The first principal I had as a teacher began every day at school with announcements over our unbelievably loud (once it was so loud that the speaker fell off the wall) intercom system:
“Happy MARVELOUS MONDAY (or similar weekday alliteration) Trojan Land, it’s another day of teaching and plearning!”
At first, I thought I misheard the announcements every single day, but learned quickly that “plearning” was a combination of playing and learning, because my principal believed that education for our high school students should be so awesome that it was be more than just learning; it was fun.
This principal – still one of the strongest and most inspiring women I’ve ever met – gave me the freedom to make my classroom more than just a daily drill of standardized questions. She encouraged me and the others at my school to plan interesting, engaging lessons that students cared about, and I was so excited to jump on board.
However, planning thrilling lessons and keeping students on the edge of their seats while still teaching them required science concepts requires huge amounts of behind the scenes work related to several puzzle pieces, including content knowledge, resources, implementation, and a network of passionate colleagues willing to help. When any of these pieces of the puzzle are missing, I find myself reverting to easier to plan, less engaging lessons with less real world application and less hands-on time for students.
Enter Kenan Fellowship. I have only just begun this experience, but I am already convinced that it will redefine my teaching. In my other fellows, I have already found some of the most passionate, innovative, and supportive educators I have had the pleasure to meet. These teachers are great at what they do, and the awesome thing is, they all want learning to be better for all students, which means that sharing ideas, resources, dreams, and feedback comes naturally among this group. I feel confident that simply having access to these phenomenal educators will allow me to plan and implement better lessons on a daily basis.
My fellowship will also give me the opportunity to experience things I never have before, such as working in a functioning scientific lab doing real research on ant behavior and fungal pathogens. I know that it’s very possible that I will at times feel uncomfortable with the new experience and the wealth of scientific knowledge that my mentors possess, but it’s okay. Being surrounded by brilliant scientists will not only grow my scientific knowledge, but also help me remember what it feels like to be a student, allowing me to connect on a new level with my students who may be nervous or overwhelmed by science content.
Already, I have gained a wealth of new ideas and resources, and thoughts are zinging around my brain like hot molecules in a beaker just waiting to escape and be shared with educators not sharing in my fellowship experience. The fellows that I’ve met have all been so excited to share their knowledge with me, and I can’t wait to try it out and pass it on, whether through formal presentations or daily discussions with my team.
While I have only officially been a Kenan Fellow for a week, I can tell that applying to this program is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I can’t be sure what connections and experiences this fellowship will lead to in the future, but I’m positive that both my students and I will be doing a whole lot of teaching and plearning.