Wreck This Journal: Rebel

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It’s funny how Wreck This Journal often reflects whatever is going on in my life.  I don’t write much about my day job as a teacher, mainly because I like to keep my writing life separate from my professional life.  Sometimes, however, it can’t be helped when inspiration and the daily grind combine.

I’ve always been a bit of an outsider among my colleagues because I don’t fit the mold of a typical teacher. My methods are a little outside the box, I have a quirky personality, and my appearance often gets me mistaken for a student instead of a teacher.  Say what they may, my odd approach works as my students can’t wait to come to my class every day and for some they never liked history until they walked through my classroom door.  Learning should be a disciplined process, but it should also be creative and fun.  The world needs people who can think for themselves and find solutions to problems and its my job to help students become those independent thinkers.  We owe it to our future.

As the economy worsens and public education continues to take financial hits, districts are scrambling to snag federal funding which is often based significantly on standardized test scores.  I’ve been teaching for eleven years and with each year I’ve watched my district become more and more obsessed with statistics and data and that unfortunately takes the focus off individualized learning and performance.  Education is increasingly veering from diversified learning to cookie cutter intelligence that pretty much eliminates all forms of creative thought and problem solving.  To say this concerns me is an understatement. My philosophy of teaching revolves around allowing students to individually process information and find creative ways to use that information.  Slowly, but surely, I’m finding myself further and further outside the boundaries of the system.

Recently, my school district has taken to implementing a new dress code for teachers.  I’m not opposed to a dress code, but the timing of it is what irks me.  We are in the middle of a financial crisis and clothing is where they’ve chosen to place their focus.  In my school alone, there are leaking ceilings, mouse/roach infested classrooms (mine is one of them), a shortage of desks, 40 kids in a class, and outdated laptops (mine is held together with tape).  I’m not usually one to complain, but I think the district has lost sight of what’s important here. I’m all for professionalism in the workplace, but at the moment I don’t feel much like a professional in surroundings that are falling apart.

From a personal standpoint, I dress rather casually because that’s who I am.  I’m not a slob by any means, but I’m also not a rayon blouse, heels wearing kind of girl.  One of the most important things I teach my students, (aside from curriculum), is the importance of being yourself.  When I started teaching, I wore nice slacks, dress shoes, etc., but my students saw right through the fine attire.  It wasn’t me and in effect they couldn’t trust someone who was lying to them.  By my third year, I started wearing jeans and my signature Converse sneakers.  For the first time, my clothes matched the atmosphere I created in my classroom.  I wasn’t lying anymore and my students responded as such.  Not only were they learning history, but they were learning by my example what it means to “own” who you are.

Sometimes life is about jumping outside those lines.  My Wreck This Journal reminded me of that with a page that dared me color outside the lines in a very visual and vindicating way.

Five years ago, I probably would have easily given into the “back to basics” movement that is sweeping public education, but now I’m sticking to my guns more than ever.  What I do in the classroom works and I stand by it 100%.  I’m holding steady and waiting for the “reforms” to take place, but I know I’m in for a fight.  And you know what? I’m ready.  I’m not afraid to color outside the lines.

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For previous Wreck This Journal posts, please see my sidebar of Recent Posts and tag cloud.

c.b. 2011

18 thoughts on “Wreck This Journal: Rebel

  1. Hooray for teachers that make a difference! I remember those teachers that were different and let us use our creativity. I don’t remember the ones who didn’t, except the Sophmore Englsh Teacher who always wore a blue skirt with white polka dots with a white shirt with blue polka dots and her beads with one tight strand right around her neck and a long strand down her front.

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  2. Keep up the good work with the students and good luck trying to be true to yourself. I have thought for quite a while that more and more school systems are being run by less- and less-qualified people. I could go on and on here, but will leave it at that!

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  3. Thanks for the courage to share your insights on a very important topic. Teaching made creative and fun makes students into life-long, independent learners. What greater gift can a teacher give to their students. Stay centered.

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  4. Don’t get splinters trying to shave your square peg to fit that round hole. Have you read Daniel Pink’s, “A Whole New Mind.” A must read and it goes with your philosophy. You are doing exactly what public education needs — innovation.

    You’ve got me thinking about my time in the trenches…
    Sometimes, staying home with a toddler is worse than public education, but we can always pick our own dress code. We are in PJs now. I really love what you are doing with the “Wreck This Journal.” Does she know you do this on your blog. I bet she would appreciate it.

    I remember my first year of teaching, fresh with optimism and an out of the box approach (so out of the box it was more of a rhombas), an administrator, who later got moved back to the classroom because he was so awful a principal, literally told me, “We’d like for your to use a more traditional approach.”
    Me, not one to mince words, said, “What is traditonal teaching?”
    He just looked at me, his shiny bald head reflecting back at me.
    I said, “You mean you want me to hand out worksheets and read from a textbook?”
    He said, “Yes,” like I had got the right answer on Wheel of Fortune.

    I was never the same after that. It began the long pruning season of a my free spirit wings. I have little nubs that still flutter for education, but this conversation made me more passionate about alternative teaching methods and arts integration.

    Have you also heard of Flocabulary? Check out their website. http://flocabulary.com/
    Awesome out of the box resources. Order the History CD and moonwalk those converse sneakers all over the mouse and roach infested class! You’re kids will dance too, as they already seem to be with you now. I love meeting teachers like you who have not given up the fight. You go girl!

    Time to go – toddler alert.

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    • You are quite the motivational speaker! Thanks for the support! 🙂

      Sounds like we are on the same wavelength. Times and people are changing and that means education has to change, too. We shall fight together!

      I LOVE flocabulary!! Thanks for posting the link and I hope others follow it!

      Thanks for reading!

      p.s. I’ve got my Converse sneakers on!

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  5. Story

    Nice to read about your thoughts on teaching! The best teachers I remember from my school days were the ones who did things their way and added a bit of flair into the mix. Keep on colouring outside the lines! 🙂

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  6. Great job with staying with your passions, and preparing to fight the good fight if needed. I think your casual attire is perfect, for all the reasons you mentioned. Have you thought adding a Pirate patch though? It’s always worked for me. 😉

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    • LOL! I may have to add a pirate patch to my wardrobe. Or at the very least a jolly roger flag on the wall. 😉

      After this week, I’m more encouraged that I will be left alone to work my so-called “magic” in the classroom. The principal came into my classroom for the first time the other day and she liked what she saw. I was wearing jeans and sneakers and I have yet to hear a word from her about it. I’m hoping my reputation will buy me some leeway now and in the future.

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  7. You are such a gift to your students. Learning to be REAL is such a needed step to be being successful in your own life. You are modeling that for your students. So much more important than anything to be found on a standardized test. Glad to read that the pressure might have lifted a bit. I hope your principal will realize what a treasure you are.

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    • Thanks for the kind words. 🙂 I definitely feel better about everything since I wrote this. Nothing beats a student saying “thank you” or “I look forward to this class every day.” That’s all the proof I need to know I’m doing the right things. 🙂

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