So in one of our many Diversity Sessions at Institute we read a poem called “I am from” and then we were asked to write and share ours. So here it is.
I Am From backyard swimming and shuckin’ corn
Get back from wherever you are by the time the street lights are on
From family full and abundant with some whoops and additions always being brought in
From a community of all the same colored skin
I Am From struggling to keep up, to teaching my sister to read
from negative image to being me, truthfully and honestly, all the time, REAL
I Am From escaping the small town glory to the mid-rise midwest even with negative dollars to my name
From being far enough away to forget some of the pain brought on by a man w/o a name anymore except “Jerkface”
I Am From figuring out that the blacks and whites of this word don’t even begin to amount to all the gray inbetween especially when dealing with love
I am from leaving everything behind, everything that I know, over and over again in hopes that my presence and actions will be enough to change
The top five things I’ve learned or relearned from institute so far.
1. Students don’t care who you are, what you look like or what your weird quirks are; they just want someone to teach them, provide structure and care about them.
This has been one of the hardest lessons for me to learn throughout all of my training as an educator. Before the first day of school I start worrying about what my students will be like and what they will think of me. My trans identity definitely plays into this a lot. I think that what I most fear is that my students will not be able to learn from me because they will be to bias or to distracted. This past few weeks has shown me otherwise. All six of my students are doing just fine. In fact one of my students on a classroom culture survey put my name at the top as Mr. Miller and then said “she” for all the responses about me. This past Friday on their exit slip (end of the day quiz type thing) she got 100%. Clearly she is confused by my gender but it is not impeding her growth as a student.
2. Structure is the key in all classrooms big or small.
The second day of class after finding out that I only had a few students I decided to sit in a circle with my students to teach them. The problem was that since this was not the structure they are used to and since I did not present them with the structure of the day there was a lot of confusion and inevitably they did not get that much out of that day. Now that we have a structure in place where my students come in start a “Do Now”, we have a lesson, work in groups/partners and then do independent practice they are doing so much better!
3. It is better to get sleep than write the perfect lesson plan.
I have been going to sleep between 1 and 2am every night during the week. This makes me extremely tired however there are other folks that are not going to be until 3-4am when we have to get up at 5-6am. Inevitably, these folks are super tired and low energy in the classroom. If you ask what they were doing the night before they will tell you that they were lesson planning. This is ridiculous. Lesson planning and practicing should not take that long. Perfection is not going to happen. When your perfect lesson plan goes awry you need to be on your toes and awake to manage it. That is why sleep is more important that “the perfect lesson plan.”
4. Be careful what you say, it will come back to bite you in the ass or come back to shower you with love. Your words determine which it is.
If you are tying to give an example of something around your peers make sure to clarify to a T because if you are misunderstood you will end up with a confrontation on your hands. This applies to both students and colleagues. If you clarify everything and be pleasant and loving your words will make their way back around to you in the form of praise or adoration.
5. Good teaching is good stealing with modification.
This is probably the most important lesson that I have learned. Stealing a lesson plan without making it your own is a disaster. However, there is no need to reinvent the wheel. If I can find a lesson plan that teaches what I want to teach why not use the problem set or examples as mine. I’ll modify the ideas to meet my needs as a teacher and spend half the time I would trying to formulate my own original idea.
Since I am blogging about the variety of experiences that happen while I embark on this journey in Baltimore, I have a few people that ask more specific questions about the stuff I write. So today I’m going to address a few questions that I was asked about my last blog and also relate my answers to what has been going on the past few days.
How will you advocate for your profession?
I think that I will do this in several ways. First, as I am teaching I will be the best teacher possible so that my students grow and achieve beyond what people think is attainable. I will work with parents and community members to build relationships. It may only take one teacher who reaches out to change the value that people place on education it may take fifteen teachers. No matter what it takes I will work to at least be one teacher that makes a difference in the mindset of the parents and community that I live/work in. It was discussed today that students are a product of our expectations and I think that teachers are often the product of the expectations that the community. Additionally parents are often the product of the expectation of teachers. If we don’t create a system where high expectations are the norm then there will never be respect for the profession of teaching.
Will you ever feel convicted to interrupt/interject into a conversation like on the train?
I have often spoken up against people who have made comments similar to the ones I heard on the train that day. On this particular day it was early and I was not in the mood to get into the conversation with complete strangers. When I have spoken up it usually does not come out with a positive ending. Typically I end up more frustrated and the people don’t have any gained respect for the teaching profession. Society has its mind made up and it doesn’t want to change anytime soon. It is going to take holistic efforts both in the classroom and out by teachers, parents, students and other community members to change the perspective about the teaching profession.
Do you have aspirations to change people’s views, or do you believe that not to be appropriate?
I believe that it is very appropriate to want to change people’s views especially when it comes to something you are passionate about. The important part is how you go about trying to change their views. I could argue about education to people until I am blue in the face but it won’t change their mind. I have to align my values with my profession and encourage my colleagues to do the same so that one day their minds will be changed.