A message by George Carlin:

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A message by George Carlin:

The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider Freeways but narrower viewpoints. We spend more but have less; we buy more but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences but less time. We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge but less judgment, more experts yet more problems, more medicine but less wellness.

We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom.

We have multiplied our possessions but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.

We’ve learned how to make a living but not a life. We’ve added years to life not life to years. We’ve been all the way to the moon and back but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor. We conquered outer space but not inner space. We’ve done larger things but not better things.

We’ve cleaned up the air but polluted the soul. We’ve conquered the atom but not our prejudice. We write more but learn less. We plan more but accomplish less. We’ve learned to rush but not to wait. We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we communicate less and less.

These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small character, steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the days of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses but broken homes. These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill. It is a time when there is much in the showroom window and nothing in the stockroom. A time when technology can bring this letter to you and a time when you can choose either to share this insight or to just hit delete…

Remember; spend some time with your loved ones, because they are not going to be around forever.

Remember, say a kind word to someone who looks up to you in awe, because that little person soon will grow up and leave your side.

Remember, to give a warm hug to the one next to you, because that is the only treasure you can give with your heart, and it doesn’t cost a cent.

Remember, to say ‘I love you’ to your partner and your loved ones but most of all mean it. A kiss and an embrace will mend hurt when it comes from deep inside of you.

Remember to hold hands and cherish the moment for someday that person will not be there again.

Give time to love, give time to speak! And give time to share the precious thoughts in your mind.

AND ALWAYS REMEMBER:

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.

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Response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting

If you haven’t seen the below video, please watch:


I think I’ve watched this video a dozen times now, and I have yet to make it through without crying.

Teaching is not supposed to be a dangerous profession, schools should not be dangerous places, nor, at any age, should it be dangerous to be a student.

Kaitlin Roig, featured in the above video after the elementary school shooting, acted on absolutely heroic instincts in her classroom, as did Vicki Soto, a teacher who was shot and killed in the school.  Reports from ABC News describe how Vicki Soto was protecting her students in the classroom down to their very last seconds, placing herself between her students and the gunman, trying to shield them.  All semester long in my Teaching Methods course here at SC with Dr. Zukergood, my classmates and I have been working to find our ways on the difficult path to becoming extraordinary teachers.  The above video and accounts from the tragedy show how teaching is so much more than a 40-hour per week profession.

Extraordinary teachers like Vicki Soto and Kaitlin Roig do not go into the teaching field for the timely breaks and vacations; they are teachers because they love their students.  Teachers save the lives of students everyday, whether in a very real, literal sense as understood above, but also by being listening ears, sources of advice and guidance.

Elena Gasparri, one of my friends and another English teacher-to-be, wrote, “I hope I never have to fully understand what those teachers endured today, but I have never been so inspired. Those teachers are the definition of extraordinary.”

The outward ripple effects from tragedies such as this shooting in Newtown, CT (only 20 minutes away from my hometown) are enormous.  In the 24 hours that have passed, I have seen countless posts and statuses from friends who were camp counselors in that area, have cousins in that town, or are empathetic supporters to all the parents, teachers, friends, etc. who have been deeply affected.  It’s horrible to read and watch.  President Obama rightly stated, “We’ve endured too many of these tragedies in the past few years.”

Pic from MSNBC.com

Pic from MSNBC.com

How do we stop these shootings?  Experts advise to stop calling them random.  Like the shooting of students, teachers, and professionals in Sandy Hook Elementary School of Newtown, tragic events like these are often not a result of snap behavior.  Rather, often times, the person has made comments or shown signs of disturbance which were ignored.  Take people seriously, take appropriate actions to ensure their safety and that of others.

Of everything I’ve read, I think Kim Abad, another of my friends, said it best: “the actions of these teachers saved many lives. As horrifying as it is, it is an inspiring story to hear as an up-and-coming teacher. This event does not scare me from the profession. Rather, it makes me thankful that I will be part of an amazing profession that can make such a difference in so many lives. My heart goes out to those families and friends of anyone who is affected by this tragic event.”

Found on Facebook

Found on Facebook

A Happy Teaching Update

I’ve realized recently that although my current “practice” teaching and plans for future teaching have dominated much of my thought, energy, effort, and time this semester, I haven’t written about it here.  Anyways, while I plan to do a final reflection on my semester (after finals and projects), here’s an insight to what I’ve been doing this semester and a taste of the really successful and fun day I had when my supervisor came in for my final teaching observation!  I probably should be doing other work, but today was so great that I needed to take this reflective opportunity and share.

To set the scene, I’m placed with 7th graders in Agawam.  This is a Pre-Practicum experience, so my main role is helping during group work, conferences etc., doing observations, and I get observed teaching full lessons twice.  Today was my final observation of the semester.  Also to not be confusing, I  already went through this exact process earlier in the semester with another phenomenal cooperating teacher at a different school in Springfield!  Next semester is my “real” Practicum student-teaching.

It’s officially the last week of classes of first semester of my senior year *gasp*, and predictably, this I spent this entire past weekend pouring my every effort into the insane amount of in-progress final papers, projects, and portfolios assigned.  Finally, late on Sunday night, I was able to switch gears and work on my lesson plan for my final observation.  I am focusing on short story mysteries for my two-week unit plan project (10 days of detailed lesson plans and materials) for my Teaching Methods class project.  Coincidentally, my classes at Agawam are starting a similar unit.  I planned what I thought could be a fun intro into the unit, but since my mind was so spent, I wasn’t sure it was my best work or ideas.  My cooperating teacher, Mrs. Ramos looked it over Monday and thought the lesson was strong content-wise and also creative and dynamic.  With a few tweaks, I was good to go!  Apparently, even when being overloaded with work, stressing, and running on very little sleep, I can still make a good lesson plan.  This is good to know!

My life!

My life!

For a summary of what we did today, I started off with having the students recite the “ingredients” to a mystery: characters, plot, setting, clues, resolution, etc.  Then they brainstormed some well-known mysteries: Scooby-Doo, Pink Panther, Encyclopedia Brown, National Treasure, Blues Clues, Sherlock Holmes, CSI, etc., etc.  This had the students using the information of the mystery ingredients and thinking to apply it to shows/books/movies they know.  We then watched a trailer from one of the recent Sherlock Holmes movies and applied those same skills.  Next we read a mini-mystery and worked on setting and clues to solve it.  I then had the students break up into groups in three stations: stations 1 and 2 reading and trying to solve another mystery, and station 3 had a creative writing prompt: “How might you set up a trap or surveillance of a family member who keeps stealing from the cookie jar?”  The kids loved getting to plot their traps and plans to catch the cookie thief, all while applying the same content.  All of the tasks I set up had the students entertained while critically thinking.  I think I remember doing a similar lesson when I was in middle school, and it stuck with me.

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Background info on accommodations:  Before leaving school Monday, I made all the necessary copies of the four sheets I needed along with the adaptation copies for our student who is legally blind.  He works better when the worksheets are magnified on a copier and printed on larger paper.  This is a small task to do that really makes a huge difference in his learning.  If the teachers and aids did not work with the student to assist him, and if he was not able to have the same quality of instruction as the others, behavioral problems might be an issue because of a natural lack of focus and disengagement with the class.  If accommodations were not made, it might look like he wasn’t smart, but it would be really just a result of it taking him much, much longer to read small text.  However, with these accommodations of large text and paper, this student can be right on par with other students and show his intelligence and other good qualities.  There is a lot to think about while lesson planning, and it’s for the best of the student.

How it went!:  I taught the first two periods of the day before being supervised, and it was a really good thing that I did.  The two classes before my observation served almost like trial and error periods.  What I mean is that my delivery and order of parts of the lesson were not perfect on try one.  I made adjustments for class number two and finalized these adjustments further for class number three.  For this reason, the third class went the smoothest of the three, thankfully!  My transitions were still in the proper places, but I switched up the order of things to have it flow better.  My questions were clearer and my focus was stronger.  I had practiced for the championship game!

I do feel bad that the first class got the short end of the stick, because we had some technical difficulties with the computer, projector, and speakers, but that is just part of me being a learning teacher.  The second and third classes were happy and energetic during my lesson!  I got them to speak when normally they are quiet!  My hook and activity worked in getting them engaged and interested while learning the material!  It was fantastic, and I am thrilled.  Mrs. Ramos and my supervisor were happy and impressed as well, which are huge compliments, seeing as I truly respect each of their opinions.  An aid even overheard a student walking out of the third class saying “this was the best lesson of the year.”  Now, I may not say that he’s completely right, but the sentiment that he had fun while learning makes me extremely happy, because that ability to make learning fun is a huge part of the process to becoming an extraordinary teacher.

choose a job

I’m happy with my “performance” today.  I was energetic and genuinely enjoyed my time with my students.  I knew where I wanted the class to go for learning in the lesson.  The students were great.  I made the content relevant to them.  I was positive.  They were good thinkers.  They had fun and learned.  I had fun and learned.  Today was a great day.  :)

Visionaries Documentary Premiere!

Though my official role for our school’s newspaper, the Springfield Student, is copy editor, this week I did some writing, and I’ve got an article in this issue! I’ve posted the article (slightly different than the printed version) here, but check out their website here: SpringfieldStudent. I’ve also tried to give some photos that haven’t been previously uploaded! Enjoy :)

The Visionaries crew and I finally released our death grips on the plane’s armrests as we safely landed at Tegucigalpa Airport, which has been listed among the most dangerous airport sites. In mid-September, we arrived in Honduras to film a documentary over a four day period on the University of Zamorano, a non-profit agricultural university celebrating its 70th year.

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On Tuesday evening, a little over two months after the trip, director/producer and Springfield College Assistant Professor of Communication Jody Santos, cinematographer Bruce Lundeen, composer Chris Barrett, editor Xandra deGonzalez, and I, the project’s production assistant, gathered in the Townhouse Conference Room in front of an audience of about sixty to premiere the documentary and discuss our experiences. Jody began the event proudly introducing the Visionaries as a documentary series which airs on PBS, chronicling stories of non-profit organizations doing good around the world. She continued to explain how their documentaries are different from other news, as the Visionaries produces feel-good films which profile people making positive impacts in their communities.

I first met Jody in the spring of 2011 when I declared my minor in Social Justice, though I was well into my majors of English and Education. In her Special Topics Communication course, I worked with my film partner, Josh Ernst (‘12), to write, film, and produce our own 25-minute documentary on the Gray House, a Springfield, Mass. non-profit. Our film followed the format of a Visionaries documentary, allowing the Gray House interviewees to tell the uplifting story of their organization and the differences they make in the local community.

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My first-time experience working in documentary production was exciting, and I learned to love the art of storytelling through film. Though that was my first and only class with Jody and involving film, I continued to stay in contact with her in the semesters that followed, always interested in her international, social-justice-themed film travels. In the fall semester of 2012, my junior year, I studied abroad at the University of Limerick in Ireland and traveled throughout Europe. I believe it was a combination of this international travel history, past documentary experience, and my related minor that led Jody over the summer to invite me on the Visionaries’ trip to Honduras earlier this semester. Needless to say, I was thrilled about another international travel opportunity and even more excited to be a part of the first-hand filming experience.

From the moment our plane hit the narrow airport runway in Tegucigalpa, the core crew consisting of Jody, Bruce, audio technician Lit Turner, and I went straight to work. It felt as if Bruce’s cameras were always rolling with Lit monitoring audio, Jody was interviewing and brainstorming storylines, and I was continually sprinting after them trying to keep pace with their seemingly choreographed ways. As we filmed, Jody began to envision the documentary’s story coming together, highlighting Zamorano’s history and positive impact on the community and environment, two top-of-the-class students attending from indigenous Central American villages on scholarships, and the first Women’s Conference taking place on campus.

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Long, hot days of filming started at 3:30 or 4 a.m. and carried well after sundown, sometimes until after midnight. I quickly realized that while Josh and I had half of a semester to film our Gray House documentary, shooting for four days in Honduras put us on a very different time schedule. Though Honduras can be a dangerous country, especially for American travelers, we felt safe on Zamorano’s beautiful and friendly campus. During our stay, we got to know the school structure and history very well. The crew and I were impressed by Zamorano’s faculty and their passionate students learning how to better provide for their families and communities. The students we met were all extremely grateful for their priceless education the University of Zamorano offers, and their passion for their school was contagious. It was also amazing to learn the university’s role in the surrounding community, including projects such as implementing safer stoves in homes, working to provide clean water, and protecting the environment especially in the Uyuca biological reserve.

This was my first time visiting Central America and my first time in any developing country. It was an eye-opening experience driving through the capital city’s poverty on the way to Zamorano’s campus while beautiful mountains of green trees surrounded us. I thoroughly enjoyed working and spending time with the Visionaries’ crew while soaking up everything I could about the professional documentary-filming process, practicing my Spanish, and learning about the university’s inspirational work.
At Tuesday’s premiere, the entire experience came together full circle: Jody, Bruce, and I fondly reminisced about the trip, I got to meet Xandra, the editor and Chris, the composer for the film’s music, we got to see the full cut of the documentary, shared our reflections, and answered questions from the audience. It was surreal watching the edited version of the Visionaries’ film on the University of Zamorano, knowing that the crew and I were there filming those scenes and interviews only two months ago. Ironically, I was happily transported back in time to the moment of gripping fear before our plane’s landing and the whirlwind of memories from the four days that followed.

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THANK YOU to everybody for their support, and a special thanks to Mom and Shannon, my friends, and professors who made the effort to come to our premiere! :-)