Monday, October 20, 2014

Crash Course Week 7: Tenacity and Insight

Do you wonder if anything you're saying to your students is sticking? Have you had opportunities to follow up with former students? If so, what have you learned from them that has affected your teaching or your thoughts about getting through to students? And, related to chapter 11, how do you understand and celebrate the differences between your students?

We're more than halfway through the book club now. For next week we will read chapter 12. 

54 comments:

  1. This is my first year teaching elementary aged students. Before, I taught preschool and they aren't old enough to follow up with yet.

    I love and accept that all my students are different. Something one student enjoys isn't always fun for the other student. I like to group my students up into groups where they are forced to interact with someone they might not have grouped with in the first place. I think that broadens their perspective and allows them to interact with all people in their class. If a student suggests an idea I've never tried before, I am always willing to incorporate into a lesson and see how it works.

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  2. I was fortunate enough to have a former student re-connect with me this year. I have students touch base to say hello, etc, but his one was now a education major at IU and was doing a research project on the flipped classroom. She interviewed me as her expert on the topic and presented it to her class. For me, she was a special student because I had her in my first year of teaching and she was one student that made that stressful year easier for me by being kind and always willing to help. Her and I got a chance to talk and it was so rewarding to see her as a mature adult and be able to talk education with her. I was able to share with her how much she meant to me as a student and she shared how much I meant to her as a teacher. Even though I wasn't flipping my class back then, apparently, I had elements of a flipped classroom because she remembered my class as being very student-centered. It reminded me that we do make a difference. Even in my first year of teaching, when I was admittedly a terrible teacher (aren't we all in our first year?), I still was able to make a memorable connection with that student.

    Oddly enough, last night I was out for an evening jog along the Canal Path here in Indy and a young lady jogged by me from behind and when I made eye contact with her she was so excited to see me and said, "hello" and I realized it was another student from that first year of teaching. Since we were both running, and she was moving much faster than me (she is 20+ years younger) we didn't have a conversation. But, just seeing her be so genuinely happy to see me was another reminder that I did have some impact on her life.

    I loved when she said that she didn't always feel like she was planting seeds, but rather putting out fires. Sometimes I feel that's what I and a lot of other teachers get caught up in. We're caught up in the moment and forgetting that it is worth it to plant the seed. We may never see those seeds grow in most of our students, but in the rare instances we do, we should cherish it.

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  3. Tenacity. There are times when we plant a seed, water it, watch it grow and see the harvest. But as a first grade teacher I rarely see that complete cycle in my children. However, the hope that something you do or say will continue on in a child’s life is the thing that makes it worthwhile. I may plant the seed of learning, others may water it and watch it grow and while another sees the fruit. We never know what children take away from our classrooms, good or bad. This makes me realize more today than ever before how important my attitude, calmness, determination and joy are to those around me. For my students and my family.
    Insight. I live and work in the white suburbia that is talked about in this chapter. The question is how to bring diversity to my world. How can teachers like myself have that discussion and make it real?

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  4. One of the most rewarding parts of my career in education is when I hear from former students and see how their lives have turned out. I have "been in the business" long enough that I am dealing with kids of former students. It has been interesting to reconnect wih students this way. Wih Facebook and other social media I also have been able to see the fruit from some of the seeds planted years ago.

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    1. I agree with you. During our recent parent-teacher conferences I was able to see several of my former students in their roles as parents. It is great to be able to experience these "reunion" opportunities

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  5. Recently I had several opportunities to check in with former students. When I checked my Facebook page earlier this year, four of my Class of 2013 seniors had posted Weird Al's "Word Crimes" video to my timeline with comments about my class and how they missed it. I have learned over the years that it is the relationship that teachers build with students that will be remembered long after any lesson or project is forgotten.

    The major differences between the students in our school are socio-economic. The only differences that we focus on are ability-level. Differentiation is key to celebrating success with our students.

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  6. Sometimes the things we think others will remember about us are not the things they do. I used to be a librarian at an elementary school. I was very careful to make sure I taught the students something, even if it was little, every time I met with them. My big plans were weekly vocabulary words, an introduction to the Dewey Decimal system, and how to use the internet for research. I also taught the upper grades PowerPoint thinking this was a tool they would use for the rest of their academic life- which most probably do. However, a lot of times when I talk to the kids now, most have recently graduated or are in high school, they will remind me of a book I read to their class. It is amazing how detailed they will become in their memory almost as if they had read it last week instead of many years ago. I thought the lessons were the most important part of our visits but actually it was me just taking the time to read to these students and give them time to escape to another world using their imagination. A seed was planted about the joys of reading and I know many of those little elementary kids have grown to be good readers, enjoy reading for relaxation, and hopefully someday they will have just as much fun reading bedtime stories to their children as I had reading to them during our library time.

    As far as insight; my profoundly hearing impaired (formally known as deaf) daughter and I have had a lot of experience with this over the last fifteen years. At first I was shocked by how rude strangers could be and totally oblivious to the feelings of others. But as time has gone by, when someone is rude or asks a dumb question, such as: “What’s wrong with her?” We just smile at each other and let it go. She and I often joke about getting t-shirts that say, “Thinking BEFORE you speak?….priceless.” The most important thing I have found is to just smile and not let it ruin the rest of the day.

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  7. I feel very fortunate that I am able to re-connect often with a few of my former students. Facebook has definitely been a great link for that. I have lunch every summer with a former student that I was lucky enough to have in 6th grade and again in 8th grade. She always initiates the contact and it has been so rewarding to see her grow as a person and now as a professional.

    I had a very humbling experience about 8 years ago when a former student contacted me through email. I had this bright young lady in middle school and I had recently (at the time) found out she was expecting a child while still in high school. I had moved school districts and my husband still taught in that district. In her email she wanted me to hear from her that she was pregnant and going to raise the baby by herself. She also didn't want me to be disappointed in her. It broke my heart. I emailed her back (through my tears!) and it turned out to be a rewarding experience for us both to communicate. We still do - she finished high school, graduated with honors from college and is now a teacher. She is also a very wonderful and proud mother.

    I often think I have really planted great seeds of knowledge about science but as many have said, students often remember things you don't expect! I often have students comment on funny things that happened in class (remember when so-in-so caught the wall on fire with a hot plate!) or I have students ask if I have any new shoes since they all know I love high heels. Connections are made sometimes in the least obvious ways.

    I believe someone else posted a comment about trying to bring diversity to their students. I think this is a real problem at my school. We are not very focused on recognizing different cultures and groups and we do not have that diverse of a population.

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  9. I have had the opportunity to speak with former students. I think that for those students who have a deep interest in the topic information stays more readily. It is tougher with those kids who have different interests. I do know what educational researcher say, and I have totally changed how I teach. I believe that you have to be flexible in your approach. Even if you love something, if it isn't working for the kids, it isn't working. I did have a good moment last week. I taught many of my 8th graders last year as 7th graders. The question came up in class about what boycotts are. I didn't have to answer as several of my former students answered it for me. That is reassuring. As for celebrating differences in students, I try to find where students excel and encourage them to use those talents in class. I have had students create cartoons, poetry and rap songs. When I was a younger teacher I had a student who turned in every assignment as a comic strip. They were clever and correct. What's not to love?

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  10. I often find myself wondering if anything I teach my students sticks with them. After all, isn’t that what my job is? To continue building their foundation of reading and writing skills? If nothing sticks, and each year they have to start over, I feel like I haven’t done my job. Most recently, I went crazy when I spent two class periods teaching students how to properly cite sources for research essays, and many students turned them in completely wrong!

    The one part from chapter 10 that stood out to me the most was, “It is easy for all of us to become discouraged when we feel that we have nurtured a child who doesn’t respond to our efforts. It is even more frustrating when we feel like we aren’t appreciated for all that we are trying to do to help. But we must cling to the hope that our efforts have made a difference and that one day, that child will draw on the things that we have instilled in them” (100). I can’t tell you how much I needed to read something uplifting and positive like that right now. I am having a tough time this year with a small group of my students. I feel unappreciated. I feel like I try my best, and they put in zero effort. I feel like they could care less what I’m teaching them. I feel like I can’t motivate them. But when I look out at my entire class, I realize that there are students who are devouring what I give them, who come energized to class and ready to discuss, who enjoy my class, and who do see and appreciate all of the effort I put in. That is why I pick myself up, continue teaching to the best of my ability, and continue hoping that I will reach more and more students with each lesson, each day.

    I have learned from my students that not a lot them are college bound, and I must present my lessons and make them engaging for all types of students. When I can make a piece of literature or project exciting for the entire class, I know that I have reached them all. I love celebrating the differences in my classroom. I teach many English as a New Language kids, and they bring so much vibrancy and culture to my lessons. I love having them share their parents’ immigration stories when we read The House on Mango Street. I enjoy having students create artistic representations of scenes from novels, where they can display their amazing drawing skills. I call on the students in my room to explain certain farming and agriculture concepts while we read the novel Of Mice and Men. Celebrating differences makes everyone feel at home in my room; they are able to feel comfortable in their own skin, and they know that their opinions and thoughts are welcome at all times.

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    1. “It is easy for all of us to become discouraged when we feel that we have nurtured a child who doesn’t respond to our efforts. It is even more frustrating when we feel like we aren’t appreciated for all that we are trying to do to help. But we must cling to the hope that our efforts have made a difference and that one day, that child will draw on the things that we have instilled in them”, I agree with this quote too. But when I see former students who still remember my name and what subject I taught, usually along with some activities we did together, then I know that I made an impact on their long term memory. That's success.

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    2. Sarah and Kari, I could not agree with you more. Sarah when I read that same part about getting discouraged when students don't respond to our efforts, it really stood out to me as well. I have students in my class that have to take and pass in order to graduate, which means that I have a large variety of interest, or lack there of, in my classroom. Just this past week, I sent reminder texts, emails, wrote on the board and told them verbally time and time again about a few due dates for some items, still students did not turn in their assignment. It is so easy to get frustrated by this, but I have to remind myself, that had to of made a difference in at least some of them turning their work in. I think this feeling cuts deep mostly because I truly do want my students to do well and I want all of them to pass my class.

      I try to celebrate their differences by realizing that each of them learn differently and I give multiple opportunities in my classroom to make them successful by differentiating my teaching style. I also, know that some kids may have struggles at home that hinder them from finishing the work and I try to accommodate that. I would want someone to do the same for my own child and try to treat the students in my classroom as I would want my own children treated.

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  11. I have had several former students come back to me and explain how much they appreciated me pushing them towards perfect practice...I always start off Spanish I each year by explaining that the teachers, coaches, etc. that told them 'Practice makes perfect' lied to them as if that were true then every NBA player would be 100% on free throws as they have practiced those free throws for over 20 years on a daily basis for many of them. I tell my students that "Perfect Practice makes Perfect" and I explain that if they want to get a perfect on a quiz or test, then they should get a perfect on each practice. To do that I explain that they should use their resources for each assignment (notes, vocabulary lists, and coming to see me with questions before school). The students that have come back to me have encouraged me to keep pushing the students in this as they have said that it really helped them learn how to study and prepare for quizzes/tests properly.
    In celebrating differences, I always have several native Spanish speakers in my classes and I have always tried to motivate them to focus on the reading and writing aspect of the class (as they can already speak and understand and many of them can't read and write Spanish)...this year, I decided that to motivate them more I would ask if they would be willing to do a brief presentation on their country (heritage) and surprisingly, all of them said yes and were excited about it. This is my first year trying it and just by asking them to do it, I noticed an increase in focus and motivation in the class...that started to slide until I then gave them the instructions for how to prepare and what exactly I was looking for with a date in mind for the presentations, then I saw that increase again in their motivation and focus...some have started to slide again, but the presentations are coming up at the beginning of November, so I am hoping to see that increase again!

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  12. The middle school students I teach are in a constant state of flux- some days they barely can literally remember their own names, let alone the content and lessons I teach. While I'd like to think I can always make an impact on their long term memory, I've had to realize that sometimes it's beyond my control- not everything sticks. That being said, I'm learning to teach more of the "soft skills" or life lessons that will make my students successful in future classes and life- I demonstrate the tenacity to keep teaching them how to be organized and motivated and to have tenacity themselves. It's tough being a content area teacher- so many facts to memorize- but I seek for the students to have a desire to keep improving and keep trying.

    Differences- 173 different personalities must learn from the same lesson each day. Sometimes I can give different options as to how to learn, but more often I find myself allowing students the freedom to demonstrate their differences in how the show me what they learned. I give choices whenever I can. I try not to be too picky on the little things- give students a chance to be unique in how they write their name, color choices, variety of homework options, etc. It is SO hard in this age of standardized testing to let students be themselves- how does that fit into a standardized world? But it's that freedom to be appreciated for who you are that makes each child feel unique. I think students remember the differences more than the similarities- and standardized testing makes it harder to show students how special they all are and how it's OK to be different- but that makes it all the more important. (Sorry if I'm a little rambly and this doesn't make sense- caught a fall cold on the first day back after Fall Break and I'm fighting "medicine head" fog from cold meds today).

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    1. Oh my, you were a teacher at Maconaquah when I was there as a student. Now there is a some crazy right there :)

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  13. I have been teaching for four years now. Three of those years have been in fourth grade and the other one sixth grade English. My first year kiddos are now in high school, and I saw a former student a few weeks ago and she said, "I remember your class because you showed love for us all." I have seen other students in the halls or at the middle school saying, "Man your class was fun" or "I liked when you did that one science experiment one time", but none of these comments have affected me quite like the first one. I remember when I had that gal in my classroom. She was quiet, simple, and didn't participate a lot. I constantly wrote her notes in her journal telling her what a great writer she was and other encouraging notes. By the end of that semester she was volunteering and showed everyone in the class what a bright girl she truly was (and still is). I know things we say don't always "stick" but I think when we try to build a relationship with our students and they start to trust us. They start to learn more because they respect us, and listen to what we are saying. They want to try and please us and listen to us. I always try to not only teach my kiddos academically, but also life lessons. Just today I was out of my class for a few hours for a training and my students treated one of our helpers rudely. I explained what a volunteer does and that they do not get paid, but do the work out of the love and goodness of their heart. We discussed how their behavior was wrong, and decided they should really listen to the volunteer when she is here. I think little talks and class meetings like that really help a child learn a life lesson that will stick with them.

    One way I encourage students to be different or learn a lesson that it is okay to be different is by praising them. Sometimes students even surprise me by solving a math problem differently that I would have, or creating a picture in art class that is a little different. I praise them for this and make sure everyone accepts this difference. We also have an award each week called the Golden Paw. I try to award students this award for a variety of reasons and then hang it up in the room for others to see. They really enjoy this because they can see all the different ways people earn this award, and realize it is okay to be different.

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  14. There is nothing better than knowing that something you've taught your students stick with them or have helped them. Sometimes it comes from other teachers in the building, sometimes it's a student reaching out and sharing their successes. It makes me so excited when a former student will randomly reach out to me and tell me about how something I taught them helped.
    One activity that I really enjoy doing as an ice breaker is to have students write anonymous letters. They share about the difficulties or situations they are going through. Students then type them, and are assigned a number to keep it completely anonymous. We switch the letters. The new student reads the letter and writes back, sharing about a time when they went through something similar or giving advice. IT makes for an interesting activity and creates a sense of warmth in the classroom. After the activity, we talk about how we cannot judge anyone until they walk in someone else's shoes.

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  15. My first band directing job, I stepped into a music dynasty. I had just graduated from college and I already had planned what my bands were going to accomplish and I set goals to achieve them. I was very serious and I worked the students very hard. I didn’t take rehearsal time to chat or joke; there was work to be done. When my first group of seniors graduated at the end of the year, a couple kind-hearted courageous ones told me I needed to lighten up. I also had the previous band director, who still lived in the community, take me aside and tell me to take the time to get to know the kids and everything else would fall into place. I took their advice, slowed the pace, and let my guard down, and it was a much more enjoyable learning environment for all involved. Now when I hear from former students, they talk about how much fun they had in band. They remind me of my dreadful puns and terrible jokes. They remember my eagerness to share my love of music and how I taught them not to only play the music but to breathe life into it.

    As I looked at “how do you celebrate the differences between your students?” I was at a loss on how I do this. Some bloggers mentioned the lack of diversity in their schools and others discussed the individual differences of students and teaching styles. So I will address both. Like the author, I too come from white suburbia. I currently teach in a predominantly white community, but I did my student teaching in a predominantly black community in Michigan. I worked with 3 elementary school beginning band programs and one junior high school’s 7th and 8th grade bands. This was definitely an eye opening experience for me. I quickly learned that everybody has a story and kids are kids no matter their race. We came from very different backgrounds but we all shared a love of music. This was in the 80’s and Eddie Murphy’s Beverly Hills Cop was THE movie. The students loved the “Axel F” theme and I notated it so we could play it in class. When the eighth grade students “graduated” to high school they all wanted their pictures taken with their white “student teacher.” We had so much fun together. Although I currently teach in a white community, we discuss music from all different cultures. We celebrate the differences in cultures through music.

    As for my individual students, I address their differences as performers, especially on playing tests. Just today we had a playing test and, as each student played, I gave them individual comments. I recognize their differences, praise what they do well, and give them tips for improvement. This morning a couple of students showed remarkable improvement and we celebrated their accomplishments together. In both settings, inner city Michigan and rural Indiana, I celebrated differences by meeting each child where they were and helping them along their musical journey.

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  16. My classroom is used as a high school homeroom for one of the morning class periods. Typically the high school students enter groggy, listening to their headphones, chatting with friends, all in all, completely distracted. However, last week as they entered I was met with HUGE smiles and a flood of positive memories as they saw I had collected mythology blue prints. One of the highlights in 7th grade Language Arts is completing a blue print of Mount Olympus. Students put forth a TON of time and effort into this project and really allow for their creativity to soar. High school boys who I struggled to connect with as seventh graders (rather reluctant learners) were non-stop talking about memories of completing their own project...I was shocked to hear how many students still had their blue print intact years later. They were able to recall the gods/goddesses and infamous throne room and the deliberation they each had in designing the 12 thrones. It was certainly a proud moment for me knowing what an impact this project on them and certainly reassures its usefulness in push to step away from fiction and pour into non-fiction.

    As far as celebrating student's differences I think it is necessary and appropriate to provide multiple learning opportunities throughout a unit to allow for a student to excel and latch onto the desired concept. It is my attempt to provide a testing, writing, and creative opportunity in ALL units in an effort to catch ALL learning types. While I am sure I do not always succeed, I feel it is necessary to make the attempt.

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  17. I have not yet run into many former students yet. I taught in Illinois first and then moved to Indiana. But my first year teaching, I will never forget a student that I only had for one semester. She was pregnant and just trying to get through algebra. She was very angry but somehow I was able to get her to sit with me and work on the problems. She was actually pretty bright but had so many other issues to deal with. She passed the class with a C and then I did not see her the next semester. She had her baby and stopped in near the end of the school year. She thanked me for helping her pass and she said she would not have been able to without my help.

    I do not spend much time in Geometry talking about people's differences. We have so many standards to cover now and that is where my focus lies. Our school does have many students from other countries so I have many students in which English is not their first language. Also, I have many students with learning disabilities, hearing loss and last year a student of mine was almost legally blind. I work hard to make sure all their needs are being met and that they are learning the material. Some days are better than others but we just keep trying.

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  18. Living in a small town, I run into former students on a regular basis in restaurants, at the gas station, in the credit union, etc. Last summer I ran into a former student named Brad who works hard to scrape by financially, and is a divorced dad of two. Brad was not a good student when he was in my English 9 class. He was immature, didn't turn in much work, and certainly didn't put forth much daily effort. When he saw me at at the grocery store, his face lit up. This surprised me because I didn't think he liked my class or me very much. He told me to tell my students to "work hard so you don't have to be stuck in a job you hate. Get a good education while you can. I wish I had listened and tried harder when I was in school. I'm paying for it now." Brad told me he recently had taken his son to a Major League Baseball game and the two of them had stayed overnight one night and had a two-day vacation. He said, "Tell your students it took me a year to save money for the tickets, eating out, the hotel, and gas money. Kids think they're going to make a lot of money when they get out of high school. Well, I don't." The story has stayed with me, and made me realize that sometimes we do plant seeds in students. Brad is taking some night classes and hopes to get an Associate's Degree. I hope that someday he has a job he enjoys and provides him with a more comfortable living

    Seeing Brad also made me realize there are significant differences in my students. They aren't all headed to college immediately after high school. I try to praise each student I have for something. No one likes a teacher or any adult to only say what they can do better. I give my students free choice in choosing their independent reading material most of the school year. This allows them to explore and read about topics they are drawn to. It is hard sometimes not to pigeon-hole students, but I really try to individually talk to each one so I learn more about them. I am often surprised when students are not in a large group; individually, students are trying to impress anyone and often open up quite a bit.

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    1. Oh, my mistakes! Apologies for not proofreading!
      Add a period at the end of the first paragraph.
      2nd paragraph, 4th sentence - change they to he or she.
      2nd paragraph, 7th sentnecne - change them to him or her.
      2nd paragraph, 8th sentence - change are trying to are not trying

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  19. I am only in my second year of teaching. Any seeds that I have planted are still growing most likely. However, I do have one instance to recall on. When I did my student teaching, I had a fairly hard road at times. I had some really huge classes. Keeping all the middle school students in their seats and quite was a battle every day, before I could even think about the lesson at hand. I completed the course, and my supervising teacher was very supportive. He thought I did a great job, but I wasn’t convinced that I had made the impact I wanted to. Then a few months later, something very inspirational to me happened. My sister’s hairdresser’s best friend’s daughter said she had the best student teacher for math. The girl said for the first time she felt like she understand math, and she wished she could have him as a teacher again. This girl was referring to me, and I found out about it through the grapevine. That really made me feel like all the time I was putting in and struggles I had were all worth it.

    I am still by no means even close to being a great teacher, but I can guarantee I’m a heck of a lot better than I was back then just filling in for the real teacher. I hope to have more of this positive impact on my students. I try to support my students at all times. I always encourage them to come in early or stay after if they are struggling with a particular lesson or section. I stay dedicated to their achievement, and I hope they someday they will look back and see that.

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  20. I have been lucky enough to see many former students as they continue playing in band in high school. The high school director hosts a middle school band festival each fall and he brings some of his students to our classes to rehearse the music ahead of the concert. This year, he brought along several of "my" kids, and it was great to see them again. They've grown and matured a lot, and it reminded me that they were once in middle school too, and there's hope for the current students to develop and grow as they mature as well.

    As for celebrating the differences in my students, it's sometimes easy to overlook in the short span of a busy class period. My school is not very diverse at all. But while making concert music selections, I do try to appeal to the variety of musical tastes of my students and their families. Last spring, our concert theme was "A Musical Journey Around the World," and each band played music from a variety of countries and styles. I think that we were able to touch on some popular and traditional songs from some of the countries of the students' heritage, and it was nice to be able to celebrate the diverse musical styles of our backgrounds.

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  21. I have found it both amusing and reassuring some of the comments former students have posted on Facebook about their high school vs. college experiences. These comments tend to reflect that our efforts to make high school more rigorous and keep students accountable pay off in their college years; sometimes the comments indicate that the students would like to go back to the good ol' days of many chances to improve a grade with multiple assignments rather than four or five grades for an entire college semester which can create panic with one poor score.

    Relating to the insight that we gain from our students and their diversity, I recently found a thought attributed to Bill Nye (and several others), "Everyone you will ever meet knows something that you don't." I found an eye catching version of this on Pinterest some weeks ago and made it my computer desktop background to remind me of it often. While I am sometimes frustrated with students' lack of performance or their lackadaisical approach to life, I also remember to see more in them than what they return to me academically as they have much to teach me, as well.

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  22. I have run into students from time to time and they have gone on to higher forms of education. They have told me I didn't give up on them and my expectations had them reaching for higher goals.

    I never saw my students as being one ethnic background vs another. They were all my students and many times I would call them my kids just like my own son or daughter. My classrooms are a family where we accept each others strengths and weaknesses. And we are there for each other in good time and in bad. As a PE teacher I don't look at one student and say because of their background they can play one sport better than another. I encourage each child to find and build on their strengths and likes not on what society tells them they should do.

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  23. I run into or hear from former students every once in a while. The most common comments that I get are thank you for preparing them for college Spanish classes. They are not necessarily Spanish majors but they learn enough in high school that they are able to test out of a number of hours at various universities. A few of my former students have majored or minored in Spanish. When I can give a student a tool to use for the rest of their lives, this shows that I have done my job well.

    There are two colleagues at different schools that teach Spanish close to my school corporation. One is a former student of mine and the other was my student teacher several years ago. I am amazed at how well both are doing in their teaching positions. They both make me proud because I had a part in their lives.

    I try to offer many opportunities for my students to allow for academic differences. Not all students are test takers, but they thrive with hands on activities. Variety is the spice of life! I hope every student takes something positive away from my class. Not all students are excellent Spanish students, but maybe they picked up good study habits or how to manage their time from my class.

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  24. One benefit of social media is getting to see former students. I taught 8th graders for 6 years (2001-2007), and shortly after I left that corporation, the social media stuff exploded. I am who I am, and have nothing to hide, so I typically accepted all of those kiddos that friended me. It is humbling to hear their words of thanks to me for the good things that I did for them. I remember a few kids mentioned how they appreciated certain methods I used. But most of the kids I have reconnected with have said they appreciated how I treated them. It makes me realize that even though I question how well I am doing at my job, I am making a difference. I do believe that we can change the world one child at a time. In addition to kiddos, I have been blessed to work with countless parents that are a joy. There are several families that stand out in my mind as success stories.
    In celebrating the differences of each of my students, I try to just treat each kid with respect. At the beginning of each school year, I have a questionnaire that allows me to get to know each kid. I truly read each answer and try to bring those little things us later---even if it just rewarding them with their favorite snack or allowing them to talk about an interest they have. Sometimes, having a sidebar for two minutes, bring joy to a kid’s heart for years to come!

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  25. I teach in a K-8 school and as the first grade teacher, I get to see my students 'grow up' right before my eyes, and can also monitor them easily by touching base with former teachers. This is not only rewarding in that I can see the seeds I've planted come to fruition, but also serves to keep me accountable since other teachers can also come back to me to ask questions about things they've noticed in my former students. Everyone needs to know they've made a difference, and for a teacher to know that the knowledge they've instilled has taken root is very gratifying.

    My school has only just begun to have a more diverse student body, and as this has happened I'm making it a point to check my preconceived notions at the door and learn from each child. My goal is to have the same expectations of each student while also being mindful of the different gifts they bring to all of us in the classroom.

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  26. Well I just typed a reply but it's the second time it does not publish! UGH!
    So, I'm making this one short and sweet!

    My words to my students might not always seem to stick, but after talking to former students, I think they hear me and tend to listen to me later. They are teenagers who let a lot of what they hear go in one ear and out the other. Like myself, I heard a lot of what my parents and teachers told me, but chose to listen or not and take their advice.

    I also let my students teach me sometimes. They enjoy it and it makes them laugh when I don't know something from "today's times." I think it makes them feel cool that they know something that the teacher doesn't.

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  27. One of the highest compliments I ever got was when another teacher told me that a former student I had in high school had said she wished her daughter could have someone in her life at school like Mrs. Dillon. I was so humbled when I heard that and encouraged to keep doing what I have always done and that is to show students how much I care about them as individuals. Sometimes they might not remember what you say but they will always remember how you made them feel.

    Our school does not have much cultural diversity, so I always show a movie about Martin Luther King, Jr. during Black History Month which generates much discussion as well as one about Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad. I want our mostly white population of students to see first hand the news clips of Martin Luther King's speeches and marches for peace and then his abrupt and untimely death. It always makes a big impact on them.

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  28. I love being able to see my former students. They are excited to see me in the hall and to come visit for a quick minute in the morning. I have a terrible memory so I don't always remember their name (terrible, I know!) but I always remember their face. My goal each year is to be sure my students know how much I just adore being their teacher. Although there are some students who are easier to connect with then others, it is my mission to find some connection with everyone. I know that I have an important role in their development and I take my "job" very seriously. The most common comments I hear are "I miss you" and "I wish you were still my teacher" and "I hope my (sister/brother) gets you". It is heartwarming to hear that they have fond memories of our year together. I have had a few students over the years that I have struggled to really connect with and I wondered if they were just counting the days until the end of year. It's great to see them at the beginning of the next year when they are excited to see you and can't wait to visit. Although government can make us feel inadequate with more and more pressure, it's the kids that make all the difference. With out their joy, enthusiasm, and open spirits this "job" just wouldn't be worth it. What we do DOES matter and even if we don't see it right away, I KNOW my influence is long lasting and I better make it a positive experience.

    Our school is not as diverse as many others in our city. Although ethnically we are pretty homogeneous, economically our population has been slowly changing over the years. It certainly brings another aspect to our relationships that are important to honor. Growing up in a diverse school system has helped to give me perspective but I still have so much to learn. I hate to admit that I have a really hard time starting these discussions when it comes to race. We can talk about our learning styles, our home lives, and our favorite foods that someone else might not like, but when it comes to talking about ethnicity, there is an element of caution so as not to offend anyone. Recently we have talked about our ancestors and the kiddos are excited to find their similarities. I love to point out how were all the same in so many ways but we also have so much to explore in our differences. It's those differences that make life much more interesting. As Kim points out, sharing our variety of talents is important and we shouldn't focus on just one aspect to define us.

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  29. Reconnecting with former students is probably one of the most fun and rewarding parts of having a teaching career. It's why we do what we do, trying to make a difference. Social media has made it easy to keep up with students. It means the world to get a message from them and hear how much they appreciated your impact in their lives.

    I found the comment by the hotel staff not offensive at all. The hotel staff statement had nothing to do with ethnicity in my opinion rather than the cultural norm. The cultural norm is that students travel due to athletics predominately or club events every so often. But, to have students traveling for career interest and interviews, yes, that is out of the norm! As it should not be so, but that is truth. I played college basketball, we traveled a lot; I never saw a group of students in my four year college career who was not traveling with another athletic team. Our high school has a Model UN team who does some traveling, but for the most part, if travel is involved, especially to the degree of a hotel stay, its a class trip to DC as our middle school does. So, not offensive, just the norm in my opinion. This book is a little out of the norm as well with it being a non-public school. Great information, but her world is much different than mine as a public school employee. Further, Spa days would not be well looked upon in a public school. But, I'll read on, it's good information, good stories, and good points.

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  30. I have not been teaching long enough to see what types of adults my students will become, but I am ceratinly excited to find out! When I first began teaching, I worked in a middle school teaching eighth grade -- those students graduated last year. I have switched schools since then, so I assumed most of them had forgotten all about me. I was beyond excited to receive invitations to graduation parties from a few of them and other little notes of appreciation. We often talk about how important little words of encouragement are to the kids, and obviously that has a huge impact on them, but I don't think the kids always realize how much their words of encouragement mean to us.

    The school where I work is not terribly diverse, but it is not 100% one ethnicity either. Being located near a major university, we have a number of international students moving in and out. I love the perspective they bring to the classroom. Also, I teach English. It is a rare novel that does not deal with race or class issues, so I try to just meet it head on and talk about it with frank honesty. It's the only way I can think of to let the students know that we can have open, honest discussions. As long as everyone is respectful, no one should be offended.

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  31. Yes, sometimes I do wonder if what I'm saying is sticking with my students. Sometimes, there are just days like that. I love seeing my former students! Lately it seems I run into them at restaurants or the movie theater, where they are working. :) It's always fun to hear what they remember from class. Often times it's not nessacarily academics. It's nice to hear they felt loved and safe which is what I strive for with all of my students no matter what their background is.

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  32. This is the year that I will develop tenacity. I have an extremely ADHD student who unmedicated that talks out, meows, barks and farts while in my small group. Sorry if that is TMI. I am learning slowly what works and what doesn't with him on a daily basis. His home life is a mess so I am trying to be the nurturing yet firm parent/teacher away from home. We have talks about his behavior, schoolwork and home as we walk around the school to get rid of some of that extra energy. I would appreciate any advice. I am hoping to build a positive relationship with him like some of those I am reading about in the book.

    I agree with Jennifer about the comment by the hotel staff. I did not find it offensive. I teach at a school that is part of a rural area with no ethnic diversity other than a few Hispanics. We give them lots of support with language arts and send letters home in their own language.

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  33. I teach at a school that has only K-1 grades. This is how our district organizes our elementary schools. One downfall of this type of districting is that we do not get to see the students much once they leave us. But we live in a small community, so I do get to see students out and about. This all being said, I really liked when she talked about planting seeds. It reminds me that we do have a real purpose in putting in such hard work in these younger grades. Some days it is hard and I think I can’t go on like this all year. I remind myself that we are setting up their whole school career right here in Kindergarten and that I need to plant a positive seed for school in these children.

    At the beginning of the school year, our school counselor told us a story about blueberry bushes her husband planted. When you plant blueberry bushes, they don’t typically produce any blueberries (or blueberries worth eating) for the first couple of years. So they planted these bushes and they had to put a lot of work into them. They had to protect them from outside forces and make sure they were well taken care of. Then after you plant them, take care of them, and protect them, they will finally produce something of worth. She compared this to our students. We are planting seeds and it might take years for something to produce from these seeds. It was a good reminder that we has kindergarten and 1st grade teachers may never see the fruits of our labor, but that we need to continue working hard taking care of and protecting “our seeds.”

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  34. As a former student, I love reconnecting with my old teachers who made a difference in my life. There are a few that I touch base with regularly. These few teachers made me want to become a teacher myself because of who they are and what they "taught" me. As a teacher, I have had several students make a connection with me after they have left high school. I had a student who ended up dropping out of school last year. She had, and probably still has, a rough home life where school was deemed as not important. This past August she emailed me to let me know that she had decided to go back to alternative school in order to get her GED. She said that she wanted to tell me because I was always encouraging her to do her best, and I was her favorite teacher. Some days, I do question if I am making a difference in the lives of any of the students that I teach. But when a student seeks me out to let me know I made a difference if their life, I know that I have succeeded.

    Insight: My school has gradually changed from a rural, farming community school to one with a more diverse population. Students from all walks of life walk the halls of the high school in which I teach. I try to address individual differences in my classroom. We celebrate jobs that obtained. We talk about the different cultures from which we are from. We celebrate families and what is done at home. The students will sometimes get down on themselves because they are in a resource room class. I let them know that each and everyone of us is special in our own right, and focus on what they bring to the classroom.

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  35. Through social media I have had several students send me messages, mostly just the "hey, how's it going?" stuff, but one that hit me was from several years ago, I had a girl student who was very negative, me against the world, no one care about me type of attitude. I tried my best to make her smile, give her compliments, appreciate what she worked hard on...that thing but never a response. Just recently she messaged me on facebook a VERY lengthy message. She told me how she always wanted to tell me what a great teacher I had been, how much she appreciated everything I helped her with and all of the nice things I said to her. She asked me to forgive her for being so rude and never saying anything as much as a thank-you for all I had done. She said she used so much of what I had taught her in her writing that she will never forget me and all I had taught her. WOW. I had tears, and then once they were dry, I read it again... more tears! I admit I thought about her often and prayed that she would get out of her negative stage and see the beauty in the world and she did. We actually message frequently on Facebook and I have helped her with a few of her writing assignments, with ideas, poems, some editing help. It has really opened my eyes that you never know what will come of what you are planting. Some of the seeds hit fertile ground and take off, others, might take a little longer to mature.
    As far as celebrating the differences, our school is predominately a white school but as far as socio-economics, we have both ends of the spectrum. We have kids that get free lunches as well as food to take home for the weekend so they won't go hungry until Monday, and we have kids who go on several lavish vacations a year and can't understand why some kids just can't pay for their lunch. I try to see each and every child as the unique individual they are. I want to erase any stereotypes that others may have that if something goes missing, check the "poor kids" because they probably took it. Or, judging a child as not as educated because they "don't look like it." I hate these comments and I HAVE heard them. I want others to see these kids and give them a chance. I try to teach my students- It doesn't matter where you came from, it matters where you want to go.

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  36. When students come to my US History class, they already have a basic knowledge of the Founding Fathers, war, and Indians. My approach has been to connect with any native ancestry, story-telling, folk arts/crafts, and making sure they know "the rest of the story." As time goes by, my former students come back and can fairly well retell the story of Kunta Kinte, Governor Columbus, the Salem Witch Trials, life on a slave ship....and how they enjoyed my class. I just hope they know how much I enjoyed having them in class and that I miss (almost) all of them.
    Though I have had mostly Caucasian students, teaching some of these topics could have been awkward, but I believe that most students appreciated the lessons and the impact on some students in our world and made them aware of the dynamics that have made the US the country it is today - do I know this? Nope, but I can hope!

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  37. It's nice to catch up with my old middle school students from time to time. What they seem to remember the most are the times we acted out dramas, or when I added humor to the lesson with a funny meme. They also remember times we brought literature to life, like when we read "The Lottery" and had our own class lottery, using paper of course. Middle schoolers tend to be more black and white with their answers. They can't remember things specifically but will definitely tell you if they like or disliked a particular grade or class.
    On the first day of school, we take an interest inventory. I share mine with the class then allow others to share. We learn unique answers and then I try to bring those up in my lessons or in conversations later on in the school year.

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  38. Everyday before school, during my devotional, I pray that I am planting seeds for my kiddos. Whether it is planting seeds for learning or planting seeds of Jesus. I try each day to make an effort to say something or do something that will stay with them. I want them to remember a kindness or word that will make them smile or be a form of encouragement. Fortunately, I work with preschoolers and they are much more excepting of love and encouragement. This chapter has made me realize just how important tenacity can be especially at such a young age.
    In Chapter 11, Insight, I share the education I have learned from our next door neighbors. He was brought up in the projects of southside Chicago and through determination, hard work and a tough mom, he is one of 4 children that did not get out in jail and is not on drugs. Unfortunately, his brothers and sister were not strong enough to conquer that hill. In many conversations I have learned why he reacts certain ways and why he disciplines his son certain ways. My husband and I have built a trust with him and we are able to talk of everything. I am able to share my parents racial background and how I am trying to teach my children to be excepting of all differences and cultures. I am proud of my boys and that they do not know what it is to be racist or judgemental of people because of differences not only by color, or culture but also physical and mental differences. We have open conversations in or home and I am glad that my children did not grow up with the mentality that my parents had. I hope that I have been a model and continually show acceptance and love for all types of people because everyone has something to give and has a special purpose in our world. I am sad for my parents that they grew up in a world of judging people not for who they were but for what they looked like, I love my parents but I am ashamed for how the felt about people of color. I hope my children will say differently of me.

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  40. I have been teaching kindergarten for almost 20 years now, and my first crop of kindergarten babies have now graduated college, many with jobs of their own and beginning families. I am always honored when a former student feels comfortable enough to approach me after such a long time. I strive with all of my students to make them feel comfortable, accepted, loved, and valued. It's so important for every child to believe that, no matter what their background. No learning can take place until a child feels secure. I see my students as unique, each with something to offer us. It is my hope that they see that in themselves, and in each other. It is my hope that when we meet years from now, that's what they remember. :)

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  41. I love it when I see students that have graduated out and about in the world. Most often they remember my name (though I cannot always say I remember theirs!). I also love it when students that have taken my class in the past come back and talk to me about their experiences. Granted, they usually have really nice things to say, but it is also eye opening to get honesty for their feelings about me.

    I am enjoying this book, but my goodness, this school has access to a lot of money! It makes me want to be able to provide experiences like this to our students, but we can't. One of the biggest keys to insight is experience. What kinds of experiences am I teaching and having in my classroom?

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  42. I have reconnected with several former students through social media. It is so great to see them doing well. Many of them message me often to remind me of something that may have occurred while in my class or something I may have said to them. It is a great reminder of what an impact you have on students. The most important thing that I have learned through former students is that your actions and words outside of the "academics" are most important to these students, how you make them feel while they are learning. Another time too, a specific student that I thought didn't "like" me for being hard on him or pushing him too hard ran into me at the store. He told me that I was his favorite teacher and made a huge difference in his life. It completely shocked me but made me realize how students need to be pushed to their true potential.

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  43. I often wonder if what I'm teaching is "sticking" with my students. I pray for guidance each day and that I will positively impact each student. Quick story: When I read with the students and there is a word that I don't like (i.e. stupid, dumb, etc) I change it to another word like "silly". They asked me why and I told them I don't like those words and I don't let my own kids say them. A few weeks later we were reading together as a group and a student came to one of those words and didn't even pause and changed it to a more "acceptable" word. I was surprised and really thanked her for using a nicer word.
    That was probably a silly example but one I will remember for a long time.
    This is my first year back after being a stay at home mom for many years so hearing from former students hasn't happened yet.

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  44. I've had former students come back to my classroom to tell me what really helped them when they moved on to the high school. I have found this very helpful and have always enjoyed talking to former students to see where they are in their lives after they leave the middle school. For the most part, it has made me realize that what I am doing in my classroom is making a difference.

    Understanding and celebrating differences in my classroom, since it was a self-contained special education classroom, was a daily activity. I made my students all aware that their goal was to learn to their best ability and that not everyone was the same.

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  45. There are many times I wonder if what I'm saying is sticking or making an impact in a classroom of 25 five year olds! Fortunately, with kindergarteners they grow like crazy, retain like sponges, and want so badly to please! Not all the time, but there were many times that you could see that lightbulb go off for a student, or months later see their obvious growth and know that something along the way did stick! The amount of growth in that one short year of kindergarten is tremendous! I have had a chance to follow up with many students and although no specific things I've said are necessarily remembered- many activities, experiences, and an overall happiness for that one quick year in kindergarten is very rewarding! It reminds me of the saying, "people don't remember what you wear/how you looked, or necessarily what you said, but most importantly how you made them feel!"

    Kids are very curious but also can be very understanding and empathetic! I really liked how at the end of the chapter she discussed the classes ability to have such conversations because of the safe environment they had developed! I think this is a key element for a classroom to lo learn academically but also about life/world around them. On our own 5-6 year old level, we would discuss "fair is, you get what you need!" Not every kid learns the same, looks the same, or acts the same! I, as their teacher, may make adaptations for students based each their needs to help each child strive towards their full potential! I feel that in recognizing students unique differences, we are celebrating their own individuality!

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  46. I constantly wonder if what I am teaching is actually sticking. It’s a constant battle in my mind (especially because I am a second teacher) if I am making a difference. I try to embrace every small teaching moment possible. I try to make everything as active and engaging as I can. I also try to take input from the students as well. Seeing as I got to follow my students up from last year, I have had several opportunities to see what has worked well and what hasn’t. I know that when I am teaching a certain topic one group may benefit from a hands-on game and others might benefit from a song or poem. Differentiation is key in the resource room. I often have students give me feedback at the end of each reading lesson (they uses run about 1-2 weeks). I have the students tell me their top three favorite activities and the activity they liked the least. I also have them write suggestions of how they would change it. Usually, some kids are pretty creative. This helps me plan future lessons. I tell the students the only differences I see are the ways in which they enjoy learning, not their ability level. All of my students are learning the same topic but in different ways.

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  47. Connecting with former students is such a great thing! Not only do you get to see a familiar friendly face, but they always have something positive to say about their time in your classroom. I hope that the material is sticking in their brains, but I love to hear that they had a positive experience while in my classroom. I am in a unique situation where I am teaching 9th graders that I had as 8th graders last year. When my former students are the one's raising their hands and answering the questions it feels great having that little piece of affirmation that something I said stuck with them!!
    I love student feedback about assignments and lessons. Every student is different so they will learn the same topics differently. It is important to acknowledge and appreciate each student's uniqueness. Being willing to adapt lessons and plans shows how much the teacher cares about and respects their students.

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  48. It seems like the times that I am overwhelmed or wondering if I am making headway , that I will receive a card, or run across a former student. With each encounter, I learn of their successes and lives. When they share with me how I handle a situation, talked to them, connected with them, or taught them and much it meant them, I am inspired to continue. I love it that they remind me of the real reason I am there. I am blessed to call so many former students and their my friend and hope for present students.

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  49. Almost every day I wonder whether my students are learning anything from me. I work with a teacher who reminds me weekly that the school year is a 180 day journey. That every year we all feel the same way, however, by the end of the school year we are all amazed at how our students have grown. I really look at the homework and test that my students turn in. How each student approaches a math problem is eye opening in the way that they think. I find that I learn new things every year from my students. It has been especially helpful when students explain why they were or are confused. If I know why students may be confused, then I can adjust how I teach the topic, and what types of problems I assign. I really do enjoy the process of discovering the different types of thinking each student brings to my classroom. That is what makes teaching fun. I work hard to have a variety of activities designed to stimulate and encourage all of the different interests and strengths in my classroom. I ask for feedback verbally from students to find out which activities they enjoy the most. I have found that most students enjoy more active and interactive classes. They are tired of the standard lecture and worksheet format. So I look to my students for feedback on what they like or dislike and I also look to tests to see if any of the different activities I use help my students learn better.

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