Thursday, December 6, 2012

Service Learning Project Reflection

Instead of a final for First Year Seminar we had the opportunity to teach elementary school students about the fairy tales we had learned about in class.  Every Friday, for four total weeks, we went and volunteered at the Boys and Girls Club of Westminster.  My class was divided up into four groups.  My group members were Laura Maurer, Christine DeClue, and Katelyn Chewning.   Each week we were given a small group of kids to teach.  We came up with a lesson plan several days in advance, and each plan consisted of a story, several activities, and a lot of fun. 
            There were many advantages to having this project as our final instead of an exam.  First, I did not have to start studying for an exam several weeks prior.  I have never been a strong test taker and I do not particularly enjoy sitting in a classroom for several hours to take a test that could impact my grade quite a lot.  Second, I got to work with kids as a part of the exam.  I plan on becoming an elementary educator, so this was a great experience.  I really enjoyed working with the kids, teaching them about fairy tales, and seeing their reactions to what we were teaching them.  I have never enjoyed a final so much!  The final advantage to having this project as my final was that I got to work with an amazing group of people for several weeks.  We had a lot of fun planning out the lessons, working together to make the lessons and activities work, and finally putting together this project.  This project, I believe, was much better than a final exam.  Not only did I learn more than I would have if I had just taken an exam, but I also was given a first world experience that I could not have had if I were to have taken an exam.
            I learned a lot from this project.  I learned more about patience.  I have had many experiences working with children in classroom settings and have always been extremely patient.  However, working in a setting where the students knew they did not have to pay attention like they did in school was very different for me.  I learned of a new type of patience and I believe this will definitely help me in the future.   I also learned more about lesson planning.  I have never had first hand experiences with lesson planning, so learning how to plan my own lessons was a bit of a challenge at first, but in the end it added to the fun of the entire project.  Finally, I learned that bribery is not always a bad thing.  Its understandable how teachers in actual schools think that bribery is a negative reinforcer.  However when you are given a group of kids that you know will work better with an incentive, than bribery is not the worst thing you could do. 
            There were a couple of large obstacles or problems that my group encountered.  We dealt with them to the best of our ability and I believe that everything turned out very well in the end.  Overall, the first week was great.  The only problem we encountered in the first week was the fact that we had one boy in a group of all girls.  This not exactly did not excite him, nor was he happy when he found out he would be learning about Cinderella.  The second week was definitely our most challenging week of volunteering.  To start we were given ten kids.  Only having a group of five the previous we, we were not expecting this at all.  Second, the book we had been provided with by Dr. Esa did not have the story we were planning on teaching in it.  This was a problem because we could not continue with the lesson without the most important aspect missing.  So Katelyn quickly looked up the Grimm’s version on her phone and we were set to go.  The most difficult part of this week was the fact that the kids were not very well behaved.  It took a lot of prodding, but eventually we got them to settle down and listen.  The third week was a major change from the second week.  Not only had we planned a lesson for more than five kids, but we had also come up with a couple ideas to help them pay attention and listen more if they became rowdy at any point.  When we arrived however, we were only given three girls.  We definitely liked the small group size because we could keep them more under control, however we planned activities that were supposed to involve more than just three children.  We had to improvise a lot more than what we would have liked, but it all worked out and it was a fun week.  The final week I was unable to attend due to a prior commitment.  But from what I heard it was our most successful week.  My group used everything we had learned from the previous three weeks and made sure to put it all into consideration as we made the lesson plan.
            There a few things I would advise the new generation of first year students on about community service.  First, over plan!  I cannot put enough emphasis on how important it is to over plan activities.  My group was fortunate enough to realize this before the first week, so we were able to come up with several activities incase another activity was too short or did not work as well as planned.  Second, be sure that what you are teaching the children is gender neutral.  Going in with the plan to teach Sleeping Beauty and learning that you have to teach five boys is not going to turn out the way you hope.  Almost every activity you do, should appeal to both boys and girls.  Otherwise, you will loose their attention fast and it will not be fun for either party.  Next, plan your lesson for groups of all sizes.  Anywhere from one person to twenty if you have to.  Showing up prepared to only have five children is not showing up prepared.  You at that point are extremely ill prepared.  It’s never a bad thing to be a little over prepared!  And finally, do not be afraid to bribe the kids.  Most children these days need some sort of incentive.  Anything from candy, to playing a fun game works.  They need something to be excited about.  If they are not excited, why pay attention? 
            If I were to ever do this project or something similar again I would change the length of time spent at the Boys and Girls Club, the number of times we went to the club, and finally the students we were grouped with.  Although we were only given an hour I would have liked to have spent a little more time with the kids.  The hour went by so quickly sometimes that when we ended, it didn’t feel quite right.  Also, I would have liked to have spent a couple more days with the children.  I really enjoyed this project and I looked forward to going to the Boys and Girls Club every Friday afternoon.  Finally, I would change the group of students we worked with.  As much as I liked working with different students every week, I would have much rather liked working with the same group of students every week.  This would have made it easier to get to know the students and we would have been able to make the necessary connection with them so they themselves would feel more comfortable with us. 
            This truly was a great experience.  I recommend this to every First Year Seminar professor.  I learned more through this experience than I would have sitting in a classroom.  It only made me realize how much I really do want to teach elementary school children and it made me excited for what I have coming in the next four years.  This project was most definitely the best final exam replacement I have ever had!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

...And They All Lived Happily Ever After

After revisiting all of my posts on my blog, I realize that I truly have learned a lot this semester.  I came into the class in the beginning of the year expecting to learn about the Grimm fairy tales, compare Disney's recreations of the tales to the originals, and analyze the meanings behind each fairy tale.  Although we did just that in class, I believe I have learned a lot more than what was expected.

Not only have we studied fairy tales from the psychoanalytic approach, but we have also studied them from the feminist and social perspectives as well.  We ripped apart a lot of the fairy tales I grew up with such as Cinderella, Little Red Cap, Rapunzel, Snow White, Hansel and Gretel, and the Frog King.  For every symbol, we found a meaning and analyzed it.  For every character, we had a way of interpreting their actions in the tale.  We looked at each tale in depth and I must say, there was not a dull day in our class while we were interpreting them.

Every Wednesday evening we watched the Disney version of the tale we were learning about that week.  The following day, we compared the original tale to the Disney movie.  All I have to say about this is, Disney movies will never be the same.  In fact, no fairy tale will ever be the same.  A lot of the meanings behind fairy tales are sexual.  For example, in the original tale Cinderella, the two step sisters cut of a portion of their foot in order to make it fit in the gold slipper.  This represents the girls getting their periods and loosing their innocence.  The slipper also represents a woman's genitals, and the foot the males.  So one can only imagine what the meaning behind the prince putting the gold slipper on Cinderella's foot is.

We also learned why Disney had changed a lot of the Grimm's fairy tales.  A lot of his movies came out in the time of the Great Depression.  In order to give men hope again, he created movies that depicted a young woman in need of rescuing, with a strong, heroic prince to save her.  Also, in the majority of the original Grimm tales, the main character does not have animals dressing him/her in the morning, or helping him/her with the chores.  Disney added all of these animals because animals had always been a large part of his life because he grew up on a farm.  However, not only does he add animals, he also gives characters names.  Each one of the Princes we encounter in the movies has a name that was not given to him until the movie had been created.  We also see characters such as the seven dwarfs in Snow White receiving names.  Most of what he did we learned, was to make money though.

This has been an interesting class.  I have thoroughly enjoyed learning about fairy tales, analyzing and interpreting their meanings.  And though what I have learned in class is not something I will be willing to share with my kids in the future, I definitely plan on sharing the fairy tales that I grew up with as well as the new ones I have encountered in this class with them. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair!
I chose this cartoon because I found it to be very humorous.  How often to you hear someone comparing the ride up and down from Rapunzel's tower to bungee jumping? 
I think this cartoon relates to both the tale Rapunzel and the Movie Tangled.  The most obvious reason why it relates to the the Grimms' tale is because the man bungee jumping is a prince, not an orphan like Flynn Rider is in Tangled.  However in the tale, we don't exactly hear about anyone swinging or using the hair for anything other than as a way to get up and down from the tower.  In the movie though, Rapunzel uses her hair for a lot.  There are several scenes where she uses it to tie someone up, to get from place to place in her tower, and at one point she is swinging around a tree on it like it were a swing and it was no big deal.  If she can heal Flynn's hand with her hair as well as use it every day to lift people up to her tower, I am almost positive bungee jumping with it would not be a problem either. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Three Versions of "Bluebeard"

"The Robber Bridegroom" and "Fitcher's Bird," are two stories written by the Brothers Grimm.  Both stories share similarities and differences in their story lines to that of Perrault's "Bluebeard." 

In all three stories, the main character is male.  In the "Robber Bridegroom," the man is a robber who was perceived to be the right suitor for the millers daughter.  In the Fitcher's Bird, the man is a sorcerer. 
And finally in "Bluebeard," the man is a very ugly man with a blue beard.  All three men are murderers as well.

In all three stories the men lure in girls and not one of them returns.  It is not until he finds the wife that is told of specifically in the story that the women's fate begins to turn around.

In the stories, "Bluebeard" and "Fitcher's Bird," both men leave the house for a period of time.  They tell their wives they can explore their houses, invite others over, and have fun, as long as they do not enter one specific room.  In both stories the wife enters this room and is caught due to blood on the object the must keep safe or not use.  In "Bluebeard" his wife is not actually killed.  She is saved by her brothers.  But in the story "Fitcher's Bird," the first wife is killed, and her sister is then married to the sorcerer.  The second sister is also killed for being curious and looking into the forbidden room.  And finally their other sister gets married to this man, however she is able to out smart him and bring her sisters back to life.   
The story of "The Robber Bridegroom," is not as similar to "Bluebeard" as "Fitcher's Bird" is.  In this story, the millers daughter is forced to marry the robber.  It is unknown however that this man is indeed a robber until she is invited to his house.  There she discovers that he is a murder with several other men.  When she escapes from his house and returns home, she explains this to her father.  She is asked at the wedding party later to tell a story, where she tells the story of the murder and presents proof.

I really like the story "The Robber Bridegroom."  It is an interesting story.  I especially like the ending when the bride-to-be tells the story of the robber Bridegroom and she pulls out the finger as proof.  I did not expect that, and i really enjoyed it.

However, the story I did not like was the "Fitcher's Wife."  I found it to be extremely odd.   I did not like the fact that two of the three sisters were killed after falling for the same man.  It was not as interesting as "The Robber Bridegroom" in my opinion. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Cupid & Psyche vs. the Frog King

          The tale of “Cupid and Psyche” is similar in ways to the story of “The Frog King.”   
          First of all, the stories share the two facts that the girls are the youngest and most beautiful in the family, and they are forced to marry a beastly creature.  
          Second, both stories start with the girls showing their beautiful side, then at the climax of the story they show a bit of an ugly side through their personalities(Psyche-when she goes to kill her husband, and the young princess-when she refuses to be companions with the Frog), and then finally showing their beautiful side again.  Both stories emphasize that everyone has an ugly side and beautiful side.
          There are more differences however between the two stories.
          The princess' father in the Frog King forced her to marry and be a companion to the frog.  She was not pleased with this at all.  When the frog asked her to lift her into his bed, she became angry and threw him against the wall.  At that point he transformed into a prince, she fell in love with them and they lived happily ever after.

           In Cupid and Psyche, however, Psyche may have been forced to marry the beast, but she loved him dearly before she actually found out what he was.  She only discovered what he was because her two sisters convinced her to kill him in the middle of the night.  He turned out to be Cupid, and she later became immortal in order to be with him forever.
          Finally, in the Frog Prince, the girl only meets the frog because she looses her golden ball in the well and the frog offers to get it for her for a price.  In Cupid and Psyche the goddess Venus, Cupids mother, is angered by the fact that Psyche is more beautiful and so she sends Cupid to punish her, which is when he falls in love with her.
          There are few similarities and many differences, however both stories exercise the theme of a beauty and a beast falling in love with each other, and that, I must say, is the most important similarity.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Little Red
          The Little Red Riding Hood theme cartoon depicts one of the most well known scenes in any versions of Little Red Riding Hood and the illustrator does it in a very humorous way.  When arriving at the house, in the Grimm Brothers Little Red Cap, the little girl proceeds to criticize certain aspects of her "grandmothers" face and appearance.  "Oh, Grandmother, what big ears you have! Oh, Grandmother, what big hands you have! Oh, Grandmother, what a terribly big mouth you have!"  Instead of gobbling the little girl up in the cartoon however, the wolf seems almost angered at the fact that he is being criticized for his looks and is quick to insult the girl back.  We can assume with what is being said in this cartoon, that the little girl is implying that the wolf is ugly.  Most people when reading the tale, never think about how the wolf feels about such criticism.  The cartoon not only twists it around to make you think about what she is saying exactly, but it also show what the wolf feels after the comments are made, and he obviously does not leave his thoughts on her appearance out of the conversation either.  This cartoon also, in a way, makes the little girl look like the bad guy in the sense that the wolf looks hurt by what is being said about him.
          The cartoon I chose is a social cartoon.  We see in society everyday people criticizing others looks without taking the time to get to know them.  I guess what the artist may have been trying to illustrate is that we shouldn't judge a book by its cover.  Maybe if Little Red Riding Hood wouldn't have made the comments about the wolfs appearance, he wouldn't have gobbled her up.  What would have happened if she would have said he looked absolutely beautiful?  I guess we will never know.            When I saw this cartoon, I couldn't help but laugh.  I have never pictured the wolf becoming angered by what the little girl says about his appearance.  It is definitely a different way to see the story.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Anne Sexton's Snow White

Anne Sexton's poem "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" is very different from the original fairy tale written by the Grimm Brothers.  To start the entire poem is filled with Sextons own interpretations of the Grimm's Snow White.  Sexton in the beginning describes Snow White as having "cheeks as fragile as cigarette paper/arms and legs made of Limoges/lips like Vin Du Rhône/rolling her china-blue doll eyes/open and shut."  It is almost as if Snow White is a doll in the poem.  By fusing pop culture into her poem as well, Sexton is able to make her poem more comical and relatable to today.  After the dwarfs come home and untie Snow White from the lace that she had been tied up in by her stepmother, Sexton describes Snow White as being as full of life as soda pop.  At one point in the poem she even refers to an ace bandage when describing how tight Snow Whites stepmother ties her up.  
Sexton adds interesting details to parts of her poem that were not in the original story.  For instance there is a portion in the forest where Snow White encounters twenty doorways in which twenty wolves stood in front of.  Or the part where on the seventh week Snow White comes upon the seventh mountain, which is where she finds the dwarfs house.  These obviously cannot be found in the original tale.  And Sexton, by adding the fact that Snow White travels for seven total weeks, takes away the original Snow Whites image of timelessness.  Another way Sexton adds time to her poem is in the end when she states that Snow Whites princes comes in June.
Finally, Sexton adds her own interpretation of happily ever after to her poem that implies that Snow Whites has encountered the same fate as her stepmother.  She makes it seem as if it is inevitable and all women will encounter this fate at some point in their life.

I would have to say I prefer Anne Sexton's version of Snow White.  Although I love the Grimm's version, Sexton's makes me laugh every time I read it.  Her interpretations and commentary give it a personal touch, but also make it more relatable.  Her interesting descriptions are commendable and add to the overall effect.  Overall I find it to be more interesting and I really enjoyed reading her poem.