was born. I just didn’t ever get a formal diagnosis. Way back at the end of last year, Katie asked me to write something for her — which was super exciting, especially because Katie is a Big Blogger. (Even if she denies it.) Oh, if you prefer, you can follow her on Facebook.

Click on the teacher lady’s butt to read posts by other people who have written in this series.

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Falling Down
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As a little kid, my dad was the one who taught me how to do a lot of things: ride my bike, change a car tire, fish.

Katie learned a lot from falling down.

He also taught me to ice skate.

I remember being out on our frozen pond, bundled up in my winter coat and snow pants with my scarf covering my entire mouth so that when I talked…or breathed…it became moist and warm.

My dad had helped me lace up my mom’s old skates, took my mittened hand, and pulled me out to the open ice.

I don’t remember much of the logistics of the lesson, but I do remember falling down.

A lot.

Finally I got frustrated and whined that I was no good at skating and I didn’t want to do it anymore.

My dad pulled me up and said, “But every time you fall, you are learning. Just think of how much more you know now than you did when we started.”

I gave him the hairy eyeball, assuming he meant I knew a lot more now because I had fallen so many zillions of times.

“No, really,” he continued. “Every time you fall, you learn what not to do next time. Or at least you should.”

This lesson comes back to me every single time I “fall” in life.

But not until I pout a lot and whine about how I want to quit.

I have tripped, stumbled, and flat-out fallen as a mom. Especially when I was a new, first-time mom.

But it’s something I can’t quit. I can’t just say, “Man, I suck at this. I am done.”

Don’t think I didn’t try.

My older son, Eddie, was a difficult baby.

Ok, actually, “difficult” is putting it mildly.

He was a colicky, digestive mess.

This is Eddie being a colicky mess.

It was totally him. Not his fault, but it was him.

But I didn’t know that. Not at the time.

At the time, it was me. I was stumbling…not able to soothe him, not able to provide him with food that wouldn’t upset his tummy, not able to know what his cries meant.

I was sliding all over that iced pond not knowing what to do to keep myself off my ass and skating straight.

Every time he cried, I wanted to figure out what was wrong and fix it.

I didn’t know that sometimes? Babies just cry.

So I fell down over and over.

And I beat myself up for it. Which really, was another mistake. Another stumble.

This became a pattern with my son.

He is now almost three, and I have fallen down millions of times in my education on becoming a mother.

He has not always been the most patient teacher, but he is very forgiving.

Sometimes, my mistakes…my stumbles…are hard enough that we both fall. We both sit and cry and tend to our bruised bottoms.

But we are learning.

We are making it through.

I had no idea how awesome of a teacher he was until my second son was born in March.

Suddenly all those things that caused me to trip and fall–the crying, the spit up, the time management, the anxiety and depression–they were easier. In fact, some of them were non-existent. I skated right through them.

In fact, I am still up on my skates.

Oh, I have tripped here and there, but I have pretty much mastered the basics.

Now I am able to move on to learning fancier moves: taking both kids to Target, bringing them both to birthday parties, showering daily.

Two kids? I think I can.

(What? That was difficult the first time around!)

I still fall down from time to time.

But that’s okay.

I’m in this for the long haul.

I’m a life-long learner.

What are you still figuring out? What are some of the best lessons you have learned as a parent that you wish you had known earlier?

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Tweet this Twit @rasjacobson & @ksluiter

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Ode to Werner Barth: Guest Post by Larry Hehn

Larry Hehn

Larry Hehn is my special guest blogger today. He is the brains behind Christian in the Rough, and I feel honored to be the Jewish girl he lets hang around the joint. As Larry says, “I encourage people to find fun in the middle of dysfunction, action at the end of distraction, and grace at the end of disgrace.” Every time Larry posts something I learn something new. I really wish I knew him in real life. Feel free to Twitter-stalk him at @LarryHehn.

• • •

Ode to Werner Berth

Werner Barth was the best teacher I ever had. A wiry man with a spring in his step, a sparkle in his eye, a gravelly voice and a thick German accent, Barth had a tremendous effect on me. Strangely, it had nothing to do with the topic he was teaching.

Barth taught statics – defined in one dictionary as “The branch of physics that deals with physical systems in equilibrium, in which no bodies are in motion, and all forces are offset or counterbalanced by other forces.”

It was potentially one of the most boring subjects on earth.

But not with Barth as the teacher.

He loved to teach. And he loved his students.

He communicated ideas in ways that were fun and memorable.

One day, to illustrate the difference in direction between a positive bending moment and a negative bending moment, he stood on his chair and swung his hand up to his head. As he scratched his head, he said, “You can do this on the subway. That’s a positive bending moment.”

He then swung his hand down to his rear end. As he scratched, he said, “You can’t do this on the subway. That’s a negative bending moment.”

Twenty-five years later I still remember the difference.

What impressed me most, though, was his reaction when our entire class performed poorly on a test.

At that point he had been teaching for more than 25 years, longer than most of us in the class had been alive. But there was not an ounce of pride in Barth. At our next scheduled lesson, he pulled up a chair in the middle of the classroom, sat down and questioned us for an hour about how he could improve his teaching methods.

Even after years of learning, applying and teaching, he was still a student.

What I learned in that classroom had only a bit to do with statics, and a lot to do with a lifetime of learning, humility and working within your passion.

Sixteen years after leaving the program, I tracked him down and called him out of the blue to thank him. He remembered me. “Ah, Larry . . . skinny guy!” He remembered all of his students by name, and kept in touch with many of them.

He told me about his retirement 14 years earlier, his recent hiking trip, and how he had beaten colon cancer a few years ago. He spoke with a positive attitude and an appreciation for life that surpassed just about anyone I’ve ever known.

When I grow up, I want to be like him.

It has been eight years since that phone call. I’m sorry to say that I have again lost touch with Barth, but I know we’ll meet again. And when we do, I’m sure he’ll have a sparkle in his eye.

Can you recall a memorable lesson? Who was the teacher? What did he/she do?

• • •

If you have writing chops and are interested in submitting a piece for #TWITS: Teachers Who I Think Scored / Teachers Who I Think Sucked, write a specific memory about one teacher you had and explain how that person helped you (or really screwed things up for you), as well as the life lesson you took away from the interaction.

Essays should be around 700-800 words.

Interested but have questions? Email me!

My information is under the Contact Me tab.

NOTE: If you haven’t yet voted in the poll to determine which definition best fits for the word “castanurgle,” click HERE. The polls close on October 20, 2011 at 7 am EST.

Let Them Eat Pi

Saturday, I spent an hour listening to students practice their pieces for an upcoming piano recital. The kids were respectful. They watched and listened to each other; the youngest learned to approach the bench properly and how to bow after completing their pieces.

At the end of the session, the piano teacher said to one of her oldest pupils, “See you Monday.”

He responded, “See you on Pi Day.”

Monkey’s ears perked up. “Oh yeah,” he said with delight. “Monday is Pi Day.”

The two boys started yapping.

Together they tossed out numbers. In perfect unison.

“3.141592653589…”

It was like some weird mathematical duet.

“I memorized the first 13 numbers after the decimal,” my son said.

So that is how I came to learn that today – 3.14 – is Pi Day.

Get it?

Just imagine how amazing this will be in a few years. Like on 3.14.15 at 9:26 am when 8 digits represent in order!

Something tells me a lot of folks will be eating pie in math class on that day.

But let’s celebrate today. The now.

So Happy Pi Day everyone.

That is about as much math as you’ll ever get from this twit. 😉

And now, let us sing!

If My Kid Writes One More Book Report…

 

Sleeping Student

Sleeping Student

Monkey has been writing a helluva a lot of book reports this year.

In an English class, a student can — of course — write a formal essay in response to a piece of literature. And they must know how to do this competently. But let’s face it: Writing five paragraph (or two paragraph or three paragraph) essays after every book, can be a real drag. And there is no reason for this when there are a skillion (yes, a skillion) other ways to evaluate a student’s comprehension that are about 100 times more engaging than any book report.

Students could create a piece of art in any medium that represents a character, situation or theme from the story; they might compose a poem or a monologue which explores a situation or character or which develops a theme from the literature; they could write a script for a scene in the story and perform it before the class, or imagine a scene that could have been in the story/play but wasn’t; they could offer an alternate ending or imagine the characters in the future. A musical student could write a song that explores a situation or a theme from the literature and sing/play it for the class. A dancer might choreograph a piece that represents a situation, character, or theme from the literature. Someone could create a diary for a character, not just chronicling the facts of plot, but the character’s emotions regarding his/her experiences. A budding historian might want to research a historical reference he or she noticed in the literature and was intrigued by. Hell, a student could bake something symbolic which links to the literature. I’ve had students bake highly symbolic (and very delicious) cookies!

With any performance based assessment, there always has to be a written explication that accompanies the more creative project in which the student explains his or her intention and explores how the project helps his or her peers understand something important about the literature. Ideally, the assessment process informs the teacher and the learner about student progress and, simultaneously, contributes to the student’s learning process.

I could go on about some student projects that I have received over the years. One of my favorites involves a student who upon completing Lord of the Flies, made a trip to the local farmer’s market and bought a whole pig’s head and recreated the scene where the terrified boys, beat and unintentionally kill their classmate, Simon, and then put a pig’s head on the stick.

I still have the video (which I’ve had switched over to DVD) and I still watch it. And that kid makes movies now.

I know that No Child Left Behind supports “standards-based education”and is based on the belief that setting high standards and establishing measurable goals can improve individual outcomes in education. The Act requires states to develop assessments in basic skills to be given to all students in certain grades, if those states are to receive federal funding for schools.

So I get it. My school district clearly wants our kids to pass the standardized test.

They want a slice of the pie.

But our kids are dying of boredom.

So please, for this mother.

No. More. Book. Reports.

End of Semester Gratitude

thank you note for every language

Image by woodleywonderworks via Flickr

The Fall-Winter 2010 semester is over for me. My grades have been reported. The contents of my unattractive yet functional wheelie bag have been dumped and placed with the rest of the luggage — in the nether regions of the basement. Today, I am getting my hair highlighted. It’s been fifteen weeks since my last highlight or cut. (The straightening thing doesn’t count.) Don’t even ask about the state of my fingernails at the moment. I have a way of letting certain things go during the semester. But now it is time to catch up.

This morning, I popped onto my faculty email account to make sure everything was in order, and I found two pieces of email waiting for me. The first indicated that my grades may have been inaccurately reported (are you $%#@! kidding me?) so I had to check another link to a list upon which — thankfully — my name did not appear. And then there was a second piece of mail. Here it is:

Dear Mrs. RASJ,

I would just like to say thank you for everything, Mrs. Renee Jacobson. I learned so much in your class and I am so glad I received an A! I know you’re probably going to write back, “You worked hard for that A and you deserve it,” but there is no way in hell I would have done it without you.

You just did so much to help, and you ARE a good teacher. You have amazing patience with students; you’re fair, and you’re always willing to help. You are very thoughtful and you really put your time in to teaching your students, and you do it all without babying us. That’s the way a teacher should be, and it is really hard to come by these days.

Thank you for putting up with my short temper at times, for sitting down with me to talk almost everyday, and for the donuts and wisdom pendant. You are very thoughtful.

It was nice to be educated by you. I wish you the bast (sic) of luck and times.

With love and sincerity.

Your favorite student ever,
Student X 🙂

This student knows me. Because I would absolutely have said that he earned his “A,” that it had little to do with me. An “A” in my class means he did his work and he did it well. It means he showed up and participated. It means he took advantage of extra credit opportunities. It means he was a good peer editor and gave solid feedback. It means he was respectful. It meant he asserted himself. If he didn’t understand how to do something, he made an appointment to meet with me to figure it out. It means he came prepared with all his materials: all his books, handouts, and writing utensils. Every day. He was on-time. When he contributed to the conversation, his comments were meaningful — and when he received criticism, he was not defensive. His writing often showed great depth, and he taught me something on more than one occasion. He was honest (in his writing) and open (as a human being).

I don’t give A’s. To me, an “A” means something akin to “amazing,” and very few people are. So I will share this letter with all the teachers out there who understand how much letters like these really mean. People so rarely write letters these days, typed or otherwise, it is always a bit of a thrill for me when I receive one. For an educator, a letter from a former student is a shot of fuel that helps fill up a near empty tank. Those little gestures keep us keepin’ on.

So thank you, Student X. You put a little bounce in my step today.

What put a bounce in your step today?