October 5th, 2013 | No Comments »

I wrote my college thesis about intrinsic motivation in the learning process, analyzing my data under a psychoanalytical lens. I chose one of my professors from the “Psychoanalysis and Education” class to assess my paper and, although she wrote positive comments, she was quite assertive in respect to my lack of reference to the transference between student and teacher – according to her, Psychoanalysis’ great contribution to understanding the educational process. At the time, I did not quite grasp what she meant, and I did not quite get the importance of transference in Education. 12 years later, a lightbulb went on at the end of my 5th week of classes in first grade.

Challenges

For the first time since I began teaching, I was assigned to teach first grade. A first grade with many  behavioral, social, and emotional challenges; a proportion boy:girl of 16:9, and at least 10 illiterate students. I spent my first month of class in shock, convinced it would not be possible to ‘tame’ those kids so that they would behave like first graders instead of preschoolers.

Helplessness, reflection, planning

After considering giving up, reflecting and adjusting my plans, I finally started establishing personal connections through the stories my students have been writing (each one their own way) and the books they have been reading (each one within their own limits). The result came in the shape of pictures full of flowers and hearts I started to be given, in the hugs and smiles I am being gifted with.

Along with these manifestations, students posture towards learning is also shifting: children who once hesitated to produce stories because they could not write, or who did not sit still during reading time because they could not read, began to show excitement in their productions and in their books. looking hard for ways to write their words and read their books. These ways, although unconventional – or maybe because of it – have been generating amazing learning.

Oh! Now I get it!

Driving home after another intense day in first grade, it suddenly occurred to me that by dedicating a few minutes a day to the individual needs of my students, I filled their little hearts with hope and self-trust. In my gaze, in transference, these children were able to uncast themselves and begin developing once again. Today, I finally understood what my professor tried to tell me in 2001.

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March 13th, 2012 | 3 Comments »
To Kristie,
Thank you for helping me figure myself out as a teacher.

Always learning

It is a known fact that teachers are always studying, always learning. But I am not sure it is known that one of the reasons leading to that is dissatisfaction with how things turn out in our daily teaching. Well, I am not certain I can speak for all teachers, but this is how I feel more often than I would like to.

One Among Many

I currently teach in two public schools in Woodburn. In one of them I teach Spanish to English-speaking children, and I teach English to Spanish-speaking children. In the other one, I teach reading to children who are having difficulties with cracking the code, and I also have one English Enrichment class of second graders. This last group is incredibly diverse, but the children in it share the designation of “English Only” in our multicultural and multilingual school community, which means that their first language at home is English – thus their participation in English Enrichment instead of ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages).

Technology and Programs

Since the beginning of February, I have been using Achieve 3000/KidBiz with the more advanced readers of my English Enrichment class to keep fostering their development, not only in reading nonfiction, but also in text processing, reading pace and comprehension, and test-taking strategies.

With the readers in that same class who still find it difficult to decode text and who encounter challenges in responding to five questions about a 7-page fiction story, I am using RazKids. With the one child who did not bring a signed authorization to use the internet, but who needs to work on fluency, I am using Read Naturally, the Masters Edition.

Personalized Solutions for Differentiated Instruction

Sounds like advertisement, but I am truly thrilled with the personalized solutions made possible by technology and programs out there. The differences among children’s reading development is such that I have in the same classroom students reading at beginning of first grade level and students reading at third grade level – and they are all considered “English Enrichment” students, even though some of them have a lot of trouble using oral language to organize their thoughts in a sentence.

To illustrate, this is what some of my students are reading:

"Animals live in many different places.
Some live above the ground.
Some live in the ground.
Some live on the ground.
Some live in the water"
(RazKids "Where animals live", level D)

While others, are reading this:

"The Great Falls is important in American history. In what way?  
During the Industrial Revolution, Paterson had many mills. It had many factories.  
The Great Falls created a lot of power.  
This power was used for the mills and factories. "
(KidBiz3000 "Welcome to Great Falls Park!")

Programs are Not the Teacher

With all this help, however, I still feel beat at the end of each lesson, feeling like I failed to support certain groups of students, or even all of them in some days. The programs are great but, as commonplace as it sounds, they are not the teachers, I am. And second graders need guidance to make the best use of the programs, otherwise they will inevitably focus on the number of ‘stars’ or ‘points’ they accumulate each time they finish a task, and that creates horrible reading and test taking habits that make me cringe just thinking about.

Putting Things In Perspective

But then I think back to the beginning of the year, when these children would not even sit down, and they would not be quiet long enough for me to explain the lesson, and they would not sit next to one another without someone getting hurt, and I realize the enormous growth we underwent.

To get to where we are now, I invested a massive amount of time and energy on figuring out the students as individuals and myself as a teacher, and I worked deeply on developing a sense of community and respect in the classroom through teaching them sentence structures that would allow them to communicate clearly while being respectful with one another.

This reflection leads me to I realize that believing we can improve professionally, and believing our students can develop if we find what drives them and if we devote enough energy to making it happen, are some of the important propellers of education.

It is a known fact that teachers are always studying, always learning. Maybe not so much because we are dissatisfied as I wrote before, but because we believe things can be even better – I believed it then, and I believe it now.

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June 23rd, 2011 | No Comments »

Acho interessante como algumas pessoas verdadeiramente preocupadas com educação multicultural e aceitação humana em geral às vezes, pelo desejo de ampliar a perspectiva do que é multicultural, desprezam como superficial os hábitos alimentares de um povo.

Embora as complexidades de uma cultura não possam ser totalmente compreendidas simplesmente preparando-se e comendo seus pratos típicos, não podemos ignorar que tais pratos sao uma fantástica fonte de informação se formos mais a fundo. As razões por trás de cada item, a influência que o clima tem sobre o que é produzido ou não em determinada região, o que é considerado sagrado, o que é considerado profano, o que é comido todos os dias e o que é reservado para ocasiões especiais, como aconteceu de cada prato ser preparado da maneira que é preparado, os nomes a eles atribuídos, todos esses aspectos do que comemos em cada cantinho do mundo podem não determinar o caráter de um povo, mas são muito provavelmente determinados pelos mesmos fatores. Tempo seco, comida seca, povo seco. Tempo quente, comida quente, povo quente. Nem sempre tão diretamente ligados, mas conexões podem com frequência ser feitas. Não é interessante que várias culturas do oriente médio usem trigo partido, carneiro, hortelã, iogurte…? Na América do Sul, por alguma razão, os preferidos são o arroz e o feijão, ao lado de carne e verduras. Temperos differentes marcam variações em países ou regiões, mas podemos quase certamente contar com os feijões em vário países da América do Sul.

Percebo uma conexão inegável entre comida, geografia e cultura, e acredito firmemente que é perfeitamente plausível ir fundo nos aspectos mais intrincados da diversidade começando com hábitos e tradições alimentares – contanto que não percamos de vista que estes são caminhos para o entendimento, não toda a cultura em si.

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