Earlier this month in Denver, at Creating Change: the 27th National Conference on LGBT Equality, I was on a panel titled “The State of Education in LGBTQ America,” sponsored by Teach For America’s LGBTQ Initiative. At this year’s conference, queer and transgender people of color were front and center. As a teacher, it made me think about the how people in spaces like Creating Change can have a positive impact on queer and transgender students of color.
LGBTQ students of color enrich their school communities every day. Living at the intersection of multiple identities can provide opportunities to develop critical thinking skills, empathy, and leadership for the individual student, and it can also draw out those things in other students and adults. Supporting these students contributes to a positive learning experience for all.
As the technology specialist at a school, I’m constantly running into issues (our computers haven’t arrived yet, the tech staff doesn’t have time to install them, my lab is being used for NWEA testing, etc.).
But, never fear. There are a lot of ways to get nerdy with kids without needing a laptop for everyone. Here are my tips – I’d love to hear some more, if you have them, in the comments!
1.) Code.org. Live it. Love it. Code it. This site is getting really well-known, but there’s a nice little niche that not everyone might know about. There are loads of “paper” activities that can teach little kiddos how to make a “program” and much more. It’s especially great as a primer before letting students use computers.
(Pro-tip: If you have even intermittent access to 3-10 computers, do stations. Have students who have mastered the paper activities move onto computers!)
The blessing and the curse of Institute is the sheer number of human beings whose job it is to help you in some way, shape, or form. It’s like acronym city and everyone has something to offer!
That being said, you’ve been around for a few weeks (which, in Institute time, is a few months) and it’s high time you get friendly with an awesome person: your SOM (School Operations Manager). (Note: If you’re not at a National/Centralized Institute, your SOM may have a variety of creative and unique terms, but this person essentially helps run operations at one or more school sites.)
So, you’re lesson-planning. Maybe you feel like you’re about to have a breakdown. Your Corps Member Advisor is there to help, of course, but if you want another way to have it explained or just need some sass in your life, read on!
First, some perspective on who the heck I am:
Hi, I’m Blair! I’m a Corps Member Advisor at the Tulsa Institute (woot!), and I finished up TFA in the Twin Cities region about a week ago (yup, I’m a newly minted alum… yikes!).
Now, let’s break down lesson-planning in three quick-and-dirty concepts:
1) Start your lesson plan by thinking about WHAT kiddos can DO and HOW they will explain your objective after you’ve taught them. If you’re teaching multiplication, what will it look like for your kiddos to DO the math, show their work, and explain their answer? This is why your exemplar response is so important. Side note: If YOU don’t know the skill, you’ll have the darndest time teaching it. Make sure you can explain the skill backwards and forwards. Try explaining it to your beau, your mom, or a friend via phone—if you can do it there, you can teach it!
It was the first day of teaching for all Tulsa Institute corps members. This day had been coming for many months, since the moment they were first accepted into the corps.
All of this time boiled down to their first hour in the classroom. It’s a lot of pressure.
As a School Operations Manager, I was doing my rounds (most likely re-taping signage or putting up a bulletin board) when I saw him. Ross. Sitting outside of his classroom, on the floor. He wasn’t crying, but the look on his face communicated his utter inner turmoil.
I sat down next to him and asked what was up. He candidly told me how absolutely awful his first lesson had gone.
I’ve always wondered how much I work a week as a teacher. Last week, I sat down with six other teachers (at different schools, different grade levels, etc.) and asked them to track their hours worked.
Two things shocked me.
First, out of the seven teachers surveyed, we spend only 42% of our time actually delivering content to students. That other 58% of the time is devoted to conferences, miscellaneous tasks, lesson planning, meetings, PD, and tracking (in that order).
“This is really important, so I want to be sure everyone is remaining engaged. I know we’re tired, but you’ll need this through your two years of teaching!”
During Institute (and Professional Saturdays), this phrase was invoked time and time again. Often, it cued a silent ugh in my head as I struggled to stay awake. The thing is, I didn’t think the session I was sitting through was unimportant, but I just struggled with the fact that everything was given A-level status. As hard as I wanted to be a great teacher, I couldn’t make all of the advice and strategies I got a priority.
But two years later, while reflecting on my time at Institute, there’s one thing that I do wish I had given A-level status. Interestingly enough, it was one thing that wasn’t given very much exposure during my two years as a CM:
Two years ago, when I was starting Institute as a brand-new corps member, I had many questions and loose assumptions about what the experience would be like. I was curious about housing, my students, the training, and just how exactly I would master the art of lesson planning and behavior management in a few short weeks.
Most of all, though, I had questions and assumptions about who worked at Institute. In a nutshell, I assumed that everyone on staff—from the School Director to the School Operations Manger to my Corps Member Advisor—was a Magical Robot of Awesome.
So often, my students view poetry as something removed from their lives. It’s for old people in dusty books. As one of my students put it, “Mr. Mishleau, I’m not a poetry kind of guy.”
What they (and I) didn’t realize, was that some of the best poetry is in them, waiting to come out. Perhaps not in the traditional prose of the old, dead white people Language Arts curriculum tends to emphasize, but in a relevant, modern and uniquely sophisticated style all their own.
Earlier this year, I took a group of five kiddos from my middle school in Minneapolis to Chicago for three full days of writing and educational workshops, regional and national performances and opportunities to network and collaborate with students from across the nation.
You’d likely never know. I live in a hip neighborhood. I wear (often thrifted) suit coats. But I have something to tell you: I’m one of the many, many teachers who are underpaid. In terms of hours worked vs. pay, my actual hourly wage is pretty abysmal.
Most conversations I have with strangers or family members eventually come around to this little elephant in the room. The inevitable point it seems they must make is “teachers don’t get paid enough.” It’s as if, if they didn’t say that, I had assumed that they were among the type who’d like to see me living out a daily struggle to survive.
These comments come from all over the landscape of our country: from my uber-liberal friends to my Scott Walker-loving Grandpa. There’s also always a clear or subtle undertone of “hardworking teachers like you should get paid more, but those other, lazy teachers shouldn’t.” Whichever “lazy” teacher they may be thinking of, I haven’t met many. In fact, a growing number of us areworking second jobs to make ends meet.