Category Archives: teaching

the heart of the matter

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Sit still … and focus! … is this all there is to it? This picture was taken a while ago (when my uncle was one of these tiny humans sitting quietly behind their desks) but how much has really changed since? I’ve always been hoping to create a more inspirational learning atmosphere. We’ll see how that goes.

The heart of the matter

God, I love 80ies music.

Wonder why? Here’s the reason: that terrible combination of a quite danceable, sing-along-in-the-kitchen/shower/while-vacuuming kind of tune with lyrics full of soul-shaking, heart-wrenching wisdom. A musical decade of wonder.
And synthesizers, of course.

Let me share a snippet of the gem I’m listening to right now:
I’ve been trying to get down to the heart of the matter but my will gets weak and my thoughts seem to scatter (just to get the mood across correctly: imagine the strumming of an unplugged electric guitar and a gospel choir humming softly in the background).

On point, Don.

Okay, this isn’t a music blog and although it sounds like it so far, this isn’t supposed to be a blog post celebrating my top 10 80ies chart hits. If you were hoping for a free Don Henley mp3 download, you’re out of luck. Sorry, folks. I was just about to start writing this post when this song came on and it resonated with me and, coincidentally, with the thoughts I was about to share.

I have been, in fact, trying to get down to the heart of the matter lately. A bit unsuccessfully, though. I’ve been enrolled in a 2-year teacher training program for close to 2 years now. Let’s quickly do the math together: yes, I can see the finish line! For now however, the near end of my teacher training isn’t a cause for much celebration but it means observation, evaluation and, as an extra Easter treat, oral examination.

To make this period especially enticing for future teachers: it’s hard if not impossible to get things right. You can pour all your heart, effort, sweat, laminating pouches and glitter into one lesson and people will still find a way to take it apart based on the one thing that wasn’t quite right (in their opinion).

You inevitably wonder: am I doing this right? Am I a good teacher? Or is this a terrible career plan for me and the poor tiny humans sitting in my class room?

Help!

I want to be a teacher. I like hanging out with 8-year-olds, teaching them things I’m passionate about and learning new things along the way. I hope to inspire them to make their own way, stand up for what they believe in and grow from fabulous tiny humans into fabulous average-sized humans.

Yet, there are so many holes in our system of education – some that have been temporarily patched up and some staring you right in the face. It’s not just one sector, too. You can start your way from the curriculum and work your way up to teacher training and funding and … the list goes on and on.

It gets hard not to be disheartened, not to lose focus and, the one thing I deeply care about: inspiration.

If all my effort is in vain, if there’s so much wrong with the system itself, am I on a mission that is destined to fail?

What do you think? What inspires you? What keeps you motivated and going, even when the odds aren’t in your favor?

I’m curious to know and determined to get down to the heart of the matter.

Inspire me, will you?

Cheers,
Lisa

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Guess who’s back? (all grown-up now!)

I’m just as well adjusted, I swear.

Guess who’s back? Of course, this is a rhetorical question, no one’s hacked into my blog account (yet) and the answer can only be: it’s me!

I haven’t written all that much ever since the New Year flipped on my crunch mode switch aka omg-finals-panic switch when it accidentally leaned against it (that drunk bastard, pardon my language). Not because I spent my days and nights crouched over books and books and more books. That too, but I also picked up my little guitar and wrote a couple of songs (that still need a bit of fine-tuning).

Sometimes, you need to let go of one thing to make room for another. But not all good-byes are forever (whoever came up with that idea anyways?).

This is also what I’m telling myself whenever I think about having to move by the end of the month and I get that tingly feeling in my stomach that has nothing to do with butterflies whatsoever. I’ve always had a hard time letting go of things/people/seasonal candy (so what if I have a craving for peppermint bark in August? Sue me).

Yeah, changes, changes. I’ve finally graduated this summer and I’m about to move (in case I’m able to find a place to move into, of course) so I won’t have to drive 3 hours to work and back every day – which seems like a sensible idea and I hear people expect you to act sensible more often than not once you’re done with school because they think it means you’re all grown-up and stuff.

But more often than not, people are pretty funny and they expect all kinds of things that are not gonna happen. Just sayin’.

What does it mean to be grown-up anyways? Having sensible ideas and making reasonable decisions – are grown-ups allowed to cross a red light and go to bed without brushing their teeth every once in a while or having cereal for dinner or … ? Maybe it’s all about having a mature taste in music/movies/food – but what if I still wanna sing that awful nineties song in the shower?

(This one, no regrets:)

And what if I still wanna watch Saturday morning cartoons, what if I prefer that pizza place around the corner over that terribly chic French restaurant downtown?

Then again, starting this fall, I’ll be teaching 6-10-year olds – I don’t really have to be too grown-up yet, do I?

(I’m sure you’ve all missed my brilliant closing lines!)

Good night y’all (spoken like a true adult).

I feel it, it’s coming I swear – the quarter-life crisis (wait, is that actually a thing?)!

Um, ... , yeah.

Um, … , yeah.

It’s a Wednesday night and I’m in my sweatpants, drinking wine as I’m writing this.

I’d actually planned to go to this after-work-thing to be a little less anti-social with my colleagues but it was cancelled last-minute – thank God! Now I can be anti-social while pretending I’m not: sorry you guys, I would have loved to go out, too bad it’s not happening (did this sound too sarcastic you think?).

Now I’m officially free to do all the fun stuff I would have preferred to do all along and I don’t even have to feel bad about it: wear comfy clothes, eat in front of the TV, listen to any music I like, blog. Cause that’s fun, right?

Right?

Or am I getting lame these days? Is this what I should be doing? Shouldn’t I be out partying after all? Meeting interesting people and stuff? Is this why I’m slowly but steadily approaching my mid-twenties, still half (or three-quarters) in school, half (or one quarter) working, single, home alone tonight? Am I missing something? Was my mother right (and what’s her most important advice again – why can’t I remember this)? What am I doing with my life anyways?

Oh dear, is this it now – a quarter-life crisis?

No, I’m not helplessly neurotic – just a tad bit. Here are a couple more of my most recent thoughts on being (almost) 25.

***

Vocation or occupation or something else entirely?

Six-year-old me wanted to be a writer when she grows up. And seven-year-old-me, too. Eight-year-old me wanted to become a vet until she found out that they don’t just get to pet the animals all day long and decided to stick with writing after all. Now I’ve almost finished grad school, on the best way to become a teacher. What would six-/seven-/eight-year-old me say? Would they kick my stupid grown-up (and maybe too reasonable) butt? What do I really want? Do I even know?

Of course, being a teacher doesn’t mean I have to give up writing; I could always write on the side (like I’m doing now) – that is, if I have enough nerve and time. Or I could become bitter and cynical and just keep telling my future students about the novel I was writing and eventually going to publish, without ever actually writing anything. And then, 24-year-old me thinks, just because we make a certain decision at one point in our life, it doesn’t mean we can’t make another decision some other time.

I think, if six-/seven-/eight-year-old me made a fuss about it, I would probably turn to them and say: do you remember how one year all you ate for breakfast was Coco Puffs and then one day, you decided you wanted to try out Froot Loops because they looked really good? This is kind of like that, too. There would be a brief moment of silence and I would nod wisely and finally agree with myself. Hopefully.

Also .. what about love?

As my Mom loves to (accidentally?) point out whenever my sister brings her husband and two boys over for lunch on Sundays: I’m still single. While people around me seem to be procreating like rabbits (boy, it must have been a very cold winter last year and what’s with this biological clock everyone’s talking about?), I am a rock, I am an island. I’m going to tell you this much, though: it’s not because I just can’t let go of my precious freedom. I do believe in love – the heart-wrenching, earth-shattering kind; this incredible love that you can feel to the tip of your fingers. I’ve felt it. And then it left me.

Maybe it was just a preview, though. Maybe it didn’t mean what I thought it did. Whenever this silly feeling deep in my gut rears its ugly head and wants to tell me to get real, because life’s not a movie or a fairy tale, that there’s no such thing as fate and that, by the way, Santa Clause doesn’t really exist, I decide not to listen to closely. It’s not that I’m a hopeless optimist/romantic – I’ve just decided that if everything turns to shit life gets rough, nodding your head and mumbling I’ve known it all along doesn’t help you, either. You might as well have a little hope – even if it’s all you’ve got.

***

So much for my latest random thoughts. You may or may not want to call this a quarter-life crisis; probalby it’s just an almost boring reflection on life the way people like Socrates already did it way back in good old Greece (in the golden days, when they weren’t bankrupt or so much as knew about the concept of bankruptcy yet). And anyways, what’s in a name, as Juliet would say. No matter the label, it still feels the same.

Elephants and Butterflies…

It’s sitting in the corner, gray and plump and it’s not likely to go away – the elephant in the room: “What’s so different?”

Once I’ve told people I’ve recently been in the Netherlands with one of my education classes in order to take a closer look at their system of public education, it’s – inevitably – the question everyone asks.

The answer, however, is not nearly as intuitive.

Yet, there is one word that’s been buzzing around in my head for a while. It jumped at me when I first set foot in one of the schools there and it’s stuck with me ever since: Openness.

Openness.

First, openness in the most literal sense of the word. The classroom doors: open. The classroom walls: open (i. e. glass). The principal’s office: (mostly) open! The area around the school: open (no fence, no nothing).

Second, openness in a more metaphorical way: A (for me) surprising as well as pleasant candor. It seemed people were neither afraid to open their mouths nor to open their ears – for questions, answers, even (potential) criticism.

In very broad terms, I also noticed their openness for: cooperation (instead of the dog-eat-dog mentality that you will find frighteningly often among the teaching staff at German schools), color (arts & crafts style, but also multiculturalism; pluralism in a lot of ways – in thinking, teaching, learning), creativity (self-explanatory), and also unity (in the sense of support; yet, also in the sense of collectivity – which can be a good thing…yet, I think, it’s also the one thing that goes on my personal list of bad things I’ve noticed about their system).

Unity (one method).

An interesting idea: the method. No wait, this needs more emphasis: it’s the method. Because there’s just one – one method per school. For the teacher this basically means two things. One, less work (hooray!). Two, less latitude (womp womp…).

Here’s how it works: Each school decides on one method – i. e. one style of teaching (possibly focusing on Montessori pedagogy or Helen Parkhurst’s Dalton Plan concept). This also includes a range of textbooks for all different subjects as well as computer programs to go with their whiteboards. Everything’s well-matched – at least it should be.

It seems to be an entirely holistic approach (which ties in with most Dutch school’s aim: learning with head, heart and hand), and that is a very good thing. It doesn’t leave teachers on their own, trying to pick the few cherries out of a huge pile of teaching material and objectives, and that is most certainly a good thing.

Yet, it also seems very close-meshed. It definitely leaves less room to design a curriculum that matches your own as well as your students’ preferences. It’s like wearing another person’s outfit, trying not to feel silly.

Of course it’s possible that I simply missed the point. Still. This approach, to me, doesn’t include the openness I’ve encountered elsewhere.

Lentekriebels.

That’s, of course, not an in-depth analysis, but more of my own, unfiltered gut-feeling spilled out. In general, looking at the schools in the Netherlands left me with a warm and fuzzy feeling – possibly, even with butterflies in my stomach, or as they say: lentekriebels. Maybe just because it’s Spring. However I think, it’s probably more than a short-lived fling…

Butterflies

The Dutch approach to education simply gives me butterflies…

Scattered.

First: The obligatory apology for having neglected my blog for so long. It seems, I have been quite the neglecting being lately. I may have been neglecting not only my writing but also some people over the last couple of weeks. My apologies for all of that. I didn’t really mean to, I have just found myself being somewhat – scattered…

...when thoughts scatter like birds...

Scattered.

Coherence! – an angry voice is yelling, somewhere in the back of my head: Coherence for crying out loud!

A number of thoughts are twisting and shouting in my mind – freestyle – while some are standing by the punch bowl (spiked, f*** yeah…), holding on to whatever there is, staggering, trying not to fall over. Other bits and pieces of me are hiding in broom closets and niches: getting high, making out, writing their last goodbyes before jumping into the darkness…

Coherence! – was lost somewhere down the road.

I’d like to twist or shout or get drunk or get high or make out or write my last goodbye – I don’t feel any need to jump, though. I’ve been collecting my own darknesses in a shoebox since I was four. They come in all shapes and sizes. And different shades of dark. They are, in fact, pretty to look at and feel quite nice. Like tiny pieces of velvet. Coherence! What’s one got to do with the other? She asks.

This angry voice again; it sounds like my second grade teacher who I was scared of.

Shut up! I’m feeling scattered.

Sometimes, it is a nice feeling. Sometimes, it smells of empty roads, summer rain, the sea – of i-can-do-whatever. Other times, it feels heavy, like sinking. It feels like missing a piece, a limb; lacking. Because there are parts of me scattered all over. I’ve been leaving them behind like pebbles – to make my way back, someday, in the moonlight. In spite of monsters lumbering. In spite of the dark.

Coherence! – has been annoying me ever since writing my first essay in second grade for the teacher who I was scared of. Coherence! – is highly overrated, for crying out loud!

I’d like to do a million things at the same time. I’d like to be in a million places at the same time. I’m dreaming a million dreams at the same time.

I want to be there for my friends and family whenever they need me I wanttobethere for myfriends – my family – whenever (Coherence!) I want to be a writer a teacher I want to make adifferencein childrenspeoples (Coherence?) livesatleastforsomeofthem I wanttoteachand notbescaredIwanttoteach and not scaremystudents I wanttowrite astorypoetryanovelabook. (Coherence?!)

I want to be.

Coherence!

Shut up –

I am scattered. And sometimes, it is a nice feeling.

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