Reflection on Shame, Social Media, and RESA

It’s an open secret that when we post online to social media, we often do so to show our lives through a rose-colored lens. Look how solid my relationship is. Have I told you how good I am at my job? Look at me, I’ve reached another milestone in the game of Life. We carefully curate our self-presentation to put our best face forward online. We want the ‘likes,’ so we post things people can feel good about liking. We’re seeking out dopamine and oxytocin. And you know what? I’m okay with that.
 
Even when we share the bad, it’s the kind of bad that happens to us, not the kind of bad we bring on ourselves. Our illnesses, our grief – we’re calling out for support, and we often receive it on this platform. I’m sorry for your loss. You’re in my thoughts and my prayers. This is also very okay.
 
One thing that we don’t post about as much are the things that make us feel ashamed. The dissolution of relationships. A venture failing. Our insecurities. We want to put our best face forward, and a head hung in shame does not make a good impression. But sometimes it’s important to share, because we all, at some time or another, feel ashamed.
 
So I’m sharing something, not because I’m seeking sympathy or support, but because I want my friends to know I struggle, and that struggle is normal. Right now I’m struggling in my career, something that I consider very much a part of my personal identity. I feel shame about it. And, frankly, it sucks.
 
I have to do a five-part summative assessment in order to transition to a more permanent teaching license in the state of Ohio. I started doing this assessment in 2015, and have since passed four out of five of the parts. I should find out today if I have passed the last part, on my third and final try. If I pass, I can apply for a new teaching license. If I fail, then I can neither renew or advance my current license. I will also not be eligible for a one-year interim license. I would perhaps be able to be a long-term sub for my own job in my district while I did remedial coursework and experience, which would be a blow financially and also to my self-esteem. I’ve spent many hours reflecting on my teaching this year; while I believe I am a good-enough teacher, I am not sure I want to be in a classroom if the state of Ohio does not believe I am a good-enough teacher.
 
Failure was not a familiar feeling to me when I was a student. It took years for me to be okay with it, for myself, as a teacher. It still doesn’t feel good. But it is more instructive for me to confront and overcome obstacles than it is to never face obstacles at all. It allows me to relate better to, and be a good role model for, my students. It challenges my subconscious beliefs on the nature of learning and cognitive processes. It forces me to acknowledge what I truly value in learning experiences. It causes me to increase, or better manage, my effort.
 
I just wish the stakes, in this case, were not so high. Failure can be a constructive and even essential aspect of learning. Dead-end failure that results in loss of opportunity, stagnation, or regression? Not so much.

Oh, RESA

Where have I been for over a month, you might ask? Oh ho ho, I’ve been right here this whole time! Just, you know, less chatty.

The thing is, I had to redo some RESA Year 3 tasks. What is RESA, you may ask? “RESA” stands for Resident Educator Summative Assessment. It’s a performance assessment that, in Ohio, a beginning teacher (“resident educator”) must pass in order to obtain a five year professional license.

I am actually on Year 4 of RESA, but I needed to redo some of the tasks from Year 3 because I failed them. I failed both tasks that required video of a lesson. Because I had procrastinated a fair amount, I found myself panicking over uploads last year as the deadline barreled ever nearer. I did something that was against the rules — I edited the videos before I uploaded them. I was thinking smaller file sizes would upload faster, but that was against the rules. So my submissions were automatically failed for me to redo this year, in addition to Year 4 tasks.

If you find yourself required to video lessons, I have some tips:

  • If you can, practice recording before you need to record. That will help you work out any audio or angle issues in advance. Plus, video recording myself teaching over and over has been a very beneficial reflection tool for me this year — I’ll talk about it in a later post.
  • Try out different devices and settings, considering what you truly need. Originally I was recording using high definition, which was contributing to long upload times and processing errors. The uploading part of the process went much more smoothly when I switched to recording in standard definition.
  • Ask for help. Other teachers may have had to record lessons before, and may have really good tips for you. I even had a colleague hold the camera for me during part of their prep period once! (Thank you again!) One of my other colleagues this year has been on the phone with the RESA support folks trying to upload her video. It is better to ask for help than to move forward wrongheadedly and fail the task, like I did.

1197119420758017922nicubunu_Film.svg.medUltimately I used an iPad and a device called a Swivl that I really enjoyed using (but that I had to practice a lot beforehand — I will probably write a review of my experience sooner or later). It worked really well, except for the times I messed up while using it!

Anyway, the point is, I finished and submitted my last make-up RESA tasks last night. (Not only did I need to submit video, I also had to answer several extended response questions along with it.) Nine days before the deadline instead of bumping up against the deadline, because I learned my lesson last year! Therefore I hope to be using this blog again to reflect more starting this month. Thanks for hanging in there!

 

Teaching and Learning and The Force Awakens

Okay, now is where there are going to be spoilers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Teaching and learning are huge themes in the Star Wars movies. Teachers guide their students and sometimes impose on them. Students sometimes select their teachers —  often a choosing between the light side and the dark side of the Force in the process. Mentor-mentee relationships are some of the most important in the franchise.

toucan-jedi-master-md

I can’t explain this clip art. I just like it.

The Force Awakens features lots of learning, though much less teaching. Finn the former stormtrooper has had blaster training, and transfers that training to operate the gunner positions on at least two different ships. Later on in the movie, he’s even willing to pick up and use a lightsaber, despite that being a very niche weapon.

Finn learned to do those things with minimal teaching. He is coached on the TIE fighter by Resistance pilot Po Dameron — who himself has never flown a TIE fighter before. He is also learning on the fly. Rey the scavenger talks him through some aspects of operating the cannon on the freighter they steal, but he’s mostly on his own for that.

You don’t always need a teacher to learn, although it usually helps. For better or for worse, we can learn simply by being in great stress. He is forced to learn because he is in life or death situations. There are loads of examples of people learning in these kinds of situations, but a lot of the time the takeaways are not practical or transferable. For example, a child in an abusive situation may learn unhealthy ways to cope with the abuse. In fact, considering that Finn was “taken from a family [he’ll] never know” and “programmed since birth” to be a foot soldier, he probably had a lot of experience learning in situations not so much tailored for his specific learning needs, but rather for the needs of those hierarchically above him.

Rey the scavenger also demonstrates much learning throughout the movie. We are only given glimpses into her past, but she’s been living alone on a desert planet for most of her life. So I presume that many of her basic skills and abilities come from simply needing to survive. She’s good with a melee weapon (staff) because she needed to defend herself. She’s familiar with mechanical pieces and parts because she needed to scavenge from shipwrecks to survive. At one point she tells Finn that she’s never piloted a ship off the planet before, which leads me to assume she’s had experience moving machines on the surface, comparatively. She moves quickly and makes split-second decisions when Han Solo is her copilot. But I think her really interesting learning experiences come from her interactions with Kylo Ren.

Kylo Ren is the masked dark side Force-user of the film. He idolizes his predecessor, Darth Vader, and while he may have the same power, he does not have the same self-control. Unlike Rey, Kylo has had training — first from Luke Skywalker, who he turned against; later from Supreme Leader Snokes. (We do not see either actually train Kylo, unlike in A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back, where we see student Skywalker interact with teachers Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda, respectively.)

Kylo uses the Force to try and get information from Rey, by doing something that seems like reading her mind. He can recite her favorite daydream but she blocks him from the information he wants. Then, she tells him something deeply personal about himself, shocking him and sending him running to Snokes. How could Rey have done this without being trained herself? Well, as I said before, it’s not ideal, but you can learn and adapt in a stressful situation. Also, Rey probably paid attention to what Kylo was doing enough to try it on him. Any parent who has cussed around their kids knows that this unintentional teaching happens. Rey tries this power out on a stormtrooper later, making several mistakes she can learn from before getting it right.

Later on in the midst of a lightsaber duel, Kylo tells Rey she needs a teacher, and says, “I could show you the way.” However, though he has more training than Rey, I would argue that Kylo is not prepared to be a teacher at this point. Simply knowing more than someone else on a given topic is not qualification enough. Yes, she could learn from him, but she has already demonstrated that she can learn things from him that he did not intend to teach her. But I’m not going to worry about it too much, firstly because I do not constitute any kind of Jedi or Sith education licensing agency. But also because Rey responded to Kylo’s invitation with a lightsaber to his face.

I am sure that, if I watched it again, I could probably mine some more examples of teaching and learning from The Force Awakens. And goodness knows I would (I haven’t seen it in 3D yet…). But perhaps I should rewatch the original trilogy to get a better understanding of how Jedi teach Force powers to their students.

And also because it’s winter break, and I don’t need an excuse to nerd out.