Saturday, February 1, 2014

WHY I BECAME A TEACHER


By Angeline M Duran Santiago
" Tell me and I forget,
Teach me and I may remember,
 
Involve me and I may learn."
-Benjamin Franklin

Here I am once more, sharing things dear to my heart, not because I want to put my business out to the world for fun, but because I believe something good can always come when we share our stories, ups and downs. If you read my blogs regularly, then you have learned that I had both great experiences in my childhood during elementary school, but endured traumatic moments when I started middle school. The events that took place in my life were stepping stones that led me to work hard towards my dream to become a teacher.

Let me share some of the reasons I believe 
teaching was and is a part of my life's calling.


I lived first hand under the effects of great teachers and effective leadership in elementary school. My experiences there were a model I believed would continue in my future schools but unfortunately didn't. Middle school forced me out of my childish nest, and pushed me to open my eyes and see the ugliness in the hearts of others. Who was to blame? Would we accuse the parents, church, community or teachers? Or do we just declare kids will be kids? Just as my life was positively impacted by a safe, loving environment in my early years, I also experienced an educational system that not only failed me, but countless children around me. From teachers, deans to administration, I was left alone, stranded and looking to them for answers, while they turned their backs in unison and pretended I was invisible and that my mom wasn't speaking to them.

I dreamed of being a teacher, and I also wanted to impact students by helping them to find learning easy and love being in school. Middle school added to my reasons for becoming an educator. Now, I also wanted to protect, teach against aggression and violence, and be there for families. The struggles and pain I endured for what seemed eternity made my teenage years very difficult. It took a long time to be set free from the effects of being bullied for no reason. As an educator, I felt I would have a stage to help students understand fighting for the pure pleasure of because you feel like it, will always be unacceptable. I didn't want kids wanting to quit school, dislike being in school or be turned off to the adventures of learning because of negative things that happen sometimes.


As a teacher, I've made my classroom a place where I always refer to us as family, where students know I will listen and where anyone having disputes with another student ends up shaking hands or doing some crazy handshake before 3 pm. I'd tell them that it hurt me deeply to imagine they would feel joyful to cause physical or emotional harm to any child in any way. If I didn't have the answers, I'd speak to my supervisors and get their input, but I always put student's feelings first.

Most of my years teaching, I've had the class with the difficult behavior. Loving the Arts, when the opportunity to be part of a Drama class was given, I took it. The class showed teachers how to use role play and acting in the classroom to improve student behavior. If there is bullying of any kind in your classroom, this will definitely bring out many emotions and positive discussions. It will also be a great beginning for a writing lesson as students will be able to write poetry or their story once the activity is finished.


Lesson: " MY BROKEN HEART "

I cut out a large heart and taped it to the front of the board. As students walked in, I handed them their own personal copy of a heart. That morning, I asked them to tell me the things that would make anyone sad, (words, actions, anything). One by one, I'd write them down throughout the heart as big as I could. From name calling, stupid, dumb, slut, to ugly, being pushed, laughed at, you name it, they shared. 

Everyone had to give me something to write. Everyone. I'd then ask them to write all the things they wanted to write on their own heart. Had they ever been hurt, made to feel sad, or used these words towards anyone else? I changed the activity a bit by pretending to be that child being picked on. So, when they were done I asked them each to read one word off of their heart. Every time one of them read aloud, holding the large heart in my hand, I'd rip a piece off of the heart and make a painful sound or bend over, etc. until each child had read something to me. (They started laughing at first, but before long, my hurtful expressions caught on and all was still.)

"What happened to my heart?"
"It's broken."
"How did it break?"
"The things we said and did."
"Who can help me put it back together?"
"No one. Maybe tape?"
"Can I use tape inside my heart?"
Silence.
"No."


Crumbling the remains of the heart and the broken pieces on the floor, I carried the heart and placed it into a large sandwich baggy. I blew kisses into it and sealed it. To end the activity, I asked the students to write ways to heal the broken heart, if possible with their words. I asked the students to personify the heart and write what the heart would say after being torn to pieces.The results were amazing. Even students who were the offenders, the bullies or the tough wanna be kids touched my heart with their poems and written pieces. 



The next day, I completed this activity by having a brand new heart on the board when the kids walked in. Part of their homework was to think of ways to keep your heart happy. As I took attendance, I asked each one to take a marker and write their special word on the heart. It was up for a while. Each time we looked at the heart with positive and beautiful language on it, we were reminded that those are the things we need to tell one another each day. 


Angeline M Duran Santiago

Now you know why I became a teacher. I believe God allows us to go through things in our lives to equip us so that we can help others. Maybe that was the reason for what I had to experience.  I know students go through, what parents go through, and what teachers can do to help students. And, yes, if you know me, you also know I have been out of the classroom for a few months, but my heart is in the classroom and when I return, I will once again be a voice for love and not fear. 


Resources: Click below for more lessons/activities like this one:

Drama Workshop (deals with bullying)

Anti-Bully lesson plans

Bullying Prevention lesson plans

The Paper Tale (Scripts for the classroom/Bullying)

Bee the Change (lesson/blog)

Folding Heart (lesson)

Theatre In Action- Bullying Prevention

Words that hurt and Words that heal (lesson)