Friday, November 30, 2012

Teach Week Round 2? Check!

Teach Week Round 2 is already over. I have 3 classes left in Senior Seminar. Next up, a semester of student teaching. Woah.

Now for some thoughts from this whirlwind week, in no particular order…

Kids are blown away when you know their name even if you haven’t necessarily interacted with them before.

When the times get tough, your relationships with your students will help get you through.

Students need a voice in the classroom. However, some students genuinely like to hear themselves talk. It’s difficult to balance these things and make sure that a few voices don’t dominate or intimidate others. Also, when thinking about the students who merely repeat what their classmates said before them, how do we make sure that students are actively listening to one another?

Though I think non-fiction is important in every content area, I don’t want to let David Coleman and his Common Core State Standards suck the creativity out of me or my students:
·         “As they stared into my eyes, I could feel my heart thump and thump, it felt as though my heart was sticking out of my skin.”
·         “With the small strip of moonlight coming through the blinds, I can make out one meaty hand clutching a stake knife.”
·         “Suddenly, the dragon looked up from where it landed, and slowly, slowly raised it’s head to stare at me.”
I literally gasped aloud while listening to the students read their work. Though when I sat down to read them, I noticed some common spelling and grammar mistakes, I could tell who understood the concepts of suspense, suspicion, and unreliable narrator that we had been learning all week.

I’ll feel flattered if students choose to eat lunch with me in the classroom rather than take part in cafeteria shenanigans.

Finding the just right movie clip, poem, theme song, etc. to supplement a lesson is not easy. It’s a challenge I’ve had during the two Teach Weeks and the TCMWS. Often I can imagine what I want to use, but can’t find it. Or, certain movie clips aren’t exactly how I remember them or a TV show would be appropriate for high school but not middle school, and I need to start my search over again.  Frustrating.

Although I had been feeling disappointed and skeptical about middle school during our observations, being Ms. Richer this week felt good. This is not to say that everything during student teaching will be hunky dory. Things will be even more complicated and messy and political. But I think I’m ready. January 23, I’m coming for you!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Storyboards, Goals, and Inspiration

Part 1: Storyboards
This week was a short week of observations for Courtney and me. We saw the continuation of the media literacy lesson where students practiced drafting their teaser trailers by drawing a 3 frame storyboard of their morning routine. Though some rolled their eyes and sketched stick figures as quickly as they could, other students’ eyes lit up and went to work crafting their mini-masterpieces. Since the students had been doing so much informational writing with their compare/contrast essay and quote sandwiches, I think this project breathed some life into the classroom. This gives me hope that the students will respond well to our idea for a creative application of the literary techniques we will be studying in “The Tell Tale Heart.”


Part 2: Goals
Since compare/contrast essays and quote sandwiches aren’t necessarily the most inspiring pieces of writing, one of me and Courtney’s collaborative goals is to provide space for more creative expression. At the end of this mini-unit on suspense, suspicion, and unreliable narrators via “The Tell Tale Heart,” we plan to have students show their understanding by creating mini skits of a suspenseful moment. We think we will provide them with a setting, a conflict, or some other pieces to work with, and they will have to put them together and share with the class.
Our second collaborative goal is to balance our voices with the voices of the students. This becomes an individual goal, however, because Courtney and I had opposite struggles with voice in our high school experiences. While she has mentioned that she needs to give more wait time, I know that I need to do a better job responding to students’ answers. I need to practice validating, challenging, and adding onto student contributions.   

Coincidentally, I do feel a bit of suspense heading into this week of teaching. The anticipation has been building over these last weeks, and without a chance to go back to the school before we teach (and get observed!) on Monday, I’m left just reeling in my own imaginings of what might happen. I am confident though, that our fate will be better than Chrissie and her last swim - the famous clip from Jaws that we will be showing as part of our first lesson…


Part 3: Inspiration
Kids say the darndest things, right? Well, in case that Thanksgiving tryptophan still has you a little drowsy or planning a week’s worth of lessons has you bogged down, here’s some love from YouTube’s biggest little stars:

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Shifted Pedestal

I’ve been anticipating this middle school practicum since we received our placements for high school. I had so much fun and learned so much at NPHS working with Katie and Mr. Ryan, but I had visions of 8th graders dancing in my head. Last week, Courtney and I observed twice, on Monday and Wednesday. As I mentioned in my previous blog, Monday was a lot of talk about a graphic organizer for a compare/contrast essay and Wednesday was quiz day. This week, we saw in class writing of the compare/contrast essay, the roll out of the new root word vocabulary program, and the introduction to a lesson about the persuasive techniques used by movie companies.

Though Ms. Ballard has strong relationships with her students, her lessons and assessments align to objectives and Common Core standards, the students write and are willing to revise, and they genuinely make me laugh while I’m there, I have spent this last week trying to understand the twang of disappointment I feel when I leave the school.

A trusty professor helped me put it into perspective: the pedestal has shifted.

We’ve discussed it time and time again in education classes. I’ve read about it in articles and blogs. I’ve heard about it from current teachers. And now, I’m witnessing it myself.

Teaching to a test – or, at least with a test hanging heavy in your thoughts - STINKS.

To this point, I have had overwhelmingly positive experiences in the schools. The teachers I worked with weren’t subjected to a scripted curriculum, didn’t seem to be overly concerned about preparing for NECAP, and seemed to be able to balance their personal teaching philosophy with the mandates of the school or Department of Education. My ideas of overcoming the challenges facing the education system have been resting high on a pedestal. This time around, though, I feel like something is different. My visions and the pedestal aren't matching up as neatly. Maybe it’s because October’s NECAP is still a fresh memory. Or maybe it’s the added pressure of the new evaluation system and the writing (and re-writing) of SLOs. Or, the exhaustive hype of the transition to the Common Core.

Ms. Ballard keeps mentioning that her classroom wasn’t like this 10 years ago. She collaborated more with her team to create interdisciplinary units, and even taught side-by-side with the social studies teacher. She explains that she ran her class like a writing workshop, but sighs as she says that that style just wouldn’t fly anymore.

I sigh as she says it too.

This blog entry has been difficult to write because I want to frame my disappointment in a productive way, rather than just complain. I don’t want to make assumptions and I don’t want to be a victim.

I want to take this feeling and be a better teacher because of it.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Quote Sandwiches, Tone, Focus Statements, Oh My!

A few semesters ago when I was placed at Feinstein Middle School for an MLED course, I wrote a Learning Log about all the new teacher words I was hearing. RTI, motivators, ALC, PLATO, handicapping conditions, credit recovery, homework block, and Talon Tickets. There were so many all at once! Like a nerd, I wrote them all down so that I could ask my cooperating teacher, Ms. Bettez, for more information or look them up on my own.

As I sat in Ms. Ballard’s 8th grade class this week, I was reminded again of all the terminology that floats around the school. This time, I paid closer attention to the ELA content words like graphic organizer, quote sandwich, compare, contrast, informational text, tone, and focus statement that popped up in nearly every sentence Ms. Ballard spoke. Unlike the teacher words from a few semesters ago, I felt confident with Ms. Ballard’s words.

But what about the students?

I’ve been reading and writing this stuff for 22 years. Ms. Ballard’s students are only 12.

When I was confused during my observations for MLED, it was important for me to know what the heck the teachers were talking about. I knew that I learn best when I write things down and seek answers, so I did just that. Most middle schoolers, however, don’t necessarily have that same self-discipline or self-awareness. They are in the process of developing it. Also, I felt comfortable asking Ms. Bettez for help because she exuded energy and warmth. Her quick smiles and reassuring words made me feel safe.

The students in Ms. Ballard’s class didn’t seem too confused with the writing they were doing because the concepts were not new. Nevertheless, hearing all these buzz words reminded me of the importance of teaching metacognitive skills and creating a safe environment. Knowing how you learn doesn’t necessarily happen miraculously. Reflection can help this. And classrooms aren’t safe just because they have four walls and a roof. A teacher must build a trusting relationship with her students.

I’m excited to watch how Ms. Ballard does this and then try it out myself…

Saturday, November 3, 2012

"When School Is Not Enough"

At the Promising Practices keynote address today, youth development expert Dana Fusco shared some insights from her research about “when school is not enough.” She studied several afterschool programs and found that the successful ones had three things in common: an emphasis on the development of relationships, hands-on activities, and culminating celebratory events attended by members of the school, family, and local community. Hearing this affirmed what I knew about why my experience as a teacher at Breakthrough Providence this summer felt right. There was a student-to-teacher ratio of about 3-to-1 which helped students and teachers make genuine connections, hands-on activities like Arts and Science Exploration Day, and Celebration – where family and friends came together to see the accomplishments of the summer. Breakthrough Providence prides itself on these (and other) developmental supports.

Fusco also showed some colorful graphs that highlighted the shift in students’ perceptions of developmental support. She noticed that, starting in middle school, students in afterschool programs felt more supported by those programs than they did in their own schools. As an aspiring middle/high school teacher, this data screams at me as a call for action. If students are thriving in these kinds of environments, I need to make sure that these developmental supports are a part of my classroom. I need to make sure that the spirit of Breakthrough Providence is not merely an exception to the rule, but that it lives on during the school day.

I think that middle school, with the interdisciplinary team structure, can be such a powerful place to build relationships, plan hands-on activities, and celebrate success. In this practicum experience, I am curious to see the way in which these supports might already exist at Feinstein and if/how/why they are different from what I saw and did at Breakthrough Providence.

I am looking forward to keeping this framework in mind as Courtney and I observe and plan lessons.

I am looking forward to the opportunity to learn from another experienced educator who I have heard so many good things about.

I am looking forward to responding when students share their writing. Telling students to take out their notebooks, not asking “kind of, could you maybe, take out your notebooks for just a little bit of writing, please?” Incorporating reflection. Using my teacher voice. Being blown away by middle school brilliance.

Teach Week will be here before we know it!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Reflecting on Reflection

Though most of what I describe in my previous post, “They Shared! Now What?” emerges from both our observed lesson and the rest of our experience with Creative Writing, there’s more from Observation Day (yes, capital “O” and capital “D”) that I’d like to share . . .

As Katie and I sat in the library, planning our Observation Day lesson, we thought that we had too much going on and would barely have time for the students to write, never mind share. After all, we were hooking them with two songs, reading several paragraphs aloud, ranking the readings with partners, having them match the readings with specific strategies, modeling the writing process, and then finally devoting the “few” remaining minutes to writing and sharing. We thought we had packed the class period like an over-stuffed suitcase.

When the students began writing with 30 minutes to go, I worried a little. This wasn’t supposed to be happening for another ten or fifteen minutes!

I pushed my anxieties aside while working one-on-one with the students and even temporarily forgot about the time, as I usually do when I tutor at the Writing Center. I was in the zone. Then, when Katie and I made eye-contact, we realized that we had to decide how much time to devote to sharing the drafts that the student’s had just written. With the confusion of my watch being too fast and the classroom clock being too slow, unfortunately we didn’t end as smoothly as planned.

Though we did try to take up some of that extra time post-sharing by asking formative reflection questions like, “How did it feel to use these strategies?” aloud to the whole class, these reflection questions shouldn’t have been an afterthought.

Our main assessment was taking their drafts home to read and give feedback, but it would be helpful to have written evidence of what else they took away from the lesson. What do they think they learned today? Have they used these strategies before? Where else do they think they could apply these strategies?

It seems that if we want students to be reflective learners, able to make connections between what they know and don’t know, and willing to do something to build upon their strengths and weaknesses, then we need to teach them how to do it. We need to start by giving them structures, questions, and space to do so – frequently and immediately.

When I think back to the mad rush of reflections I wrote for my high school graduation portfolio, they were empty. I had completed the artifacts years ago, I couldn’t make improvements if I wanted to, and I didn’t see the point.

This is not to say that all long-term reflection is meaningless.
Rather, practice with frequent and immediate reflection makes long-term reflection more meaningful.

I used exit slips for the first time in MLED 330 and by the time SED 407 rolled around, I found myself asking “What? So what? Now what?” even outside the context of my own academics.  I think the frequency and immediacy of reflection in those classes led me to engage more genuinely in reflection and take ownership of the process. If I didn’t understand something from class, I had a safe space to admit it. My questions and concerns could be addressed right away. Or if I felt strongly about something in class, I could capture that energy in my writing.  

I think these reflective habits empower learners, whether in 6th grade, 12th grade, or a semester away from student teaching. If we don’t make time to ask/answer these important questions, how do we know what we know? How do we know what we need to improve?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

They shared! Now what?

Research, plan, photocopy. Rehearse.  Explain, model, ask.  Write, write, write. Share, share, share . . . ?

This is the question that Ms. Carroll* and I are grappling with.  We did all this prep work to make student voices the center of our classroom. We believe that’s the way classrooms should sound.  We opened our first day with Mr. Ryan’s Creative Writing class by taking them on an Emotional Journey.  We outlined the next four days of Dizzy Drama, did a “Prop Swap” (distributed props and settings Yankee swap-style), and provided students with space to start brainstorming ideas – all designed to build community.  We opened on Friday with a choice of writer’s notebook prompts and invited students to share. A usually shy student, who blew us away the previous day with his dramatic rendition of the line, “How dare you disobey your mother,” raised his hand and read what he had written. Then . . .

Following typical English teacher etiquette, we thanked him for sharing his response, and moved to the next student. During the “meat” of the lesson, where we lead students through the literal, interpretive, and analytical levels of reading (adapted slightly for our Big Bang Theory clip, shown to emphasize the development of character) we did the same thing.  We gave students time to write responses and share with the class.  When they generously offered their ideas, we acknowledged them with a thank you and allowed the next student to share. 

At the time, we were thinking that we didn’t want to cut students off.  We didn’t want to say something that might steal a point that a student wanted to make.  In general, we’re also afraid of tangents. If we get too far off track, how do we reel everyone in?  We planned for all 55 of the minutes. How will we get to everything if we talk spontaneously about metaphors, their purpose, and some examples for 5 of those pre-planned minutes?  And biggest of all, we value students.  We want them to be able to share their thoughts. We want them to come to their own understanding of the concept. Won’t we stifle them if we keep talking?

During our post-lesson frenzy in the hallway, Ms. Carroll and I realized that our intentions might be leading to some unintended consequences.  By not responding more fully to the students’ contributions, we didn’t push the students to think deeper. We didn’t guide them to make further connections between what they know, what they produced, and what they will be learning.  This is part of the reason we flew through our observed lesson.  Though we remembered WWKGD (What Would Kelly Gallagher Do) when modeling the writing process, we failed to model our thinking process during these discussions. 

One challenge is that what we are doing doesn’t necessarily have a right or wrong answer. It’s not like in math, where we could point out a multiplication error or a missing step when students explain their process. Writer’s notebook prompts are designed to initiate engagement and to activate thinking.  Students’ responses to texts are often based on their own experience – and human experience is not “right” or “wrong.”

I think I speak for both of us when I say that being a Writing Center tutor has influenced our identity as teacher candidates. We are most comfortable working one-on-one or in small groups alongside our students.  Giving feedback comes easier, seems safer.  I feel like a different person when I am sitting next to a student sharing techniques I use to overcome my own writing struggles than when I am up at the board trying to synthesize students’ responses to the reading.  Dr. Cook and Mr. Ryan even said they noticed this shift in each of us. 

So I guess another challenge is just dealing with the power that comes from being the one in the front of the room.  The expert.  The one in charge.  Mr. Ryan reminded us that it’s okay to share what we know.  We studied this stuff for 4+ years.  It’s a disservice if we don’t clarify misunderstandings or fill in information gaps.  We aren’t taking anything away from the students’ learning by engaging in human conversation.  Students need role models of integrity. 

Since we still have two days of teaching left, we have time to make a plan and strengthen this weakness.  As Dr. Cook has mentioned, maybe we will jot down a few words that stick out each time a student speaks.  We can acknowledge what works about whatever they shared and invite other students to reply back to that individual.  This can also help allay the sensory overload that comes with trying to simultaneously remember what a student said, develop a coherent response, reflect on what you just discussed, keep an eye on the clock, and be aware of what’s happening next in the lesson.     

This week has been wonderfully “dizzy” and I am grateful for this chance to continue to learn, in a safe and supportive environment, what it means to be a teacher.  
Thanks Ms. Carroll for being awesome.  

*In every lesson, I have made the awkward mistake of referring to Katie by her first name. I am trying to make up for it here ;)

Saturday, October 20, 2012

From Competition to Collaboration

Over the last few weeks, Mr. Ryan’s 10th grade students have been busy drafting six word memoirs, composing letters to their younger selves, and annotating timelines about important events in their lives. Though Mr. Ryan has explained that all of this reflection will prepare them for their upcoming “This I Believe” essay, this week, the process became REAL.  First, he showed the students videos created by his previous students – essentially picture slideshows with their reading of their essay in the background – which are posted on YouTube.  Next, he organized an “Agree/Disagree” activity where each student received a list of statements, brainstormed reasons why they agreed or disagreed with them, and, when called on, stood up to explain their stance on one given statement.  On the first day, Mr. Ryan required students to speak for 15 seconds, and on the second day, for 30 seconds. 

I felt like an audience member at a Miss America pageant.  The students waited silently for their names to be called and nodded dutifully while pushing themselves up from their chairs, convincing themselves that they could handle whatever was to come.  Most started their 30 seconds with a rephrasing of the question: I agree/disagree that . . . because . . . and looped their way around to finish: And that is why I agree/disagree that . . .  Some used poignant examples and some became tongue-tied, but each student’s voice was heard.

The students impressed me with their poise, yet I was surprised by their responses to certain statements.  For example, when Mr. Ryan read, “People learn from their mistakes,” I thought for sure that the students would agree; making mistakes seems to be touted as an ideal way to learn from the time we are young. However, several students stood up and admitted that despite being aware that what they were doing was wrong, they continued on anyway.  Then, one of the more outgoing girls in the class agreed with the statement, “You can’t depend on anyone else; you can only depend on yourself.”  To support her belief, she mentioned a brief example of not being able to depend on her family for a ride home from school.

Looking back, I shouldn’t have been so surprised by the students’ answers.  I would have shared their beliefs if Mr. Ryan were to ask me these questions when I was in 10th grade . . . or even if someone were to ask me these questions a year or two ago.  This relatively theoretical world of practicum that I currently reside in has changed me.

This is not to say that I am not disappointed when I make mistakes.  And this is not to say that I don’t sometimes think to myself, “If you want something done right, do it yourself.”  Certainly my perfectionism prefers to get things right the first time and wonders whether others will come through on their promises.  However, my experience as an education major has shifted my thinking.  I’ve read articles about and written my own “shitty first drafts.”  I am learning how to share responsibility when planning lessons and teaching with a partner.  Because the emphasis is on receiving feedback, seeking mastery, and not on earning a certain grade, practicum is a safe place to make mistakes.  Because my fellow TCs have similar ideals, struggles, and goals, we can depend on each other.  Together, these experiences are pushing me from intense competition to productive collaboration.       

I can’t help but wonder if students’ willful refusal to learn from mistakes is their way to preserve their identity by saying, “Your harsh criticism of my mistakes doesn’t matter because I didn’t try to follow the rules anyway” (this is an idea I’ve borrowed from Herb Kohl’s “I Won’t Learn from You”).  And, unfortunately, my visions of a safe, supportive, collaborative classroom cannot change parents’ busy schedules so that all students can have a ride home without worry.  Nevertheless, this week of observations reminded me of important questions I want to keep in mind as I assume the role of teacher: How can I foster an environment where students are comfortable and willing to learn from their mistakes?  How can I be sure to scaffold community building so that students feel that, at least in the context of my class, they can depend on each other? 

This I believe: the future depends more on collaboration than on competition.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Arm Wrestling and Lost Lunchboxes

Rewind to last Friday:
The twenty-five uncomfortable, metal desk-chairs are arranged in their usual “runway” formation and filled with the bodies of Period 2’s lanky, lively teenagers.  Atop the students’ desks rest notebooks, books, pens, pencils, and elbows just waiting to be put to use.  Most of the eyes face forward to the projector, which displays the students’ soon-to-be-published paragraphs.  The eyes also follow Mr. Ryan, dressed in a grey zip-up sweatshirt with the letters “NPHS” in blue and gold across the front – acceptable, spirited Friday attire.  He just finished introducing the day’s activities and is busy hustling from his desk to the marker bin and back to the desk again to gather the supplies the students will need.  As the students settle into their work, I hear Tyler, the class’s military video game expert, challenge Mr. Ryan to an arm wrestling match.

An arm wrestling match? I wonder to myself.  What will Mr. Ryan do?

Fast-forward to this Thursday:
The same 25 uncomfortable metal desk-chairs are arranged in their usual “runway” formation, but are filled with the bodies of one of Mr. Ryan’s 10th grade English classes.  Similar notebooks, pens, pencils, and elbows rest atop the desks, just waiting to be used.  The eyes face forward to the chalkboard where Mr. Ryan is drawing a narrative graph of memorable moments from his life, modeling the activity that the students will soon be completing.  He thinks aloud, plotting points for when he got his goldfish (about a 3 on the “good” scale), lost his favorite lunchbox (about a 4 on the “ugh” scale), and made the varsity hockey team in high school (about a 7 on the “good” scale).  From the front corner of the room, I hear a little voice ask, “Mr. Ryan, did you go to this school?”

“Did you go to this school?” it seems to be an innocent-enough question.  But will it lead to distraction, lead to a tangent?  Is that okay to share? I think to myself.  What will Mr. Ryan do?

And here we are now:
Although this might not be the most plaguing issue of teaching, I couldn’t help but notice and connect these two situations.  I think they represent a bigger idea that, despite the hours of planning and careful preparation, kids are people with genuine curiosities and desires for interaction.  As a teacher, how do I decide in the moment which requests to respond to, which to ignore?  I want to build a community where the fun and sharing is productive, not distracting.  Most of us have been in those classes where a question about the teacher’s favorite author will lead to 20 aimless minutes of rumination.  But we have also been in those classes where one apparently off-topic inquiry reveals a gap in basic understanding of the topic at hand, leaving everyone feeling much more confident and satisfied. 

I’m sure some might answer my uncertainty with that dusty phrase, “Don’t smile until December,” but for me, it just doesn’t seem that simple.   

Saturday, October 6, 2012

People First

“No one is going to tell you to write for a grade.”

In Mr. Ryan’s Creative Writing class, grades don’t matter.  As far as I have seen, grades do not even exist... 

This week, the students were finishing their work on a book of paragraphs.  Modeled after a published book of paragraphs, each student wrote their own paragraph on any topic of their choice.  Mr. Ryan collected the paragraphs into a single GoogleDoc so that students could work on them together in class and also at home by themselves.  On Tuesday, the authors took turns reading their paragraphs aloud while the rest of the class provided warm and cool feedback about the author’s piece.  For homework, the students each added (at least) one line to the foreword of the book.  Over the weekend, one student is supposed to scan another student’s artwork and email the file to Mr. Ryan so that he can format the work for the cover.  Once all of this is completed, the book will be printed and distributed at the school. 

“I’m going to treat you like writers.”

Being published is something to brag about.  Being published is something that writers of all kinds dream of.  Way back in third grade, my classmates and I all wrote poems and submitted them to a book for publication. I almost quit school when my poem was the only one in the class that wasn’t selected.  Publication for an audience besides the teacher is important.  Published writers become part of a community.  Writers don’t get grades.  Scathing reviews in the New York Times maybe, but not grades.

“I used to think that I was a pretty good writer.  Now that I am in a classroom of writers, I feel like I am not so good anymore.”

Before class ended on Tuesday, Mr. Ryan noticed that one of the lively students in class didn’t seem so alive.  He invited her into the hall and asked what was wrong, expecting to listen to teen angst about love.  He was rather surprised when the student admitted that she was feeling down about herself as a writer.  Though it is difficult to watch a student experience these feelings of inadequacy, I was impressed by her (and her classmates’ commitment) to being writers.  I was impressed with Mr. Ryan’s resistance to grades.  Even in his 10th grade English classes, he has established communities where writing more than that thing you do to get an A.  Specifically, they talked how writing memoir is a way to connect with other and a way to understand oneself.  Katie and I are lucky to have been welcomed into these communities of writing where there people come first.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Swishy Sweatpants

Before every race, my dad always reminds me, “You’ve gotta be sweating at the line.”  Although this is not the most charming image, he makes a good point.  By this, he means that unless you have broken a sweat in your warm-up, you aren’t ready to be at the starting line.  His infamous phrase implies the value of both physical and mental preparation for the race ahead.  I find myself recalling my dad’s words not only before a run, but at all the various starting lines in my life.  First, there was the starting line of acceptance to RIC, then came FSEHD, PLTs, and the first lessons I taught in MLED 330 and SED 407.  Now, creating a Twitter handle, posting a blog, and introducing myself as a teacher candidate in Mr. Ryan’s classroom at North Providence High School – there are starting lines everywhere I look.  Right now I’m still cozy with my swishy sweatpants and jacket, but soon I will be jogging around, getting my heart rate up, and stripping off those layers.  Luckily I have my teammates (all of you fellow TCs), my coaches (shout out to Coach Cook and Coach Johnson), some supportive fans (thanks Mom, Dad, Cam, and the rest of my RIC family), and my running buddy (Katie, we got this!).  With Mr. Ryan helping to pace us, I couldn’t feel more eager to get going.  What text is he teaching? Who are his students? How does he motivate them and push their thinking? I know it’s not always going to be a walk in the park, because, as my dad also says, racing isn’t necessarily comfortable.  It’s about pushing yourself, trusting your training, listening to your coaches, working up the hills, and recovering on the other side.  As I’ve said before, it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.  Some miles will be better than others.  It is with this distance runner mindset that I am approaching practicum and student teaching.  I’ve triple-knotted my laces and I’m ready to go!