A Life-Changing Professor Teaching All Of Us

In college, I had this professor. You know the one that changes your life and puts you right on course for where you need to be? Yep, she’s the one. 

Dr. Mecham was my professor for my level two practicum (level four is student teaching, for perspective). On the very first day of class, she stood up in front of the roughly 150 students currently in the practicum and said, “This semester is going to be really hard. It will push you to a lot of limits and we will expect a lot from you. So if you feel like you need to switch to an easier major, perhaps engineering, then go ahead and talk to us and we can direct you to the correct advisors to help you make this switch.” 

I was blown away that she had the audacity to state that majoring in engineering would be an easier route than an education degree. I’ve never taken any engineering classes, so I cannot confirm or deny that her statements were true, but I will say that we were worked very hard by our professors and we were expected to perform to the highest standard that semester. 

During my practicum, it not only required 14 hours of classes a week but also being in an elementary school classroom every day of the semester working with a teacher to provide classroom experience. This time in the classroom was focused on working with students in small groups and one-on-one to slowly introduce us to eventually student teaching.

My practicum experience in the classroom was less than ideal, with a teacher that often sent me to the copy room to do mindless copy work and rarely let me work with students. There were multiple other problems I ran into, most of which I wish I would have been bold enough to stand up for myself, but at the time I wasn’t. 

After a semester of feeling discouraged and not very adequate as a teacher, I had my final interview with my professor, Dr. Mecham. I accomplished all of my school work, had a 4.0 GPA, and according to the books, it looked like I was the perfect candidate to continue my education degree.  However, my mental state said otherwise. Dr. Mecham was ready to pass me off and tell me I was ready to continue, but before so, she asked her final question that went something like, “Do you feel ready to move on and that you passed your level two practicum?” 

With tears in my eyes, I told her I couldn’t. I said that being a teacher must not be what I am supposed to do as a career, because I felt so inadequate in the classroom, and that I possibly needed to consider a new degree. 

She comforted me with compassion, asked details on why I was feeling this way, and reassured me that I wasn’t the problem, my situation was the problem. 

I left her classroom with a warm hug and felt better and more confident than ever before. She truly had just changed my life and kept me on the path as a teacher, one that I am still so happy to be on, even if I’m not actively teaching at the moment! 

A handful of times I ran into Dr. Mecham in grocery stores and other places throughout town. Every time she saw me she always stopped to say hello with a warm, welcoming smile. She always was ready to take the time to acknowledge an old student, which made me feel like a million bucks! 

About a year after being in her class, I was walking through campus with a new haircut. I happened to pass Dr. Mecham on my walk and the first thing she said was, “Oh cute new haircut! I like that style on you!” 

I want you to realize that Dr. Mecham hadn’t had me as a student in a full year. I had only seen her very briefly in passing a handful of times. And still, she recognized that I changed my hair! If you want to know the true definition of personal teaching, she is the icon for it. She also asked about my experience at college how far along I was in my program. I was happy to tell her that I would be student teaching soon, ready to take my final step in the program to reach graduation. She was elated for me! She knew how hard it was for me to get through my level two practicum and I knew she was the only reason I continued on. 

I thanked her again for telling me how truly hard it would be and preparing me to work hard. And for knowing me and my struggles through it all. I wasn’t just another student walking the halls of the Emma Eccles Jones College of Education at Utah State University, I was a student of Dr. Mecham, someone she knew and cared about. And that made all the difference for me. 

I try to remember Dr. Mecham in my teaching experience. I try to get to know each of my students personally and pay attention to them as a human, not just someone to teach the curriculum to. 

And I strongly suggest you teach like Dr. Mecham too. 

You can read an interview I did with her earlier this year. Read her advice to pre-service teachers, it’s so good! 

 

Past Scholarship Winner: Liz Hansen

Welcome to Feature Friday! Where we showcase a new person each week in an interview. For past Feature Friday interviews, go here.

Today’s Feature Friday is highlighting Liz Hansen. Liz is a past scholarship winner, she received our Honors Graduation scholarship in 2019 and is now attending Marquette University. Here is an update on where Liz is now! 

Liz is double majoring in criminology and Spanish on a pre-law track. She joined the rock climbing club, which she is on the board for now. She also joined a sorority Alpha Chi Omega whose philanthropy is dedicated to supporting domestic violence and abuse victims as well as education on healthy relationships. 

When I asked Liz why she chose the sorority she did she said, “What drove me to join my sorority was really and truly how amazing and supportive the women are in it. Regarding our philanthropy, it’s something I’m truly passionate about; I feel that my calling is to help others. Domestic violence and abuse are a lot more prevalent than people realize because it doesn’t need to be just physical. There’s a huge gap in education on the subject and teaching others, especially college students, about what a healthy relationship looks like is so important. The women we help at the shelter are in need of support and resources, and our donations of time and money are so impactful on them.”

Liz’s project that won her the scholarship was a compost program for her high school that accompanied a community garden where she was Garden Chair for Pay it Forward. All of this was on a volunteer basis. She worked hard to create a project that would remain self-sufficient even after she left. While others maintained the garden and compost with a dedicated crew working on it and learning the ins and outs of compost, it did very well. 

Unfortunately due to COVID-19, the compost had to take a short halt. They are hoping to have it back up and running as soon as the school opens for in-person education. 

Liz writes: “My project truly has influenced how I look at my and my community’s lifestyles. I really value having other people around concerned about making environmentally friendly choices a habit. One thing I love about Marquette is that they have biodegradable silverware and take out ware, as well as a campus-wide compost program!”

We are so proud of Liz and the positive impact she has on her community. To learn more about our scholarship program for graduating high school seniors, check it out here!

Enneagram In Education Type Eight

This is part of a series using enneagram in education. For more information on why enneagram in education, refer to this post. To read about other enneagram types in education, you can see those here.

Enneagram type 8, the challenger, or the protector. 

A few words to describe this type: 

Honest. 

Controlling.

Direct. 

Strong.

Independent.

Practical.

Intense.

Let’s pull this into a classroom setting. If you’re an enneagram type eight, you’re always up for a good debate. A well-involved classroom with students actively participating is where they thrive. Collaboration and bouncing ideas around ignites their typically extroverted personalities. Being challenged in your schoolwork is the best motivation for you. You’re also always up for challenging the rules as well, finding a way around a boundary is your craft you are set out to perfect. 

How to get the most out of your education as a type eight. 

  • When working in groups, try not to take over and control the group. Be a leader, not a boss.
  • Always be involved in the big discussions and projects, it’s where you learn best. 
  • Remember the difference between opinions vs facts and not to confuse the two.
  • When protecting others, remember to think of yourself. 

“Eights are the true “rugged individualists” of the Enneagram. More than any other type, they stand alone. They want to be independent, and resist being indebted to anyone. They often refuse to “give in” to social convention, and they can defy fear, shame, and concern about the consequences of their actions. Although they are usually aware of what people think of them, they do not let the opinions of others sway them. They go about their business with a steely determination that can be awe-inspiring, even intimidating to others.”

– Enneagram Institute

Type 8’s go to type 2 in growth and type 5 in stress. 

Are you a type 8? What is important for you to have a successful learning environment? 

Favorite Halloween Books 2020

It’s almost time for Halloween! How are you celebrating in your town or school? Does it look different for you, or are things fairly similar? 

I can’t let a holiday go by without sharing my favorite books for the season! It’s just not in me. Here are my favorite Halloween books. 

The Legend of Spookley The Square Pumpkin. Maybe I love this book because my first-grade teacher (read about her here and how she gave me a love for books!) read this to our class on Halloween. But the message behind it is still great. 

Piggie Pie by Margie Palatini 

Room On The Broom by Julia Donaldson

It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown By Charles M. Schulz because how do you say no to a classic?! 

Pete The Cat: Five Little Pumpkins by James Dean. I think there’s a special element of fun when a beloved, well-known book character celebrates the same holiday you do. 

The Dead Family Diaz by P.J. Bracegirdle: it teaches about Day of the Dead from a unique perspective from the dead world side instead of the living world. It will also make you wonder if maybe the movie Coco stole some ideas and influence from this book….?

What are your favorite Halloween books to read to your class?

Feature Friday: Westley Young

Welcome to Feature Friday! Where we showcase a new teacher each week in an interview. For past Feature Friday interviews, go here. 

Today’s Feature Friday is highlighting Westley Young, a Grade 3 teacher in Rome, Italy. Westley is our first international teacher on Feature Friday and we were excited to learn from him! Here’s what Westley has for us today.

If you could recommend one children’s book, what would it be and why? 

“I thought long and hard about this question because I have discovered so many great children’s books every year since I became a teacher, but instead, I chose one which I loved as a child and which my own children are currently enjoying: ‘The Jolly Postman (or Other People’s Letters) by Janet & Allan Ahlberg. My 6-year-old daughter especially loves reading each of the letters/cards delivered to each of the fairy-tale characters.

Also, ‘The Refugee’ by Alan Gratz, which I read with my Grade 5 class a few years ago. It’s incredibly moving and a must-read, too. Sorry, I couldn’t just pick one in the end!”

What is your favorite part of teaching this age group?

“I have taught all elementary grade levels as an art teacher and grades 2-5 as a homeroom teacher. I enjoy all ages and don’t have a preference for any one group.”

Who influenced you most to choose a career in education? 

“I have to admit that my passion for teaching only began once I started in the profession. I needed a job when I first moved to Italy and used my art experience to begin working with children at a summer camp. This success led to a role as an art teacher at the same school and it snowballed from there. Since then, through extensive reading, help from colleagues, the sharing of resources and expertise on social media, and of course watching and learning with children, my interest in the way children learn has continually grown.”

What are some educational tactics used in Rome that you feel are especially important to teaching, or the education of your own children? 

“I don’t think there are any ‘tactics’ used especially in Rome that are different to others elsewhere, but throughout my own teaching experience and my children’s education, the Reggio Emilia approach, the Montessori method, and the IB PYP have all helped me consider how to respect children’s agency and use the whole community/environment to expose children to new experiences and support their learning. I have definitely picked up some pointers from these programmes when considering how to educate my own children.”

What do you wish someone would have told you in your first year of teaching? 

“To go with the kids and not to worry if things didn’t go as planned. When I first began teaching, I needed to know exactly what I’d do throughout the lessons, especially if the activity had finished earlier than planned or hadn’t ‘worked’. It took me a while to realize being in complete control was completely counter-productive to the learning experience that I wanted to offer.

 (Oh yeah, I wish someone had told me about Twitter, too!)”

Do you feel like the educational world on Twitter or other social media sites has helped you as a teacher? And how? 

“Twitter has been my most helpful tool as a teacher. There are so many inspirational and supportive teachers and parents, who have helped me think deeply about my practice, offer better learning experiences to my students, and find resources and books to help me continue to learn and question what I’m doing, always searching for better.”


Thank you for your insight today Westley!

Enneagram In Education: Type Seven

This is part of a series using enneagram in education. For more information on why enneagram in education, refer to this post. To read about other enneagram types in education, you can see those here.

Enneagram type 7, the enthusiast, or the epicure. 

A few words to describe this type: 

Upbeat.

Adventurous.

Uncommitted. 

Future Thinker. 

Fun Seeker.

Scattered.

Let’s pull this into a classroom setting. If you’re an enneagram type seven, you’re constantly bouncing ideas off of your peers, seeing how you can make connections with multiple subjects of study. Sitting still isn’t an option, especially when it comes to a subject you are passionate about. You are constantly pumping up your classmates and teachers to have positive energy, for you genuinely believe it’s the best and only way to learn. When a lesson or lecture slows down in pace it’s easy for you to become distracted and especially daydream of bigger, better plans for the future. 

How to get the most out of your education as a type seven. 

  • Find ways to stay focused during those slower, less engaging lectures. 
  • Continue sharing your positive energy and light! 
  • Be mindful of those that are learning differently than you, others need to sit in silence and take in information (hello, type five!) and can react in a negative way to your bubbly, excited personality, even causing them not to take in the needed information. 
  • Embrace your scatter-brained thinking. Your form of organization may not be “ideal” to the eyes of society, but it typically works for you, so keep it. 
  • Remember to say no when too much is too much. 
  • Find a project to work on that will help you achieve your forward-thinking, community building tendencies. 

“Sevens are exuberant, fast-paced, spontaneous, analytical and idea-oriented. Others may perceive Sevens as quickly shifting topics, making excuses, self-absorbed and indifferent to others’ input.”

– Enneagram Worldwide 

Type 7’s go to type 5 in growth and type 1 in stress. 

Are you a type 7? What is important for you to have a successful learning environment? 

Featured Photo: The Enneagram Institute

Great List Of Elementary Aged Read Alouds

I’m a sucker for a good read aloud in the classroom!! This post is focusing on read-alouds for elementary-aged students. Please also note that they are equally as good for middle and high school ages! But these specific books are age-appropriate for these younger grades. 

Picture books:

The Little House. It takes a talented writer and illustrator to give a house such expression.

My Name is Yoon by Helen Recorvits. 

The Book With No Pictures by B.J Novak. For when you just need a good laugh! It’s also excellent to teach how words can be so powerful and important in reading. 

The Day The Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt

The Napping House by Audrey Wood. The rhythm of this book is so peaceful and nice, a great book when the class needs calming. 

I Like Myself by Karen Beaumont. I cannot read this book without shedding a tear! “I like myself! I’m glad I’m me. There’s no one else I’d rather be.” a message you really hope every one of your students knows. 

Chapter books:

Frindle by Andrew Clements

A Series Of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. Such a fun series! I’m also a big advocate for reading the first book in a series to students in hope that they pick up books two, and three, and so on….

Nate The Great by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat. Start them early with some good mystery books! 

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt. 

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson. My new favorite! It’s written in verse, making it a unique chapter book. It’s a great read! 

What are your favorite elementary school read alouds?