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A Little Bit Out of my Depth

David Bowie once said the following in an interview:


“If you feel safe in the area you’re working in, you are not working in the right area.  Always go a lil farther in the water than you feel capable of being in; go a lil bit out of your depth and just when you don’t feel that your feet are capable of touching the bottom, then you’re just about in the right area to do something exciting.”

I feel like I’m totally working in the right area these days!

When you start a new job or take on a new responsibility at work, you often can feel “out of your depth.”  However, such challenges often get your adrenaline flowing and your creative juices going, and cool things may happen.

So teaching an education class at the university level has been both an over-whelming and a thrilling teaching experience.  First, I was faced with hours and hours of preparation as I learned about the course I was to teach , the students I would have, the department I was part of, and the university as a whole.

My guiding stars were “Connections and Balance” as I melded traditional teaching tools (composition book journals) with a bit of the new literacies (blogging).  Also, I made sure each class I taught included teaching strategies I had found successful in my 33 years of teaching public school .

So far, I have totally enjoyed this semester.  My students are talented, creative, quick-witted, and eager to become teachers.  They cooperate well with each even though they have very unique personalities.

One of my favorite memories so far was the second week of school when we shared “stunning sentences” from things we had read, and we made a class poem with those beautiful lines, stood in a circle, and read that poem aloud.  Right then and there, I realized that even though we were not all English majors (our group represented health, math, and history as well as English), we all recognized and appreciated powerful words.  We made a poster out of our sentences, and as students left class that day, a non-English major stopped to take a picture of the poem with her phone.  So I did likewise.  IMG_2256

A successful day in class was last week when my students taught mini-lessons.  Such variety!  We studied irony in a short story, took a sleep survey to understand connections between sleep and exercise, worked an Einstein-level word problem, examined part of a presidential speech and considered a cell phone phenomenon called “Phantom Vibration Syndrome.”  These future teachers displayed poise in front of the class and all used “choice words” to build a safe and respectful classroom atmosphere.

My biggest challenge so far is learning more about education’s “new literacies.”  The technology can be so daunting to me that one of my students had to help me with something as basic as showing a video clip!  I’m trying to face my nervousness around computers and my distrust of the iCloud, so I  now return to my Bowie quote.

beach waves

As a child, I vacationed in Pensacola, Florida every summer, and I loved, loved, loved playing in the waves.  I embraced the excitement of swimming out as far as I could to get beyond the breaking of the waves.  As my sisters and I got to the place where we could only touch the sandy bottom with our tippy-toes, the thrill increased.  In my new job I’m reminded of that lil bit of danger mixed with the adrenaline of pushing my limits to try something exciting.  And doesn’t most new learning  involve that same sort of rush?




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Teacher Gratitudes

The reasons why I am thankful to be a teacher:

  1.  The students.  For over 33 years, they have given me wisdom, laughter, challenges, and hope.
  2. Other teachers.  For over 59 years, they have shared lessons, advice, struggles, stories and laughs.
  3. The support staff.  For over 54 years, they have kept schools clean, safe,helpful, friendly, and amusing places.
  4. Administrators. For over 35 years, they have offered me guidance and support mixed with conflict resolution and funny ways to grow.
  5. Parents and guardians.  For 34 years, they have provided valuable background information, new insights into parenting, and witty comments.
  6. Books.  For over 59 years they have given me creative and inspiring ways to learn and to interact with my crazy and funny world.
  7. Movies.  For over 55 years they have made me laugh, cry, wonder, and dream.
  8. Music.  For over 59 years songs have helped me make sense of all that is serious and silly in my life.
  9. Family and friends.  For all my life, they have given me perspective and laughter and love to sustain me in the teaching profession.
  10. Nature.  For as long as I can remember, the great outdoors with its wonder and its wicked sense of humor has provided me with both beauty and danger.
  11. Strangers.  For probably 56 0r 57 years they have surprised me in sweet,helpful ways, or they frustrated  me in thoughtless, ridiculous ways.

So I suppose, in retrospect, I can thank teaching for helping me develop an advanced sense of humor!



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Connections & Balance

To simplify the secret of a contented life, I have narrowed it down to two things: connections & balance.

First, we need to connect to people, to activities, to ideas.  These connections take all sorts of forms.  We connect to family, to friends, to coworkers, to classmates, to casual acquaintances, and to strangers.  Also, we connect to our jobs, our school work, our religion, our chores, our responsibilities, our hobbies, our sports, our entertainment, our exercise, and our social activities.  Then there are connections to different philosophies, belief systems, and our basic values.  The “no man is an island” idea manifests itself because the introvert and the extrovert both need to connect to someone or something to find purpose and/or contentment.

Next, all these connections need to achieve a kind of balance.  Think of the Finnish proverb: “Happiness is a place between too little and too much.”  So we don’t let our work connections turn us into workaholics or allow our connection to cooking rich food make us obese.  We strive to balance all our different connections so we have a sense of calm contentment.

Now as I begin a new teaching job at a new place, I hope to balance my connections to old ways of teaching with paper and pen and holding my reading material in my hands with the new ways of teaching with technology and reading online.  Let the young learn from the old just as much as the old learn from the young.