Art, my first passion

When I was a kid I wanted to be an artist. My mom got me watercolor pencils, I always had a coloring book and a sketchpad. I am terrible at drawing, absolutely terrible as people in my BLOCK class now realize. However, I loved art and I remember setting up an easel and paining and even those weren’t the greatest I still loved doing it. I still love to draw and paint even though I don’t do it as often as I should.

I was homeschooled so I never really did take an elementary art class and the art teacher at my old high school was mean, rude and never gave enough time, so I never wanted to take an art class with her. I moved as a junior and then it never fit in my schedule even though I knew BMac was an awesome teacher. As a freshman in college I was encouraged to take an Art History course by my amazing advisor and it was and still is my favorite course I ever took (there were two parts but I count them as one).

What does this have to do with anything? Well my cousin married an art teacher. She is amazing. She has a FB page where she posts what her students are doing in class and this last week she shared their sewing projects. They drew a picture and then sewed it. How cool is that! She is constantly posting awesome amazing projects that her students are doing and her classroom looks amazing. I wish I had a teacher like her. Someone so passionate about what they are teaching that even kids who probably don’t like art that much do because they get to sew! They get to create their own art and bring it to life! She loves what she does.

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I got my placement the other day for student teaching and my first placement is middle school. I have never observed in a middle school nor really thought about teaching middle school (actually that’s a lie but I lean more toward high school when I picture my future classroom). It makes me nervous because I don’t know what is expected in a middle school classroom. My cousin’s wife teaches K-12. I couldn’t even begin to imagine teaching all grades and keeping them all straight but she has such passion and it shows throughout all aspects of her life. I love looking through her FB page and seeing how proud she is of her students, seeing their art, and seeing how far they have come. I want that passion. I have that passion but I so want it to show through all the time. It should show through for all teachers. As an English teacher everyone assumes I teach grammar and writing but I do so much more. I love reading so much and I want to instill that in my students. I want them to become stronger better writers and I want them to succeed. Every student in my class could get an “A”. It is possible if only I am passionate enough and care enough. My students don’t have to walk out of my classroom remembering proper grammar (I still don’t) but I want them to walk out strong readers and writers who know I care deeply about them and their learning.

-A

Check out Tranda’s FB page: RepCoArtRoom

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If only, if only I could rewrite Pamela

If I could rewrite Pamela it would be extremely different. No stories about almost rape, rape, violations of the worst kind, young ladies hiding in dressing rooms crying because they feel like no one is defending them.

Pamela would be the story of a young woman who upon finding herself in a compromising position runs away, finds herself a nicer family to work for, finds a nice man, settles down has some kids and lives happily ever after. Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way because Richardson decided that he was going to write a novel about a young woman who is constantly in fear that she will lose her “virtue” and is constantly being assaulted on all sides from men who essentially just want to use her.

Pamela writes “Save then, my Innocence, good God, and preserve my Mind spotless: and happy shall I be to lay down my worthless Life, and see an End to all my Troubles and Anxieties!” Pamela could care less about her own life; all she cares about is preserving her virtue which at this point has it really been preserved? Sure she hasn’t lost her virginity in the sense that her hyman hasn’t been penetrated, she has never had physical intercourse. However, she has been assaulted many times without her consent and so at this point I honestly think some of her virtue has been lost. She resists every time and abstains from participating so she is still pure of heart but in the same way that children who have been sexually abused may never have had physical intercourse but things have been done to them so that they are no longer really that innocent about sex. It leaves marks and honestly I just cannot imagine Pamela wishing to marry this man. The things he says about her and the way he treats her; he kidnapped her! Instead of letting her go he kidnaps her, makes a creepy lady watch her every move, and then calls her terrible names in letters that he writes to the creepy lady. It’s awful and yet somehow through all of this Pamela’s reward for protecting herself from sexual assault is to marry the man who is assaulting her. No wonder people wrote parodies, certainly I would and mine would involve Pamela beating the crap out of Mr. B- and then living a happy contented life with someone who wasn’t trying to rape her.

This whole protecting her virtue idea is perpetuated by her parents who when upon finding out she is safe and who kidnapped all they have to say or more accurately her father has to say is “Persist, my dear Daughter, in the same excellent Course; and we shall not envy the highest Estate, but defy them to produce such a daughter as ours.” The first thing I would do when finding out my child has been kidnapped would be to inform the authorities but in the event that I am poor and the kidnapper is rich I still would not write back “Good for you not getting raped. Surely you will be rewarded in heaven for keeping your virtue intact.” I would be concerned how they were faring and yes I would be upset if they got raped but honestly I would care more about them actually being alive then I would be by the fact that her virtue is still intact. It reminds me of Rapunzel and how mother Gothel was obsessed with Rapunzel’s hair and making sure the hair was safe. She didn’t care about Rapunzel as a person and the same goes for Pamela’s parents. Such an emphasis is placed upon her virtue and not her safety. They are fine with the fact she is kidnapped and in danger as long as she doesn’t get raped; she’ll be fine, she’ll come home, everything will be ok, but if she gets raped and loses her virtue then all hell will break loose. At least this is how I feel about what is happening.

I would never want to be sexually assaulted. Nobody does. But if it happened I am not going to end my life because some sick piece of garbage decided to rape me. I know when this was written such a high emphasis was placed on a woman’s virtue but the real message it is sending is that it is ok to marry your rapist/person who assaulted you because for some sick reason that is your reward for defending yourself against them. This books gives me all the feels and I just want to protect Pamela from Mr. B-.

-A

Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol

Anya fell down a well and picked up a ghost. So begins the story of a friendship between a girl who never got to live her life and a girl who is just trying to blend in.

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Anya is from Russia and through years of practice she finally feels like a normal American teenager except for when she falls down a well and picks up a new friend. Emily died almost a century ago and she has been stuck in the well ever since. Anya is glad to have a new friend that can sneak answers on tests and get the cute boy in school to notice her but when Emily starts ignoring the fact that Anya’s crush is just a jerk and starts terrorizing Anya’s little brother that Anya decides Emily must go.

This is a great coming of age graphic novel about a girl trying to fit into a high school that makes fun of her Russian roots and learning to find herself. It’s a fun quirky quick read that will make you laugh and make your eyebrows shoot up in surprise.

-A

Stitches by David Small

If you have ever read A Child Called It then the story of Stitches will not come as a shock. It’s the story of David and his childhood, which was messed up. I read this graphic novel in 45 minutes because that’s how much words there are compared to pictures. It’s such a powerful story.

Small’s family doesn’t communicate and when those emotions get bottled up inside they have to come out eventually and not usually in a good way. Small had a messed up childhood and he portrays it beautifully through pictures. A picture is worth a thousand words and in the case of Stitches it’s very true.

Memoirs focus on the memories not the events and in Small’s case they aren’t the happiest of memories but our childhood’s always make or break us. In David Small’s case it made him who he is today.

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Pamela…(insert angry face)

I first encountered Pamela last fall when I took a British Literature Survey course. I didn’t read the selected reading of Pamela and now that I have to for my novels class I am just angry. I am only 54 pages in (and I should be much farther by this point…) but I am so mad because I know how this book ends already and I can’t believe it ends that way.

This particular novel is told in epistolary style, in which a fifteen year old girl is writing letters home to her parents about her life working as a servant for her mistress. Well her mistress dies and her son, who is now Pamela’s master, decides he will keep Pamela on as a servant. That would be ok if he wasn’t secretly keeping her on because he wanted to seduce her. This is the whole premise of the novel. Mr. B- (as he is called) just wants to sleep with Pamela but Pamela wants to protect her virtue so all her letters home to her parents are about Mr. B- attempting to either rape or grope her and all her parents send back is “protect your virtue Pamela”, absolutely no concern about the fact this man is sexually assaulting her as long as her “virtue” in tact. It makes me so angry because she is young, vulnerable, and everyone knows what is happening and yet no one does anything about it because they really can’t. There is another lady/maybe servant in the house, Mrs. Jervis, who is essentially Pamela’s protector but when Pamela writes a letter home to her parents complaining about Mr. B-‘s behavior, he finds the letter and tells Pamela that he can’t have her ruining his reputation. His reputation? What about the fact he almost raped her and she barely got away then curled up in a ball and cried because she was traumatized about what happened?

What really makes me angry is the fact at the end of the book Pamela marries Mr. B-. She essentially marries the man who has been sexually assaulting her this whole time. It’s like someone knowingly marrying their rapist. It’s disgusting and yet for some Samuel Richardson (the author) thinks that this ok because her reward for protecting her virtue is marriage. Except she’s marry the very man who tried to steal her virtue. If she was marrying someone else, anyone else in my opinion, I wouldn’t have minded because at least she was getting away from Mr. B-. Instead she marries him and who knows what he is like now that he has legal access to Pamela.

I just feel so bad for Pamela because being married to the man who tried to sexually assault you for five hundred pages is not a reward.

-A

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

I should just start another category for Graphic Novels because here is another one! I heard about this book a year ago and kept putting off reading it until I found the copy my mom had lent in my room in a box full of books. I could not put it down and honestly who wouldn’t rather read a graphic novel than A Room of One’s Own?

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Astrid and Nicole have been friends forever but when Astrid signs up for Roller Derby Camp and Nicole signs up for dance camp with Astrid’s arch nemesis Astrid must learn to find her own way in the world without her best friend.  I connected a lot with Astrid because I always used to hide in the shadow of my friends and assume they would be with me all throughout life. That isn’t the case as Astrid learns as she skates into roller derby camp all by herself.

Just like everyone else Astrid wants to be the best at Roller Derby as soon as she arrives. When she finds herself skating around the edge of the rink holding onto the side, she almost gives up but when she discovers Rainbow Bite’s locker (her roller derby role model) she decides to stick around a little longer. It isn’t until Astrid takes a tumble into a bush that she is determined to stick it out and practice as hard as she can to become jammer.

This is a delightful graphic novel about growing up and finding yourself outside of your friends. It has a delightful ending and you’ll find yourself smiling the whole time you read this graphic novel.

-A

Ownership over education

When students have autonomy over their education they will be motivated to work.

One of my biggest frustrations with my job is when my managers try to tell me how to do my job. I know how to do my job and yet I am constantly under scrutiny because for some reason I am not trusted. This is how we treat students. We are constantly assessing, correcting and breathing over their shoulder (sometimes quite literally) because we don’t trust that they are actually learning. Why is that? It could be a combination of things: lack of interest in what they are learning, they have more pressing matters on their mind than school, or they simply don’t think education/learning is important. They’ve never been given autonomy over their learning. They have never been asked to learn on their own and instead teachers spoon feed them what they want them to know. We then test them telling them they are either smart or dumb because we can’t reach every student, right? Wrong. It is possible to reach every student and if we can’t we aren’t doing our job as educators. Every student that walks in the door has a right to an education and it is our job to give it to them.

If students don’t think what they are learning is important they aren’t going to care. They may try for the “A” because in their eyes that is important but they aren’t going to actually try to learn. I was never very good at math and as the years went on I just kept getting left behind because we had to make it through the textbook by the end of the year and I was the “acceptable loss”.  At first I really did try to understand but by the time I got to Algebra II I just tried to learn enough to get a B and move on. I didn’t care about learning anymore just as long as I could the B.

I learned a lot about intrinsic motivation in a communications course I took and the research is there but no one will listen to it. It comes down to trust because we, as a society don’t think we can live in a utopian society. We don’t think people or students are intrinsically motivated. Clearly they have to be motivated by something else to learn but then are they really learning anymore? Students are doing what the teacher wants to see but that isn’t learning. They are regurgitating what they have been told and moving on. They are not engaging in their own learning. Some kids are great at faking it and I was one of those kids. There were very few courses in high school I was actually interested in. I worked hard in those but in the other courses I just did what I knew would get me the “A”.

One of my old high school teachers runs a flipped classroom. His students teach the lesson everyday because that involves them in their own learning. He doesn’t stand up in front of the class and lecture. He has them involved in their own learning. This is what we need to be doing as teachers. We need to involve students in their own learning. It starts with trust and time. In the world today of instant results which are only a click away we expect that from students. We are so focused on the now and not the end of the year. Parents, administration and the school board want to see instant results because learning should be instant shouldn’t it? Real learning takes time. It takes time and dedication and not teachers who are struggling to get to the end of the book by the end of the year because that is what is required of them.

For real learning to take place students need time and they need autonomy.

-A