As I shared with you in the first class, I ran my first half marathon this past weekend in the Independence Rhode Race. Researching training plans, nutrition guides, and actually putting the knowledge into practice was a challenge. Running a half marathon requires training daily whether it is running, cross training, or resting. Running a half marathon also requires knowledge of nutritionally valuable foods to fuel runs, repair muscles, and not cause stomach upset. All of this research was nothing compared to the actual training and running of the race. The morning of the race my stomach was filled with butterflies that made it difficult to eat to fuel the run. But I forced food in and thankfully felt okay. The energy and adrenaline at the start was evident in the athletes. Some people were dressed in regular running clothes and some were dressed in patriotic clothes to celebrate the upcoming holiday. Some were even holding full size American flags to show their patriotism in Bristol, the town with the oldest ongoing Independence Day celebration. Athletes of all shapes, sizes, and abilities were warming up, stretching, and laughing together as they prepared themselves physically and mentally for the race. I found my place in the starting chute and the gun went off. I ran along with my pace group and I was feeling great as we weaved through the town of Bristol where the famous parade would soon be happening. As we made our way into Colt State Park at mile 6, a runner was coming back out heading for the finish line. Oh man was he running fast. I didn’t think twice because my goal was just finishing. The run through the park was windy and hilly but beautiful. Along the way I laughed and talked to many other runners as we motivated each other to keep putting one leg in front of the other. As I approached another runner at mile 12, I said, “Wow! This last mile is going to kill me!” She said, “Oh no it’s not. You’re in the home stretch. Let’s go!” So we ran the last mile together and we were side by side as we went through the finish chute and completed the race where we high-fived each other. What an amazing feeling!!! I turned to see my husband who hugged me with pride as I cried tears of happiness and overwhelming pride in myself. The pride I feel for completing a challenge that has been a dream for many years is something everyone should experience we just have to be open and willing to participate.
So what does running a half marathon have to do with being in this course? Let me explain my thoughts. Just as I stated previously about enjoying the thrill of challenging myself by completing a half marathon, earning my master’s degree is another challenge that I entered into but not quite as willingly as the half marathon challenge. This course will fulfill the technology requirements for earning my master’s degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESL) at Rhode Island College. The previous TESL courses I have taken are part of a cohort that Rhode Island College has with the Central Falls School District. Central Falls is an urban district with the majority of students speaking Spanish in the home. I believe that obtaining the TESL certification is necessary in order for me to offer my students the education they deserve. So began my research into the TESL program and cohort at RIC. My training began back in September when I started my first course with Dr. Cloud. After the first class meeting, my thoughts were, “What have I gotten myself into!?!? How will I complete all the work for this class, all the work and planning for my students, attend meetings, and oh yeah take care of my family?!?! But just as I had to take my half marathon training one step at a time, so I had to prioritize my work for these classes. So I woke up at 3:00am and worked at the computer and then put on my running shoes and left the house at 4:30am in order to start my day feeling physically and mentally prepared to take on the challenges of the day.
After each course was completed, just like when I would finish a week of running with a long run of 10+ miles, I would feel pride in my accomplishments and motivation to keep putting one project/foot in front of the other. At this time, I am working on course number 6 and trudging along to complete all the projects in order to better my teaching practice and feel the accomplishment of finishing. As Pearl S. Buck states, “I believe that the normal human heart is born good.” This staement matches my feelings of the amazing teachers I have met who are training for the same master’s marathon. Together we are education athletes who are experiencing the same frustrations in getting it all done or running the next mile. These athletes are willing to motivate and cheer you on towards your goal of earning your master’s and for that I am extremely thankful.
So that is what has brought me to this course and being forced out of my comfort zone again into learning more about digital technology and analyzing media in a critical way. I am now challenged to make progress towards becoming a techno-traditionalist educator who uses technology in a more intentional way through blogs, classroom websites, virtual field trips, webquests, and story makers. I have gained the knowledge and confidence to take on more digital media in order to educate my students and make a connection with the families.
The connections with families is one of the core beliefs that I have about teaching the whole child. By connecting with families, the child’s education will be supported and the family is cared for and respected. Because of this core belief and this class, I have started a blog that will be used to inform families of daily information so they are aware of what is happening in the classroom. I will blog about what we discuss, what the children create and do, reminders about happenings in the classroom/school, and paperwork sent home. The blog will also include helpful information for the families and links to other websites.
My other core beliefs include:
- Every person regardless of their age, intelligence, or physical ability is capable of learning in order to make progress towards another level.
- Every person has an innate desire to learn especially when the learning involves something that is viewed as interesting , necessary, and/or motivating.
- Learning happens in a safe, respectful, motivating, and appropriately challenging environment that is conducive to learning.
- Teachers should be both teachers of informational knowledge as well as facilitators of how to use this knowledge in order to be successful in the world.
- Teaching is about educating students and making connections with each student's family in order to support their learning.
- Teaching must be a calling to educate, respect, care for, and form relationships with children/students.
- The world is full of caring people who, when given the chance, will do what they can to help another person be happy and successful.
- The world is an amazing place to challenge yourself to be happy and successful.
- The world offers many opportunities for challenging, educating, and caring for ourselves and others. We have to be open and willing to participate.
The other theme of learning in this course revolves around analyzing media in a critical way. This has been a struggle for me as we analyzed Disney princesses through readings from Rethinking Popular Culture and Media and viewing the Disney movies Frozen and Brave. My initial response to the readings and conversations was to fold my arms and say, “NO! This can’t be true!” But after a period of time to contemplate on my own and talk about the issues with my family, I have come to an understanding that it is important to analyze all text. This analysis will allow me to grow and learn and not hide under a rock about important issues so I can educate children to learn the skills involved in thinking critically to use the knowledge they have in order to learn more. Dr. Michael Wesch states in his article From Knowledgable to Knowledge-able: Learning in New Media Environments, “We must first address the why, facilitate how, and let the what generate naturally from here.” The focus is not on providing answers to be memorized but on creating a learning environment more conducive to producing the types of questions that ask students to challenge their taken-for-granted assumptions and see their own underlying biases. Danah Boyd poses the question in It’s Complicated, “Are today’s youth digital natives?” She states that teens are knowledgeable about digital technology but still need to be educated on thinking critically about all text. Adults must support youth with different experiences in order to educate them in all areas of digital media.
So I continue training for my master’s marathon by taking more courses and researching theories and skills that will better my teaching practice for my students. Someday I will cross the finish line of this master’s marathon and my husband and family will be there to celebrate my accomplishments with me with tear-filled hugs and pride for all the hard work and perseverance that I put in. Until then, I will put one project/foot in front of the other and keep moving towards the finish.