I grew up in New York City in the Bronx. We lived in a section of the Bronx called Riverdale. Now growing up I was always encouraged to say that I was from the Bronx not Riverdale. My sisters and I didn’t grow up poor, but we certainly weren’t similar to the wealthier people and better housing that Riverdale was known for. So growing up I was from the Bronx. We didn’t want others to get the wrong impression as to our status in the world. At least that is what I was told. If you want a job (as a teenager) say you’re from the Bronx. Which was like when I moved out to Long Island and was told “if you want a job say you’re a Republican.” Continue reading Growing up and finding stories…
As a storyteller I get to experience a number of different types of audiences from very young children to adults. As such, I get to see many different types of reactions and behaviors attached to those different audiences.
Spending time recently as a substitute teacher has allowed me to practice my storytelling craft with captive audiences that are just kids. I’ve been telling to Kindergarten and first graders as well as 4th, 5th and 6th graders. I’ve discovered that as I tell stories to these groups with no adults around, that I generally get full attention as the students get involved in my tales. I even get applause when I complete a tale. Students are excited when they see that I am going to be their teacher. I’m sure the storytelling piece is part of it. Continue reading a tale of audiences…
As a storyteller and a technology integration specialist, I get to go into schools and classrooms and see all the changes that have occurred since I retired from classroom teaching in 2006. There are times that I wish that I was back in the classroom and then I look at the stress that teachers today experience as they try to cope with the new core standards and teacher evaluations. I see these excellent teachers work to figure out how they can maximize their individual strengths to prepare students to be innovative thinkers not just good test takers. The multitude of mandates and requirements placed upon them make that difficult. It was much easier, way back then. We didn’t all have to be the same.
Through all my years of teaching I never stopped writing about what teaching was like. My reflections on what was going on in my classroom were very helpful to me as I thought out problems, analyzed choices I had made, and built upon the foundations of learning that I had forged as a teacher. Every year I would start my journals the day before the school year began. I would focus on expectations, fears and goals for the upcoming year. For the most part, I never looked back on my writing in any particular year, until after the last day of teaching, whereupon I would re-read the entire journal and then summarize what the year was all about and project some thoughts about the summer and possibly the following year. My first dozen years of teaching were pre-computer, so I hand wrote in notebooks. Once I started word processing, the journals became all typed. I even took a few summers to transcribe all of my handwritten journals to the computer so that now I have all but one of my journals saved digitally. The number of pages in each journal ranged from the low teens to as high as mid-forties.
How does one end a conversation or talk? Are there any clues that the end is coming?
In high school I was taught that good speakers should just conclude naturally and not need a pronouncement. Stating that you are about to conclude is superfluous. However that is not always the case. In some formal situations such as presentations and speeches I’ve noticed that there are a number of catch phrases and words that creep in to talks as a signal to the listener that the end is near. Some of these are very straight forward, as in: “In conclusion…” or “Let me finish by saying…” These ending clues though informative to the listener are unnecessary. I must admit that they are sometimes welcome and needed. If I’m totally bored with what you are saying and you’ve been droning on for a while, announcing that the end is coming gives me something to look forward to – immediate relief.
But how about informal conversations. Listen to yourself and others when talking and see if there are key words that pop up when you are interacting either in person, on the phone, or through another audio/video device (Skype comes to mind).
In my family the word is “anyway.” If you are in a conversation and there is a lull in the talk and the word “anyway” comes up, you know there is nothing left to say and “Goodbye” is coming soon. I don’t think we intentionally do it, but at this point it is a habit and will always comes up before we end our conversations.
I’m sure we say other things, but “anyway” stands out like a tune you can’t get out of your head. Once you’ve noticed it, it’s hard to miss. Sort of like the arrow in the Fed Ex sign.
Anyway, that’s about all I can think of to write about today. If you have any different words/phrases that you use, I’d be interested in hearing them.
I am convinced that I live in a neighborhood where the local wildlife have engineering degrees, do weight lifting, and roam at night with tool belts loaded with enough equipment that they can dismantle anything.
The last two victories don’t really fall into the same categories as the other four. One might have been a small victory had I been able to complete it; the other wasn’t so much of a creative solution to a problem, but a willingness to make a sacrifice to reward a successful outcome.
Continue reading Small victories – final chapter (for now)…
There’s no manual to follow when you become a teacher. I should be more specific. There are lots of manuals for different curriculum that you choose to teach, and nowadays there are even more manuals for curriculum that you have to teach. But there are no manuals that tell what to do when you get students with personality quirks and handicaps that prevent them from learning. There is a lot of theory with philosophical stands on what to do with different kinds of kids, but rarely do you get the specific issue you have to deal with spelled out for you. It’s like wanting to buy a new appliance and you check out Consumer Reports ratings of all the possible ones you might consider, only to find that when you go to the store, none of the models listed in CR are there. You have to take your best shot with what is available and hope it’s the right one.
Continue reading Small Victories Part 2…
“A lot of kids won’t tell you, this is the day that you can reach me.” I heard this at a conference I attended many years ago. Over my 33+ years as an educator I have found this to be true. There were challenges that I faced with students that required me to try all sorts of creative and different strategies to help guide them to be successful learners. Each challenge made me think about each individual that needed to be addressed to conquer their fears, to overcome their handicaps, to feel proud of their achievements.
As a collector of quotes, two more come to mind when I think of those years. “Challenges can be stepping stones or stumbling blocks. It’s just a matter of how you view them.” – author unknown and “What really matters is what you do with what you have.” – H. G. Wells.
I was successful for the most part as a teacher in guiding my students to be independent thinkers. But through all of those years I recall a handful of students that presented me with personalities, handicaps, and backgrounds that put me to the test of being an educator.
Here are some of those small victories. Note that the names of the students will be changed to maintain privacy.
Continue reading Small Victories…
I spent 33 years of my life as an educator on Long Island. Most of those years were spent in the same school district. During my tenure as an educator I would begin each year with an unknown group of children that I was to work with. I had a planned curriculum and a design on how I wanted to approach that class or classes. The first few days were always a learning curve as I assessed the students needs and personalities and adapted what I had planned to do to the climate of the group. As the school year progressed I continued to adapt to the needs of the group, doing more open ended projects with the more independent classes and more structured assignments with the more difficult ones. Each day I went to school I knew what I was getting into or what might happen since I had been with the same group over time. One could consider me a farmer of sorts. As I cultivated the field of learning, I could work the soil, pull out the weeds, and fertilize and support each plant when needed to allow them to grow. Granted there were obstacles along the way, but I was usually in control.
Then I retired. Though I’m still an educator, it is interesting that the two career paths that I am following now has changed my persona from a farmer to more of a hunter.
Continue reading From farmer to hunter…