Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Bike Races, Parents, and The Ride of Life

"You're registered for the athletic training major team!"  "...but I'm an English major?"
This Saturday, at Slippery Rock University, there is a stationary bike race taking place, the Race To Anyplace!  Teams, comprised of 10-12 members, mount their metal steeds and race off to the destination in their mind, all the while raising money for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Although I am very physically fit and active, I am not a big fan of competitions. However, this is an excellent event, and a more than deserving cause, as well as something I've never attempted! Therefore, I, as an English Education major, am proudly racing with the Athletic Training major team in The Race to Anyplace!  While preparing for Saturday, and attempting not to psych myself out too much, I thought back to my younger bike-riding days.

I used to love bike riding.  I would go on multiple mile runs many times a day, looping the neighborhood, the school campus, and the neighboring communities two to three times a day.  I used to be wild, standing on my seat, steering with my feet... I was the epitome of "Look, Mom, no hands!"  

But it wasn't always like that.  I also was the epitome of "DON'T LET GO!  ARE YOU HOLDING THE SEAT?!Everyone remembers seeing that little kid, feet barely touching the pedals, completely turned around in their seat, contorting themselves in an effort to ensure that his or her mom or dad had a firm grip on the bike seat, safely steering them down the road.  I was that kid, often falling off, skinning more knees than normal, leaving scars on my knees, even to this day.  But the important thing is I kept getting back on.  I cried, I yelled at my mom, I was embarrassed, defeated, and hurt... but I always got back on.  It's kind of like life.  Your parents hold on to "the seat" for a long time.  After 18 years, they have to let go.  Hopefully, the training wheels and elbow pads did their trick during your high school years... hopefully, you won't take any terrible tumbles on your own.  Hopefully, you wear a helmet, even though mom and dad aren't around to tell you to do so anymore.  Sure, everyone has bumpy "bike rides" every once in awhile, but if you keep getting back on, keep pushing through the embarrassment and pain you feel from "falling off," eventually you'll be a pro.  Eventually, once you get used to riding down the road of life by yourself, without your parents holding on, you'll be able to stand up on the seat, steer with your feet, pop a wheelie, and yell, "LOOK, MOM, no hands!"

Friday, February 24, 2012

Cellphones, Statistics, and Kids These Days

"When I was a kid, we had to walk three miles in the snow to get to school... uphill both ways!"
When I was a kid, I used to borrow my mom's cellphone if I had an afterschool activity so I could call my house-phone when I was done and get a ride home.  Kids these days have cellphones when they're three.  They use internet at the age of five, and they have social networking profiles fresh out of the womb.  According to our readings in the assigned text for class, Adolescents and Digital Literacies: Learning Alongside Our Students, 55% of teens ages 12-17 have an online social networking profile.  When I was a kid, I had to beg to sign up for a Facebook account at age sixteen, I did not have text messaging until I was seventeen, and I didn't even know what "sexting" was.  Kids these days are completely different.  Society, especially in younger generations, has become so technologically dependent that devoting college classes, like my Writing for Non Print Media class, to utilizing technology in the classroom is completely necessary.  The statistics are rediculous, and always illustrate to me that times are indeed changing.  When I read that all public schools have 100% internet access, and 80% of teens in schools utilize social networking sites, I wonder what it will be like when I'm 80.  My grandparents say things about life in their day, stories filled with hardwork, drive, and dedication.  Will my stories be about living without a cellphone?  Using a house-phone?  Printing pictures from a disposable camera?  When I was a kid...

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Dance Movies, English Majors, and Six Word Stories

For this week's blogs, we were instructed to not freely write about education like usual, but to write about a lesson plan we have learned in class, as well as the class readings.  When reflecting upon the different digital media lessons we have learned so far in the semester, I found myself chuckling, thinking of the movie Save the Last Dance 2.  In one of the opening scenes of this sub-par sequel to one of the greatest dance-movies ever made, Save the Last Dance, Sarah enters her class at Julliard on Hip Hop Theory.  The professor is sick, and a young, handsome "guest lecturer" asks the class to define Hip Hop.  He uses recording equipment and loops the students voices so "Hip Hop is..." plays on repeat.  He fills in the blank each time, creating a rap, saying, "Hip Hop is: rap.  Hip Hop is: funk.  Hip Hop is: R&B.  Hip Hop is: an attitude, a culture."  This goes on for a few minutes, picking up speed, adrenaline, and groove, enticing the class and the viewers of this film.  He then cuts all the music and says, "Hip Hop can be defined with three words: I. Am. Here."  Cut to the class' shocked and awe-filled faces, end scene.

As English majors, we tend to be long winded.  I never intend for my entries to be very long, but somehow you always have to scroll to read the whole thing.  My papers tend to be multiple pages, and my text messages are always obnoxiously lengthy.  It's in our nature.  However, one of the lessons presented in class placed constraints on this habit.  Six Word Stories.  Students get six words to express themselves, as well as a picture.  I love this idea, and I fully intend to use it in my classroom someday.  Sure, ten/ fifteen page research papers are necessary, but so is the ability to make your words count.  You can define Hip Hop with a rap, verses on verses of words attempting to explain the culture, attitude, feeling, and different genres within the term.  Or you can use one sentence, three strong words, and sum up everything: "I am here."  If you could only use six words to describe yourself, your situation, or something in your life, what words would you chose?  You're thinking, aren't you?  Counting?  Six words.  One chance.  Choose wisely.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

THON, Margaret Mead, and College Kids

This weekend, at Penn State University, is THON weekend.  Two of my best friends attend PSU, and I have always been a fan, not of the sports, but of the school spirit that Penn State has been able to foster in its current students, alumni, networks, and business contacts.  Looking at all of the pictures posted to Twitter every so many minutes makes my heart ache in a proud sort of way.  The number of students that participate in THON, as well as the organizational aspects of the event and year long fundraising, is amazing.  Students aren't given much credit these days, and true, a large number of our generation probably doesn't know what's happening at PSU this weekend, or other charity events across the globe, but the fact that this event is organized, funded, and participated in solely by college students blows my mind.  A former Student Council junkie, the logistics of this event amaze me.  There used to be a poster in my Social Studies teacher's room in high school that read: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Mead.  Some college kids may have spent their weekends at home, sick, like me, or out participating in drunken shenanigans, or working multiple jobs, or studying, or maybe... just maybe... some college kids are out there just trying to change the world.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Bullies, Trouble-Makers, and The Class of 2010

"Go ahead, throw it."  "Kara, be careful!"  "Don't worry... he won't throw it."
After reading one of my classmate's blogs, I had one of those movie moments in my head, a flashback as they like to call it in the literary world.  I remembered being a little bad-ass on the playground of my rural, farm-town elementary school.  I can see, in my head, all 60 pounds of little elementary school me, standing up to the big bully throwing basketballs at girls on the playground.  I gave him such attitude, such lip, and I showed no fear.

I used to be quite the trouble-maker in school.  Nothing major, don't get me wrong, and I was a very smart little girl.  However, I was that kid who would slide down the banister leaving the gifted education program, I was that kid, who would talk during class and wind up clapping erasers at the end of the school day.  I was that kid who always took the projects to another level... the "she probably crossed the line, but it's so detailed and accurate I'm not going to do anything about it but shake my head" level.  I was smart, and I was often bored- a dangerous combination.

When I read my classmate's blog about how some individuals think teaching the next generation isn't feasible, I chuckled.  When I was in middle school, I wrote a poem about my class, the class of 2010.  I don't remember the poem, and I don't know that it's saved anywhere, but I remember the title: "The Walls Will Miss Us When We're Gone."  My class was the class labeled as "trouble."  We were "disrespectful."  Our generation was "impossible."  We were "never going to make it."  But, boy were we fun!  We did creative projects, we twisted assignments around, putting a new spin on them.  We took discussions too far, keeping the teachers on their toes.  We made our own spirit days, and we made the years that we traveled the hallways interesting.  It's kids like us, the "trouble-makers," the "bored smart kids," the "Danny Zukos" and "Ren MacCormacks" of public education, that excite meI can't wait to teach this next "unteachable" generation.  And to all those who say it's impossible... challenge accepted.  And to public school walls everywhere, bored because the students aren't as "troublesome" as the Class of 2010 was... don't worry.  We're coming back... as teachers.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Assigned Seats, Courage, and Rules to Live By

There are rules I think every college student should live by: always come to class early, and never turn down someone who has the courage to ask you out (unless they're really creepy) Today, both of these rules collided.  Sitting in my assigned lecture-hall seat, I was surprised to see a boy walking towards me.  He sat down in the chair next to me, which was not his seat.  An avid rule follower and attendance policy freak, I immediately panicked.  "Um... that's not your seat?  Are you sitting there now or something?"  He proceeded to tell me that he remembered and really enjoyed my answer to a question in class weeks before, and asked for my number.  Meanwhile, the sedated stampede that is hungover and about-to-be-late college students was pouring into the lecture hall, and this boy's lack of regard for the assigned-seating attendance policy was causing quite the traffic jam.  Not one to enjoy causing a scene, being rude, or having my face turn red for longer than necessary, I quickly granted this boy's wish and sent him back to his seat.  Having the next 75 minutes to reflect on this scenario, I realized that it was a prime "college lesson."  Good things happen when you come to class early.  Good things happen when you have courage.  Good things happen when you participate in class.  We come to college to get an education, good grades, a degree, and a future... but you can learn outside of the classroom too.  Hey, you can even learn inside the classroom, before the bell rings.  You just need to have a bit of courage.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Sandlots, Night Class, and Mind-Games

"All little kids play baseball or softball, whatever.  You play on the sandlot, and you play in Little League.
...what's more fun?  Little League...or the sandlot?"
This question was posed by one of my professors last night in my English Language Learners night class.  For two and a half hours we discussed many topics, but all I could think of was this weird WWE match going on in my head between The Sandlot and Little League.  Our professor, an eccentric man known to make outlandish statements, stated that, "We [adults] feel the need to ruin everything.  We can't just let kids play a pick-up game in the sandlot... it's gotta be organized!  We need rules!  Uniforms!  We need Little League."  For the entire class I was weighing the pros and cons in my mind.  Sure, I love rules, and Lord knows I love a good uniform- matching is my favorite.  But are these really my thoughts?  Or have I been trained by society- creativity beat out of me?  Waiting outside of my Young Adult Literature class earlier in the day, I heard students discussing how they were encountering problems reading young adult novels.  They felt they over-analyze, over-think, and nit-pick every detail of every assigned piece of work.  They were the Little League team, forced to play in The Sandlot.  Confused by the freedom, not used to using creativity, having forgotten that it comes naturally, these twenty year old adults stood outside of class uneasily, young adult novels in hand.  I found the scene interesting at the time, but after my night class when my mental WWE match began, I reflected back to this scene.  Maybe society does beat The Sandlot out of us as we age.  Maybe Little League has to happen at some point.  But is it necessary?  I think classrooms, college, and the world overall would be a much more interesting and enjoyable place if we all just "stopped thinking" every once in awhile.  Sure, you need to think to learn, but you also need to relax, have fun, and trust yourself.  After all,  
"If you weren't thinking so much, you would've caught the ball in the first place."

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Camp, Luck, and Lecture-Halls

"I won't grow up, I don't wanna wear a tie, or a serious expression, in the middle of July!  'Cause growing up means it would  be, beneath my dignity to climb a tree!  I'll never grow up, never grow up, never grow up... not me!"
Home Sweet Happy Place
For many years, I have spent my summers living in a tent for three months at the over-night Girl Scout summer camp: Camp Redwing.  Sitting in a darkened lecture-hall, watching the snow whip through the bare trees that line campus, a monotone lecturing professor drones on and on, and I find myself daydreaming of Redwing.  When you work as a camp counselor, you essentially sign up to be a kid for three months.  Granted, you have to be responsible for 30+ five year old girls 24 hours a day for weeks at a time, but working at camp requires much more than than responsibility.  To work at a summer camp, you must be willing to be the example.  You have to sing songs louder than the campers, hop happily out of bed when the bell rings at seven am, volunteer to jump in the river, and smile at all times.  "Camp," as they tell you in training, "is a happy place."  Camp is like Disney World.  It's an escape; it's a cliche.  Although camp always has been and always will be educational, camp is made into a "happy place" by those "examples" who work and live there.  It is this kind of passion and "happy place" mantra that is missing from education.  The classes you've really enjoyed, think back... they were most likely taught by the teachers who sang the songs louder and hopped happily out of bed to rescue campers from spiders, metaphorically speaking.  All teachers should be like this.  If you think about it, as teachers, we never have to grow up.  I won't be wearing a tie in the middle of July... I'll be on summer vacation, just like my students.  Most likely, I'll be working at a summer camp.  That's why this job is the best.  Not because we get summers off, but because we don't have to grow up.  The whole point of our job is to change lives, to educate, to mentor, and to make our classrooms a "happy place," just like camp, for each and every one of our students.  As I sat in my 75 minute long darkened lecture-hall class this morning, all I could think of were ways to improve my professor's class.  "How does he think this is engaging?  Doesn't he see people sleeping?  Does he not notice the little glow of cellphones cleverly hidden behind notebooks and under desks?"  Maybe my professor doesn't care...maybe he forgot how lucky he is to have the job he has... or maybe he just needs to go back to summer camp and see how its done.