Category Archives: reflection

Why I (often) don’t sing in church

I enjoy the music/singing at my church very much but I have noticed lately that I rarely sing with the rest of the folks there. I remember as a young person my Sunday school teacher telling me she does not like to sing, but to listen and mediate. I guess that was the first time I realized that it was ok not to sing. My parents always sang every word to every song. What I have come to realize is that part of what makes Sunday morning sacred to me is the opportunity to meditate. By meditate I do not really mean some “religious” practice. Most of the time I am thinking about my life and relationships: school and my family. I NEED this time in my life.

Last weekend I was in a bad mood. Can’t really determine why but I was definitely ornery most of the weekend. Singing time at church gave me the opportunity to reflect on my poor attitude and why. I did not really figure out why, but was able to stop and try to make the choice to change. Besides the sermon included Star Wars clips and this video as illustrations:

What I have come to realize in the busyness of life is that I require quiet time to think about life. Otherwise I get caught up in lists and tasks and accomplishments. I am the type of person who feels satisfaction when something is finished. Sometimes I get too caught up in “doing” instead of just “being.” Sometimes I am more concerned with getting “things” done than my relationships with people. I need time to stop and re-focus on priorities instead of my Google task list.

When my life becomes too busy, I feel stressed. If I am not checking things off my list, I feel stressed. If I take the time to reflect and then I relax and focus on my real priorities. I believe this is why I was ornery-I needed some down time to think. I also think this is my most of my blogging is done on Sundays or holidays. My regular school week does not have time in it for reflection and that is really too bad.

Reflections on our Landscaping Class

Our art teacher, Kim, and I combined our art and technology classes for the final quarter of this year and team-taught a landscaping class. This post is a reflection on the class, good and bad, looking towards another version of it next year. It was challenging, frustrating, and rewarding at the same time. We had a general idea of what we wanted to do and accomplish, but we really wanted the students to have as much a voice as possible in the class. Therefore it was difficult to “plan” because we really wanted to leave that to the students.

We started the class knowing that we would use my background in concrete construction to have the students build some kind of decorative pavers in a garden space that we would create outside of our rooms. We tried to spend time in research with books and the Internet. Kim taught them about Georgia O’Keeffe and Frank Lloyd Wright. The students drew the space from a two-point perspective and as a blueprint on graph paper. The students really struggled with the abstractness and ambiguity of the project.

We realized the students could not focus on the big picture of the project, so we switched approaches and had the students draw life size versions of their personal tiles. We made some guidelines for them that the tiles had to be based on nature. The students really took off with great ideas.

While they worked on drawings in Kim’s room, I brought small groups to my room and the students built their forms. They choose the shapes, measured, cut, drilled, and screwed the forms together. For many of them it was a first time using any of these basic tools. It was great to see some of the students who had some skills in this area jump in and take charge.

Next we began pouring the pavers. Concrete is a challenging material because of the time constraints. You can not just pack up at the end of the hour and finish the next day. So we were able to pour 2-3 each day taking over ten pour days to finish. The students mixed the concrete with a drill, poured it in the forms and finished the concrete. A few days later we stripped the forms.

The process of figuring out the layout design of the tiles was one of my favorite parts of the project. Now that they had the tiles they could “see” the problem of layout. We cut out life-size cardboard shapes of each tile and they wrote their names on them. Then we went out side and told them to lay them out. Then we talked about how it looked and they edited by moving them until they “found” their design. This concrete, no pun intended, process of design was much easier for middle school students than trying to create something on a blueprint before they even really understood what they were making. We took pictures of the cardboard placement so we could remember when we bought out the real pavers.

The absolute best part of this project was seeing the skills of some of our hands-on kids validated at school. They may struggle in traditional classes, but they were the leaders of our class and you could see their self-esteem rise. They worked hard and were proud of their results. Another great part of the project was our blog at Students wrote about their individual tiles and we posted it next to a picture of their tile. The students were so impressed by all the dots on the clustrmap on the first day (thanks to my PLN on twitter!)

As I move to a paperless classroom, I am reminded the most important part is students. I have always emphasized project-based learning that is based on collaboration and problem-solving. Next year we plan to have the students design and build benches and some sculpture stands. We are also going to have students collect food scraps from the cafeteria and start a compost pile.Of course as has been said many times before, learning is messy, but so worth it. The students are proud to leave behind this contribution to their school.

Ok readers, how will you be creative and challenge students in real world ways next year??? Kim and I asked ourselves what are we doing sometimes and this was by far the class that took the most energy and planning. It was hard work, but oh so worth it!