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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Learning is fun! I need book recommendations!

Last night, after admitting to my sister that I was reading and annotating an academic book¹ (for "fun") and had earlier in the day read and written an annotated bibliography entry on an academic article² (for "fun") she proclaimed:

"NotQuiteGrownUp, you need to go to grad school. Like, now."

The moral of this story is that I like to learn, a lot. I hope I don't loose my passion and desire to learn before I get the opportunity to go to grad school. I think that is one of my biggest worries. I am afraid that if I am out of college for a few years I will forget the thrill of academia. I will settle into a job and become too comfortable with my work and my development. I don't want to let that happen. I want to continue to feel the urge to constantly question what is going on and learn more about why things happen and how and what we can do to make them happen differently.

I have a huge list of education book recommendations from my (former) adviser. But, does anyone else have any book, chapter, or article recommendations? I love to read about (among other things):
-Developing literacy/literacies
-Literacy as s0cial practice
-Bilingual education
-Multicultural education
-And of course, the intersection of all of those topics

¹ Lewis, C. (2001). Literacy practices as s0cial acts: P0wer, status, and cultural n0rms in the classr00m. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

² If I hadn't written the annotated bibliography entry, I would not remember what the article was about, and then what would have been the point in reading the article?

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Do I have to choose my own future?

I woke up at 3am and was unable to fall back asleep due to my new hobby of worrying about my future.

Undergrad was comfortable. It was easy in that I always knew what I was supposed to be doing - I was a student, my job was to study and read and write. When I wasn't doing one of those things, I was working at one of my three campus jobs. I was always busy, always occupied, always mentally stimulated.

Now, I have a few months of student teaching in the fall, and then what? What am I supposed to do after the student teaching? Teach, in theory, I guess. And I will. But I also want to live somewhere in Latin America again, for a time. I want to go to graduate school. How do I decide what to do when, in what order, for how long? When I do go to graduate school, what do I want to do there? Do I want a masters (certainly), do I want a PhD (perhaps)? What exactly do I want to study?

And, doesn't everyone get advanced degrees in education? How do I stand out in the job market? If something were to happen, and I were to one day in the future actually try to get a PhD, what would I do with that? I've seen from my own college experiences that institutional politics are no fun - I don't know that I would want to subject myself to that. But, I would really like to perform educational research, and you need to be affiliated with a college or university to do research (right? I don't know). And with that comes the politics.

Really though, I shouldn't even be worrying about that stuff yet. First, I have to get through the whole student teaching experience. I have time before I have to worry about what will happen post student teaching. It's good that I think about it (a lot...) but maybe it's just creating unnecessary stress. However, at the same time, I want to know what I'm going to be doing come January, when I'm done student teaching and officially out on my own. Do I want to substitute teach? (No, not really. I feel that short-term subbing would be a painful existence. Though I suppose it would be useful to work with a greater range of ages than I would otherwise have the opportunity to work with.) You can't really find a full-time teaching job half way through the year, so that's out of the question. If I were to take this time to leave the country, which would be ideal in some ways, I wouldn't be here in the spring to apply for teaching jobs for the fall.

And, when I do end up teaching full-time, where do I want to do that? In HomeState? In SchoolState? In an entirely new-to-me state? Do I want to make an effort to live near any specific university in which I could potentially attend graduate school?

Too many questions, but I will come up with answers soon enough, because I will have to.

I will end this chaotic stream-of-consciousness with a conversation I had a few days ago with my 10 year old cousin:
Cousin: So, is your school over?
Me: Yup. I'm all done with school.
Cousin: Are you sad?
Me: Yes. I like school.
Cousin: Well, you could always go back to college.
Me: Okay.

(Now, I will try to stop worrying about my future and go back to sleep for an hour before it is time to wake up for the day...)

Monday, May 21, 2007

A little bit closer to being grown-up.

So, I'm not an undergraduate student anymore.

I was upset about this for a few weeks leading up to the moment. However, about a week prior to the event I realized that everything would be okay. And it will.

The rest of my life will be good.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Observing myself.

As I'm sure anyone reading this knows, there's nothing like watching 9 hours worth of DVDs of yourself teaching to really bring up all the negative body-image issues you didn't even know you had.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Over-praise as a college student.

I have a professor for an education class who never critiques. This professor never tells me what I have done wrong. She never suggests useful directions for improvement. She may occasionally make a simple, non-significant comment insinuating that I might have done something slightly-not-perfect, but never does she say, "You need to improve here and here and here." Never have I received anything from her with an unsatisfactory grade. And the problem is, this class is important. It's a methods course, for a subject in which I am seriously lacking confidence. I need to know that I am receiving the best preparation possible to teach this subject. I need to know that I am learning, and I am equipped with the necessary knowledge to help students develop understanding in this area.

Sure, it is always good to compliment your students, acknowledge their hard work, let them know you appreciate their efforts.

But it is also important, especially in an upper-level seminar at a highly selective college to dole out a healthy dose of constructive criticism. That's what we (the students) are used to. We're at the point in our academic career where we understand that we are far, far from perfect. An incredibly high percentage of us are going to attend graduate school within three years after we graduate. We want to be told to improve. We don't know how to function without criticism. If the professors don't criticize us, we'll criticize ourselves. But, the professors have PhDs in their field. We don't. If we're not told what to strive for, we may never reach our potential.

This is a small class. We regularly get THREE TYPED PAGES of comments on our assignments. All of the comments are positive. They should not be. There have been times when I know for certain that I did horrible on an assignment, or a micr0teaching, or a real-live teaching in the classroom of some poor guinea-pig children. And yet, the professor won't critique.

This has been nothing but a rant, and is no more constructive that my professor's overly-simplistic, overly-positive comments. I felt compelled to write this because, as I was opening the file for a project I have due for this class tomorrow, to look over what I have written one more time, I realize there is absolutely no reason for me to edit the project. Regardless of what I hand in, my professor will tell me it's fabulous and will give me an "A." Why should I waste my time editing a useless assignment, when I could be spending my time working on final papers and project for other classes in which my grades actually reflect the time and effort I put into the classes?

For my other classes, I spend countless hours working toward a sometimes-elusive "B+", at times without even having real hope of receiving an "A". And I understand that I can't alway get an "A," sometimes I can't even get a "B+," and that is okay. I know that I'm not the best, I'm not some weird genius-prodigy college-aged person. I have to work hard, and struggle, and edit and revise and go to office hours and only then will I have tried as hard as I could have.

So the fact that I opened this document and decided "Nah, I don't need to read through this again," actually worries me because it is not who I am as a student. Perhaps I'm just a masochist, I want to be told that even my best efforts are not good enough. But maybe I'm a realist, I understand my strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes, yes, I do a great job. Sometimes, I don't; whether it is because I didn't try hard enough or because I just didn't understand the content. Regardless, I want the grade I deserve. I want the times that I actually do teach a great lesson or create an exceptional project to be worth something. As it is now, I don't know when I have done well and when I have done just mediocre. I receive the same compliments regardless.

I want my true accomplishments to be worth their full value, and not be diminished by a constant sea of bland praise.