Being human. 

Today was not the day I was expecting. I walked in expecting to teach a roomful of students who are ready, excited and willing to learn and for the most part they were. But today was one of those days when they were human and I was human. The kind of day that our state and federal legislatures need to witness and get a better grasp at what it is that myself and my fellow teachers face every day. 

The kind of day where kids make mistakes, or worse yet I make mistakes. The learning that took place was the kind that teaches compassion, forgiveness, survival and the kind of skills we all need to exist outside of class. The skills that make us human or in the least make the world seem a little less harsh. But we can’t prep for these lessons as they usually come out of nowhere and you can’t predict when they will start or where they will end. 

And yea it wasn’t perfect and likely won’t warrant an upswing on a state standardize test score. But what it will do is be a memory for them and for me of a day where we had to stop, take a deep breath and get through the next moment. We were human in very real moments that no textbook teaches. Moments that are hard to describe or explain in any sort of manner that gives them the justice of their enormity. 

When you set up a classroom with your inspirational posters, books, expo markers and your daily schedule with date on the board it all seems so easy. That stuff is easy. Even the testing and data is easy. It is the humanness that makes it hard. Some compare it to dancing or playing an instrument and those comparisons aren’t that far off. But they still don’t come close to describing what it is like to be with 20-40 humans in your classroom including yourself and the lack of predictability that exists in that humanness. 

The reality when dealing with humans is you have human moments. The kind where you just sometimes sit in silence and you just let them know that though we are in silence you are not alone. Also teaching them that silence isn’t bad and that sometimes to be human means not trying to understand the silence and just letting it exist. I am adult and I need that exact same reassurance. Sometimes the world seems unnecessarily hard and cruel and in order to survive we have to laugh, or cry or just sit in silence. These moments require very little from us other than just for us to be still and be present and be human. 

MR- On the importance of being human

I really don’t know everything.

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Can I tell you I learn every year the importance of being authentic with your students. True to yourself. Some may call it vulnerable. I know there are teachers who have taught for years in the don’t smile till December mode and that is great. I don’t judge them. Teaching like parenting for me is don’t judge it because we are all in the trenches trying to figure out what works for us.

But for me it is to be truly, authentically myself. That means if I feel silly that day and I sing and dance in front of the class I will. That also means I have grumpy days, my feelings get hurt and I don’t feel well and above all education for me is a gateway to who I am and truly long to be. It always has been and always will be.

In my speech class I model a lot. I don’t mean my latest clothing styles. I mean I publicly speak. I purposefully place myself into situations where I also become the student. This is my third year teaching dual credit speech and it was to be my third year modeling the same advocacy speech about TN. And yes much advocating needs to be done where TN is concerned…but my speech was tired and easy. Guess what…that isn’t modeling if you are comfortable. I changed it to a completely different topic and that was advocating for taking care of our Hoosier teenagers. I made it relevant by connecting it the Semi-colon Project.

However, I advocated that we wouldn’t have to talk about suicide, poverty and mental illness near as much if we [Adults] found better ways to listen and support our youth. I identified the issues as I see them in my home, my classroom and in relation to my own teen years.  For this speech building up your ethos is paramount and the must have part of the speech. Speak what you know so to speak.

And in my world I know it means a lot when my voice shakes, my eyes go to the floor, a lump in my throat appears. I have two sections this semester and I delivered it to one and I nearly had a panic attack. I started the speech and stopped and admitted in front of them I was so nervous. What a great learning moment that was for all of us. They begin reminding me of nerve lessening methods. I started and stopped a few times and each time was met with so much support. I took their criticism and admitted I would have given my own speech a D. Not an F because I got up there and did it and made it through. But a D. A you didn’t get it at all, but you tried grade.

But the way I felt when it was over was gross. I had the icky feeling of teaching things that are too personal. You know like why I can’t and won’t and refuse to ever teach Jane Eyre. This book is so personal and was such a life line to me in a time in my life when I needed a character like Jane Eyre. It is personal because it matters. It MATTERS BIG!!! I had no idea this would be my reaction, but then I realized it was a revelation of my childhood dreams of being a supportive and loving mother, a teacher, a leader in my community and my very reason for standing in front of a classroom full of teenagers. It truly doesn’t get more personal than that. At least not for me. I imagine the feeling I had is akin to one of those don’t smile till December teachers actually smiling in November and thinking, “Aww crap…I lost them. They know I can smile.”

The feeling though scared me out of repeating the speech for my second section. At least until a little more than two weeks later. I needed time and distance and I needed to admit I had a severe shortfall on this speech because I chose something too personal and something that mattered too much. I used it as a teaching moment and talked about why I couldn’t repeat it till that day. It was stigma, the lack of support, the fear of judgement and their own expectations of me. But I like students to see me like they see themselves and that is as a learner.

The second delivery still skirted on the overly raw emotion and a massive case of the stage frights. But they got to witness me manage my speech and I imagine they felt a little more ease at knowing they aren’t alone. And if they didn’t that is okay…What I truly hope they picked up from the speech is it is okay to be who you are even when it is scary.

Because yes I was scared, but guess what I did it and I survived. No tears shed and they know a little more about why I do what I do. And I would easily give myself an A- or B+. So yes my students see me smile. They see me mad. They see me care. They see me cry. In fact, I am quite known for crying when students deliver big on goals I set for them. In fact, I think we were the second week in and a junior whom I had only ever had those two weeks asked me, “Why do you cry so much?” I thought for a minute and quietly said, “Because it matters.”

So yes readers…it matters. The things we do in the world matter even if you aren’t doing it in front of a classroom full of teenagers. Your kids are watching. Your partners are watching. Your friends are watching and your enemies are watching. Show them it matters every single day by being you.

I am okay with not knowing everything and being the student. -MR

The land of no where.

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This blog post probably won’t be particularly exciting. It is something that I continue to carve my niche into. I have been a dual credit college instructor for the last 5 years. And actually is probably more like 7 because when I was on campus I never had a class that didn’t have a high school student sitting in it. I also am sort of a unicorn because I also hold a license for  teaching grades 5-12 grade high school language arts. I am literally standing in the middle of  bridge. Sometimes I feel like the gatekeeper and other times I feel like the usher.

But most of the time I am from the land of no where. I am affiliated with and represent a university that I teach for. I also represent and teach for a public magnet high school and I remember dual credit existing when I was in high school, so I often have to ask myself why is it that dual credit programs seem to still be such an anomaly. To one side my program is likely the enemy because my courses take dollars from their campuses and I am just a high school teacher. To the other side I didn’t go through a formal education college program so I lack some sort of training in classroom management and human behavior.

So I am petitioning for a new role and that is the one of a dual credit instructor because honestly my role is different than both of those. The reality is there are kids sitting in high school classrooms that need and are ready for more, so why shouldn’t we give them more? Do they not deserve the challenge of a high school college classroom because they haven’t reached a traditional age of a college student set many years ago? My answer is they do deserve more.

Or what about the student who is traditionally targeted for dual credit high school programs? The ones who are first generation. The ones who never even could utter the word college because it just wasn’t something they thought possible. The one who is often in an under served population or lacking in resources in their community. Yes let’s talk about them for a minute. No books in their home. There is usually not talk of tomorrow let alone college. Dual credit programs breath life back into those communities and provide opportunity where there once was not. That is not a bad thing.

Yes you could say I am cheap labor I suppose because I am just an adjunct or I am not a real professor. Or you can say I am cheap labor because the government provides incentives for students to utilize dual credit programs in high school. But the reality is dual credit teachers and programs are providing a college education to students who need and want this and deserve it. Why does it matter where it happens?

What happens in my classroom looks exactly the same as it did when my office was housed on a campus and not a high school classroom. And the education experts that say I don’t understand classroom management or human behavior are welcome to sit in my classroom any day they want. My classroom runs pretty amazingly. My students are learning just as much as their adult counterparts did in my instruction. My expectations in my classroom are the exact same as they were when my email address has an .edu behind it. The one real issue that no one can truly understand is what faces a dual credit student. But I can try and I do and have been.

They have the same will and possible want of any student. But the reality is we are talking about a 16-18 year old taking a college class in high school. I have to walk the tight rope of capability. But guess what folks…that looks similar in a college classroom. Their needs are different yes. But it doesn’t come from watered down curriculum or a non-credentialed instructor. I hold a BA and MA in English. I am also 3/4ths of the way to an MA in Communication. So yea I have the credentials.

I will continue to make the argument the best people to understand where a dual credit student comes from  is a dual credit instructor. Especially  who understand who they are teaching. That’s me. But more than anything I will continue to be an advocate for my students and the people I teach with because ultimately we are the ones who are continuing to carve out this space where we are. The one where we aren’t just high school teachers, or college instructors trying to teach high school.

MR, Instructor to some Amazing High School College Students

 

Today I am grateful for…

ENTRY # 1 

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Yes boys and girls and whoever else you want to be…you changed my life in so many ways. But no boys and girls, I won’t share specifics ever of my students. That isn’t just for me, it is for you. You didn’t ask to be published and I didn’t ask for permission, so if and when I share about my classroom experiences typically they are very broad and definitely not identifiable.

But I decided this summer to write more. Much, much more. Much like Stella, I seemed to have gotten my groove back and lost about 75-80lbs. The one groove I didn’t manage to find is my writing self. I hardly blog anymore. I rarely creatively write. And when I stop all of that, I lose bits and pieces of myself.

Alas comes, “Today I am grateful for…” Entry # 1. It is solely dedicated to the students who walked into my school four years ago. Not just that…they walked into my classroom and changed my life forever. I want to be real clear here because like any parent (or teacher) you always hear, “You like them better…” And that would never be the case.

I once was asked if there were ever a student I have had that I have hated. The answer is an easy no. I have  loved every single student that has ever crossed the threshold to my door. The first class is like your first child. You both walk into something completely blind having no idea what you are actually doing or if it will even work. But somehow each of you have blind faith in where the road leads.

My graduating seniors (even the ones who left) took as big of a risk as I took (maybe more) on our school. We were innovative, cutting edge and a big FAT risk. My risk was not as cringe worthy because if the school failed I could go back to teaching college and move on. They couldn’t go back and get their education back.

But the reality has hit and the goal we all strove for has arrived. In a week from tomorrow you will walk across the stage. Your parents will cry, your friends will cheer. Your families will beam with pride. Our fearless leaders and creators will feel affirmed.

But me. I am just a teacher. I didn’t build this legacy and it wasn’t my idea. It was just something I read about in a textbook and I felt the need and calling to pursue. So what I feel on this day is grateful for each and everyone of you for your blind faith not just in our school, but in me.

I was book smart in the ways of teaching high school kids college, but in no way was I life smart. You were patient and kind and recognized this was a part of my dream too. You helped to make it a reality.  The students who walk into my room every single day are an amazing opportunity for me to pursue what I love. Teaching writing. But you gave me that first chance (and if I am honest probably the first six or seven), so thank you!

As you all head your separate ways just know you will always and forever be a part of the “E gang”. It started as survival, but it ended with love. You are amazing people and I want you to go out and write and tell your stories. Best of luck to you my class of 2016! You will always be loved by Mrs. E (Eich) and today I am grateful for you!

I teach college speech. That means that I get to teach the crescendo ending to a speech and no one had that better than Martin Luther King Jr. and every semester I play his, “I have been to the mountain top” speech  because there is no speech better to create a movement than that one. You know how I know? Because every single time I play it my students af7979c306be6eecd0850783f3c5bc30transform into action. I see engaged faces and eyes, reactions to each and every single word and the build up always creates movement. Movement that seems and feels unintentional with the most intention. I love watching it and I love that still after all this time this speech can insight such a response.

But still today we struggle with the same issues. The same prejudices. It is still ugly and we still have miles to go. It seems so simple to me and I wonder where things get complicated. Just a minute ago as I replayed this speech for my girls to hear (yes I am that mom) my youngest said to me.

“Mom, he just had a dream. Not the kind you have night. The kind where everyone matters no matter what. They are all special no matter their skin color, favorite color, hair color or the way they talk.”

Why can it not be that simple. Sometimes it seems as if we have gone backwards and hate breeds stronger in our hearts and minds. And I don’t know how others cope, but my one true method will always be with love. I have seen it change and move mountains in the way MLK talked about in this speech.

Maybe one day.

 

And I do. (Teacher Life)

The longer I have been a teacher the more I have realized that sometimes my job is to sit back and listen. It isn’t to always talk at you or to you. Sometimes you need me to hear the words you think no one actually hears. The words that are sometimes hard to hear you say.

I want to stop you. I want to say, “I am afraid for you.” But you don’t need that from me in that moment. You need to to smile and hug you and tell you, “You can do this. It will be hard, but I believe in you.” And I do.

Sometimes on your path I am finding I am your last stop or the stop off to the next one. education-inspiration-quotes-11-638But most of the time I just sit praying, that you hear my words that you can and do deserve better in this world. I want to follow you on your path, so you know someone is there and has your back for those moments of doubt. You would look back and I would be standing there smiling and shaking my head yes.

But there is a time when that is no longer my role. There is a time when I have to watch you jump off that cliff and wonder if you will drop or fly and I hold my breath as I wait. The wait never gets easier or less emotional.

The reality is that I know some of you will fall and I will wonder if I did enough to offer you a safety net. I will question if I played a role. But most of the time that is my path impeding on your path and I begin to recognize we all have different paths for our lives and we all need the time and space to find them.

But I can’t lie and say as your teacher I am not scared for you. The world is hard and cruel, but in that hardness sometimes there are just some absolutely breathtaking rewards. Sometimes they are people, sometimes they are moments and sometimes they are just a fleeting thought that corrects your path.

My biggest hope is that once you reach your destination and you see your growth and change I hope that you still see me standing there as you look back reminding you, “You can do this. It will be hard, but I believe in you.” And I do. 

I don’t expect you to be like me but…

About one day a week I make a pointed effort to take a long walk. It usually is between 4.5-5 miles. On this walk I listen to TED talks. I love TED talks. I have used TED talks in my classroom since the beginning. The fun part is you usually can tell my mood by the TED talk I seek out. Sometimes I listen to TED Talk Radio Podcast and sometimes I just listen through the TED talk app.

Last week and the week before was all about bettering yourself and the cool things people in the world were doing. The lady who created a formula for finding her Mister Right was by far one of the best and most entertaining. I sat thinking what a smart lady and it worked…she found him!

But today was all about Education. I can tell I am slowly transitioning myself back to the classroom because the last two weeks if it said “education” I rolled my eyes and moved passed. But the ones I listened today were incredibly motivating and inspiring. I had some that made me laugh and some that made me cry. But I have to share and I mostly am sharing if you are involved with children you should watch these few.

The first I listened to was Ken Robinson’s “Do Schools Kill Creativity?”  I have seen this Ted Talk making the rounds and theSir-Ken-Robinson-TED-Talk-Schools-Kill-Creativity titled peeved me off because I purposefully try and keep creativity alive and well in my classroom. In fact, so much it scares my students sometimes. They don’t know what to do with it. So when I hear that sentiment about public education I get my feathers ruffled because not all educators kill creativity. But today I guess my mood was mellow so I took a listen. And thankfully I agreed with all he had to say. The best story he had was about the choreographer who created Cats and Phantom of the Opera and her story of how she couldn’t concentrate in a regular classroom and her mom took her to doctor. They confirmed her concentration was minimal at best. They didn’t diagnose her with a disorder or give her a pill. But he left the room, turned a radio on and took mom in the hallway to see what would happen. She began to dance. He told Mom, “Take her to a dance school.” And look what she went on to do because someone recognized her needs. His talk was pretty humorous especially when he was talking about academics. I highly recommend because his argument was certainly valid that classrooms need to cater to more than just the math and language.

The next was from TED series for youth, Malcolm London, “High School Training Ground” and it was a poem written about being a high school student and I know I could hear the words of my students in his poem. The constant wondering why this is important and needing more than just a bunch of adults telling you it is important. The need for understanding why it is important.

Or there was Pearl Arrendondo, “From Gangland Daughter, to Star Teacher” who grew up a gang princess in a poor LA county school with a gang kingpin father. She was sent to the “other” side of town to go to school because her Momma wanted more. When there her teachers gave up on her because she had an attitude. She ended up getting into Pepperdine University and began to teach herself and went back to her poor school and decided to change lives. She couldn’t change them as much as she wanted so she began a school of her own. A school whose concept is not all that different than my own that focuses solely on rigor and relevance with a side of teachers who care. The bold statement they make though that I found intriguing was that for teachers they are only afforded one year contracts. This is pretty common practice I believe. But the unique part about their contracts is there is no guaranteed renewal. For most schools, as I understand it, it is common practice to continue contracts unless something changes in funding or attendance numbers. That isn’t the case for her school. You the kids don’t like you, you don’t come back. I don’t mean they are running it and all get a say. But the overall environment runs itself.

Then there was Ramsay Musallam, “3 Rules to Spark Learning” who is a Chemistry teacher who realized teaching in the traditional manner he had in the passed no longer worked after a serious health condition. He said what I often think which is to not always get on the bandwagon with all the new educational trends, but to foster the love of curiosity that students naturally have and to let their questions drive you. His talk very much agreed with the very first one I listened too.

But last but not least was my most favorite of all. This one had me in tears because this woman spoke to my soul.  Linda Cliatt-Wayman’s “How to Fix a Broken School” touched me so much. This one is probably the one I will take away the most from all of them today. I don’t believe my school is broken, in fact, I think my school fixes what has been broken. That is why I teach there
and that is why I teach. I loved, loved, loved her three pillars of success.

  1. If you are gonna lead, then lead!
  2. So what, now what?
  3. If no one told you they love you today, I love you and I will tomorrow too.

downloadI believe I have been living these since the first moment I stepped into the classroom. Her proclamation that the only way to be a educational leader is to hold your students and those around you to high expectations with nonnegotiables. Things you are not willing to bend on with perseverance, dedication, showing up and doing your best. She has turned around numerous schools from literally down into the ground about to be closed schools to amazing schools making lives different. You can hear 100000 speeches like this in a day and often they can’t back them up, but she did. She backed them up with success stories and data. Proof is in the pudding that kids want to succeed you just have to give them the environment to do so. It is our job to create it. Then let them thrive in it.

If all of that didn’t convince you that she has an amazing message, the passion with which she spoke and the lumps continuously in her throat are the non-verbal ques that she isn’t just talk. She is action.

Needless to say I recommend that you watch a TED talk even if it isn’t about education. They literally have topics that span any interest. It is technologies answer to self help books.

The good kind of stuff.

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Every morning I walk into my classroom and I feel like it is home.  It isn’t that good kind of home to be with my guy or my baby girls. But it is awfully close. To go to work every day and love what you do has meant more to me than I can even verbalize. On my wall I have notes, letters, drawings, and projects if they will stick. My filing cabinets have presents of candles, cards and picture frames that all are just little tiny pieces of my heart and hard work. Each representing a beautiful memory or sentiment. A daily reminder that sometimes we all feel a little small, but we can do big things.

I have no doubt there are millions like me. Teachers who give everything they have and love what they do and carry a passion for the job that is unparalleled. I work with them. They roam my same halls and carry the same passions. The pay isn’t what it should be(it really isn’t in most fields), Sometimes it is draining emotionally and physically and sometimes I do things I don’t necessarily like. But all the time it is and has been my passion. It is what I was meant to do after being a wife and mother.

However, that really isn’t the intended purpose of this post. I made the conscious decision almost six years that I would not share too much info on social media from my students. No identifying markers, no pictures and sometimes that is hard. They are constantly doing amazing things that make my teacher heart swell. They hit walls and then overcome them. Those are things that tell me the sacrifices of my own education and my time were why I am there today.

But for the last month my students and my colleague have been working tirelessly to prepare for a musical. We are doing “You’re a good man, Charlie Brown.” And you say, “so what? Every high school in America has some sort of musical.” And you would be right, so what makes ours special. Well ladies and gentleman our program is still it’s infancy. We are three years in and every thing we have done we have started from scratch.

Any drama program we have had was started from the passion and idea of my colleague who loves theater and me supporting and pushing it as far as I had the agency to do so. We started with a zero balance and zero people. It was her and an idea of two students who I said, “Go talk to her!” We are now into our third production and first musical.

And wow, this one is stretching the limits of our technical knowledge and capabilities.  I have a tech team which is amazing. I have a tech team who learned what took me a couple of months in weeks. We have broken lights, torn auditeria curtains, an old sound board that we peeled the dust off. We have no costume or prop budget. Every little thing we have done we have had to create ourselves. We have had to use the resources and people we have.

What started out as three people and idea has blossomed into a large cast, an even larger stage crew and a tech crew. I can barely get that out without tears in my eyes. These are all kids who had to purchase their own costumes, donate wires to make the tech work and more importantly tireless dedication to something bigger than themselves. We may not be up to Jesus Christ Superstar status yet, but we will get there.

To say I am proud is an understatement, but more than anything I am honored to work with such amazing students and staff who do this on a daily basis. It isn’t just for our drama club. It is a belief in the school community that we are trying to create and the belief that you get out of it, what you put into it. That dear readers is love winning.

“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

One day you just realize

I know it sounds so super cliche or maybe even dare I say dumb, but as I head into the home stretch of my 6th year as an educator I realized I am actually teaching. I mean I know I do this every day, but a lot of times I feel the work of a teacher is kind of like being a slow cooker. The teaching and learning must marry one another another in this tiny pot and you have to wait. You see little strides here and there that help keep you moving and know there is something happening. Sure you could probably pull out grains of truth in standardized testing to show you some growth, but in reality just like the crock pot if you take off the lid it slows things down.

Therefore, it creates this moment that one day you will be sitting back and reflecting on a particular student or lesson plan and realize wow, people learned something from you. I have had the very distinct and unusual pleasure to be reteaching a group of students. I had them as freshman in our building. I had about 60 of them as sophomores and then I had the whole of them again this year multiple times. BAM! How is that for forcing you to reflect? It has given me this amazing ability to look at their fb6a525121caa9721acd2b64b60dd01aamazing growths as humans.

I don’t ever necessarily do this through what politicians hold as the holy grail in education, DATA. But I do it because I know my students. So earlier this week I was thinking about a conversation I carried with a student about The Great Gatsby. Yea so what, I have talked Gatsby with all of my students. The so what moment here and the one that prompted this blog post is the growth I saw in this one particular student wasn’t just normal maturity growth. It was mountains of growth, the kinda of growth that blows you away. Mountains of growth that probably by all accounts statistics (data) would have said would never even happen had things not been absolutely set up with the right amount of support and perseverance.

That kind of magic doesn’t happen by happenstance. It doesn’t happen by accident. It happens because students are receptive to it. It happens because I am never going to give up on a student.  I love an under dog because an under dog has the chance to prove everyone wrong when no one is looking. I was an under dog and I know them. Our program maybe even an under dog. It certainly feels that way sometimes. But under dogs have fight. That have will. They just need one or two people who believe they not only can, but WILL! That takes working with those people and I do.

That is teaching. That is why I do this. And I know I have a tendency to romanticize what it is I do because it is my passion. There is no romanticizing in this story. This is the real deal and something I know that student will look back on and attribute to their success as a person. That isn’t me. That is my student. There are stories like this in classrooms every single day.

But it is proof and it is about so much more than a test or a teacher being accountable. This week education in Indiana probably took one of its biggest hits. And no matter where you stand on the issue, I respect you. What I really want out of it all is to be able to teach in my classroom and not have to constantly prove myself by testing my students to death. But if that is what the State needs to show I am a highly effective teacher then so be it. I am not afraid of those numbers. In fact, I am quite proud of them and I know I should be too.

But they don’t tell the whole story. But you know what will? When my student walks across the stage and not only receives an Academic Honors Diploma but an Associates Degree and heads off to a four year institution.  And none of that will matter because I know they never gave up nor did I and for that sole purpose their lives are infinitely changed. And a tiny sliver of that is shared with me.

From where I sit: Taking research a bit further…

20120802-141021.jpgI have been in public education for five years and I feel the constant need to analyze data almost daily. I know that sometimes data is a naughty word in education. However, I don’t always believe it to be so. I have worked in a few different fields. I started working at Dominos Pizza as a teenager and I worked with data there. At 16, I started as as a neighborhood knocker. We went to neighborhoods that had high order yields when we left coupons on their doors. We also analyzed orders and how often they came in and when they came in. That is using data and no one really poo poos that. It is good business.

I then worked for my dad in his business. He used data there to determine the amount of time it took me to clean an apartment or clean up a common area of an apartment complex. If we took too long he had to make changes or if we went too quick he had to check quality. Again, that was good business.

Then I worked at flower shop where I did all the accounts payable and receivable and that whole job was data. Who has paid their flower bills, who did not? When do most orders come in and from who? And what wire service do you use most? Or what credit card service do you use? Can we get certain things cheaper? I then carried a similar position with Delta Faucet eventually moving into customer service where I was responsible to handle point of purchase printed materials so I analyzed orders and shipments and usage there too. It is just good business.

The one thing that is different in my job now is that we are dealing in humans. We are placing data on humans which sometimes gives the false idea of manufacturing and this idea that we are manufacturing a learner and doer. And yes in a sense we are. But humans are so very complex that really that data is only a snap shot in time and in the next minute it can change. I see it daily and by the minute.

But what is important here is that I get my students who are almost considered adults to do something with the data they retrieve. A lot of my job is about teaching kids how to say the things they want to say. That may be in writing a research paper, a literary paper, a speech or a presentation. For so long that has meant finding statistics and and plopping them in a paper and citing it and then trying to explain it.

Well in my classes this semester I have taken it a step further. I chose to do this because you have too! Students can longer be prepared for college and/or jobs and just give someone an answer they found on google. That doesn’t work. They need to see rhetoric as more than a commercial or  putting words out into the universe. They need to understand why they are and how they are.

infographic

I have chosen to do that this year with infographics. I rolled it out with my student publications kids first because it is a smaller section of kids and I have a bit more freedom with the curriculum. The first part of our unit focused on what an infographic is and rhetorically analyzing so very many infographics. They loved the visual rhetoric and analyzing it. They truly became experts on the visual aspects of what appeals in an infographic, but in turn they also became experts at looking at the sources (or lack there of with some) from the creators of the infographics.

From there they had to do some sort of research on whatever they wanted. It had to be both primary and secondary research on their topic and then create an infographic containing their information. Essentially, they had to put words into action. Their critiques above assisted in creating amazing infographics. They were achieving something that they had no idea. They were not only analyzing data, but they finding their own data and doing their own primary research and thereby becoming the experts on their topics. The project was such a success that I know I want to carry it over into my other classes.

I know some people dog this generation of students with being lazy and I truly don’t believe that to be true. I think they are innovators and want to and can see more than the generations before them. For an analogy, they understand the research paper, but see it as 2 dimensional. They don’t just want that 2D version of research anymore. They want to see the 3D version.

Yes data is bad sometimes. I would never argue that when dealing with the real lives of students who bring all sorts of stuff to my classroom. But they also need to understand that data has a value. They just need to be shown that it is just a number. It is a point in time and represents that time and not them.