Part of the Process

Thoughts on becoming a teacher.

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Food Journal Reflection

I have been keeping a food, sleep and activity journal for the past two weeks. I’ve kept food journals before, so I wasn’t really expecting any surprises. In the past, when I have kept a food journal, I had some set goal in mind (for example, losing weight). This time was different, because for the first week I didn’t have any goals in mind. After the first week, I analyzed my food journal with the intention of setting a few goals that would help me lead a healthier lifestyle.

I noticed several things from analyzing my first week. For one, I was eating a lot of desserts. I had something sweet almost every single day (sometimes more than once). Another thing I noticed was that several of my meals were lacking in protein. When protein was included, it was too often a highly processed vegetable protein (like soy crumbles or veggie turkey patties). I think the thing that surprised me the most was keeping a sleep log. I love sleep. I like to go to bed early and am pretty good at making sure that I do. I thought that I was getting at least eight hours of sleep a night, but when I kept track I noticed a lot of six hour nights. Six hours a night just doesn’t cut it for me. My activity level was also sorely lacking, often the only exercise I was getting was a very short walk in the morning. I don’t want to be completely negative, because I think I make plenty of healthy choices too. For example, I make sure to eat lots of vegetables, always drink lots of water and eat mostly whole grains.

Although I found lots of room for improvement in my lifestyle choices, I decided to pick two areas to work on. I decided I really needed to make physical activity a priority in my life. I was disappointed to notice a few days where I didn’t do anything active. The second thing I decided to work on was making sure I was getting adequate protein, with a particular focus on less processed forms of protein.

Keeping these two goals in mind, I embarked on a second week of journaling. I made a point to be more active and was successful in sticking with that goal. I’ve been walking, but am now planning on starting a running program to get even more of the benefits of exercise. I did okay with the protein goal, adding beans, eggs and tofu to substitute for some of the more processed protein choices. I want to stay committed to both of these goals in the future. Something that contributed to my success was letting my partner know what I was working on. He was supportive and we often went on evening walks together.

This whole process has been an interesting one for me.  I try to eat healthy, try to exercise on a regular basis and follow a vegetarian diet. I have always perceived myself as having a healthy lifestyle. Seeing black and white evidence, in the form of my journal, is suggesting otherwise. I have allowed myself to get caught up in the “I’m too busy” mindset. I’m too busy to go grocery shopping, so I’ll just eat food that I have in my pantry (instead of fresh fruits and vegetables). I’ve done the same thing with exercise, which is the worst choice to make. I know from personal experience that in busy and stressful times, exercise is the best thing I can do for myself. Exercise just makes me feel better, mentally and physically. This whole process has really driven home how my perceptions can be different from what is actually happening. I also need to appreciate the importance of taking care of myself, no matter how busy I feel.

Food journaling in the classroom provides so many engaging opportunities. I think my students could benefit from the same process of clarity that I went through.There are many ways keeping food journals provides a way to plan interdisciplinary lessons. Students could take sections of their journals to work on math concepts such as fractions, percentages and making graphs. We could tie science in by talking about vitamins, minerals and other dietary terms. These activities would be more meaningful, because they are grounded in our lives. Just as I benefited from the support of my partner while working towards a goal, I think having a supportive classroom environment would help students reach their goals. As a class we could set a few goals and work on them together. Having a community behind you supports accountability and also provides a lot of motivation.


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More on Microteaching

Two more groups presented their lessons today, this time on issues of drug prevention, peer pressure and saying no. I have gained a lot from these sessions. It is helpful to see how others design a lesson and how they interact with students in the classroom.

The part that I have learned the most from is debriefing as a group at the end. I love to hear what people thought worked and the things that could be changed. Hearing all these perspectives have helped me able to critique instruction at a higher level and think about the implications for my own practice.

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Lifelong Learning

The reading for class today was an excerpt from Mindset by Carol Dwek. This reading had me thinking about my own learning and how I view others. I think that I am somewhere between a “fixed mindset” and a “growth mindset”. I know I have thought to myself, “Oh, I’m just not very good at that”. I’d like to be more mindful of how I’m thinking, and keep a positive attitude about struggle and failure.I kept thinking about this as we moved on to the next activity, involving a human brain, lungs, livers and hearts. I am pretty squeamish, so I wasn’t delighted at the prospect of handling organs. (Full disclosure: I don’t even like the idea of handling a chicken breast, we’re talking high level squeamish here.) But after the discussion we just had, I told myself, maybe I’m not comfortable with this now, but I can learn to be more comfortable. This is a much better feeling than just writing myself off as unable to participate in activities where I feel uncomfortable.

One of the key parts of this reading for me was to be mindful of the way we talk to children, especially regarding praise. Several years ago, at the early child care center I work at we made a concentrated effort to stop saying “Good job” to kids. It was tough at first, its almost an involuntary response for a lot of people. I have tried to replace “good job” with phrases like, “You did it!” and “You worked really hard on that”. This sends a message to the child that they can achieve things through hard work and that their validation isn’t coming from an adult telling them what they did was “good.”

We also talked about Positive Discipline today, which is the philosophy I follow in my preschool classroom. I’m looking forward to learning more about how to use these same principles with older students. I like how Positive Discipline empowers children to be more aware of their emotions and the choices they make.

I’m left feeling excited about all the new things I’m going to learn this year and about everything I could accomplish as long as I’m not afraid of a little struggle.

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Jumping Rope and Hula Hooping

I really enjoyed Friday’s class. The microteaching sessions are going really well, its nice to see my fellow classmates in action and to observe and think critically about teaching. We all have a lot to learn from each other.

The second part of the session was great. Not only was it fun to play active games and perform jump-rope and hula hoop relay races, it was great to see health topics integrated with physical movement, team-work, literacy and other skills. These activities had everyone moving, engaged and having a good time. I think the more opportunities we can provide for kids to be active the better. I know I always feel better mentally and physically when I have a more active lifestyle. I’d love to bring activities like these into my future classroom.

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I had my first experience microteaching today. This experience was different than other presentations and projects because as a group we were teaching a lesson to our classmates as if they were 4th graders. I have found myself being nervous at times during the past few quarters while speaking in front of a group, but I think imagining that everyone was in fourth grade helped me. I don’t feel as nervous around kids I guess (or around adults pretending they are kids).

I really enjoyed this experience. There haven’t been a lot of times where I have received immediate feedback on my work, and never from such a large group. I tend to be a bit on the sensitive side and was worried that I would struggle with criticism. I was concerned that I might get my feelings hurt or feel defensive. Instead, I really feel like I valued the feedback we received as a group. Its interesting to hear other people’s perspective on the lesson and some ways we could make it better. I appreciate how respectful the group was while giving constructive criticism. I look forward to becoming a better teacher through this process.

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Issues of Abuse

The workshop we had today, surrounding mandatory reporting and issues of abuse had a lot of tough topics. I thought it was eye-opening to go through different scenarios, especially in terms of the disagreements that arose within the cohort. It is so hard to make a judgment call when you don’t know all the whole story. But, then again, I guess as teacher we are unlikely to have the whole story. We will need to make judgement calls based on what we see and what we know. I think it is especially important to remember that we don’t work alone, we have other teachers and administrators there to support us. I also think its a good idea to be aware of community resources available to help families in need, or at least be able to point families in the direction of someone who can help them.

CPS seems to have a less than flattering reputation with many members of society. I understand why parents would automatically feel upset, offended, embarrassed or angry when they become aware of a CPS referral. But, I believe CPS serves an important role in society by safeguarding children, and also aims to keep families together and connect families to important resources and necessary support systems. I think CPS needs a campaign to help educate people about the support they provide to families and the positive work they perform in our communities.

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Health and Fitness, Day 2

Yesterday we started class with a discussion about what it means to be healthy and how culture shapes the ways we think about health. I think it is important to remember that our own individual perceptions about health aren’t necessarily shared. Last quarter we engaged in a lot of reflection about our values and beliefs and especially about the things that we take for granted. I think issues surrounding health and fitness are another area that require reflection to uncover what our beliefs really are and where they come from. We also have the opportunity to use this as a starting place to learn about health and fitness from different perspectives.
The class discussion really got me thinking about the messages we receive from the media about what healthy looks like and how this affects the way that individuals feel about themselves. I’m looking forward to counteracting some of these messages in my future classroom and helping kids develop positive self-images.I’ve enjoyed the practical aspects of this course so far. I find myself thinking about how the things we discuss and learn about will translate into the classroom.