Monthly Archives: June 2018

Learning Never Stops

This morning, I had the opportunity to sit with a product specialist whose knowledge of hydraulics and their schematics was beyond the realm of what I thought to be possible. Sure, he has nearly forty years experience with the company, and has been looking at these devices for longer than I’ve been alive, but it was how he gained the knowledge that is so important, and definitely applicable to my students.

Right off the bat, he told me that he was a student who struggled in school. His attitude was that of many students, past and present, who believe that what they’re learning doesn’t apply to them. “We’ll never need to know this,” they shout, believing that once the test is over, they’ll never see this skill again. This gentleman told me that once he began this job nearly four decades ago, he took it upon himself to learn what he should’ve learned years prior, and because of it, he is in his position today.

Let’s remind our students that learning is important, but that it doesn’t stop after school. The learning taking place in our formative years is preparing us for the learning that will take place each and every day of our lives. In order to be successful in the “real world,” we must continue to learn each and every day. Let us use this to keep our students thirsty for information, even if they think it’s “never going to be needed.” Look outward, look forward.

Taking it Outside the Classroom

Walking into my first day of the Kenan Fellowship’s internship portion, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I knew that there would be some nerves, a bunch of questions, and a whole lot of learning.

After a discussion with Human Resources in which I learned extensively about the company culture and values, the next step on my schedule was to meet with the CEO of Livingston Haven, Clifton Vann IV. Little did I know I would be walking into a conference call involving Ghana, in which a proposal for adding solar power to the Catholic schools of the country was being discussed. I can not imagine a better way to become fully immersed in the workings of the company, and see the up close and personal ways in which I can take lessons from the STEM business world, and say to my students, “this is why I’m teaching you this.”

I watched as very high level employees of the company communicated flawlessly with other individuals who were based around the globe, and thought quickly while adapting their audience. This is a crucial piece of our ELA curriculum, as students must learn to write persuasively, tweaking their composition to suit the needs of various audiences.

The rest of the day involved a tour of the facility, lunch with the CEO, and meeting with the director of sales, with whom I’ll be spending some time over the next few days. If I learned this much on Day One, imagine what is to come over the next three weeks.


An Amazing Experience

I have just arrived in Charlotte, my mind bubbling over with new knowledge that I cannot wait to implement in my classroom. What makes it even more amazing, is that my internship hasn’t even started yet. Starting next week I will be seeing exactly how the workforce is in need of STEM skills, and how I can take this desire back to my students to better prepare them for a competitive world.

For me to attempt to summarize everything here would be next to impossible, so I want to focus on what I thought to be an integral session from the week. In that session, we talked about branding ourselves as educators. If we have no idea who we are, how can we effectively lead our students to the fountain of knowledge to make them drink?

Let me break down my branding and see how it might play out as an educator. Remember, I’m a “Creative, relevant, reality-connector.”

Creative: My ELA experience in middle school was dry. If I reflect on it, I’m surprised I’ve entered the career. Drills, boring readings, and no chance to be creative. Creativity was shunned, as I remember being forced to write and read a certain way. That’s not to say that I wish to shun standards and let kids have free reign, but whenever an opportunity presents itself to give students the chance to create, I will take it. Students want to take ownership of their learning, and infusing creativity into the curriculum will facilitate that.

Relevant: “This doesn’t matter to me.” “Is this on the test?” “Who cares about commas and plot diagrams?” Sound familiar? In an initial meeting with my mentor at my internship site, we talked in depth about a need for students to be able to compose and comprehend the written word. You might have all the degrees in the world, but if you cannot communicate, or understand communication, you’re already behind the eight ball. Students need to know that there IS a reason we’re reading this, and there IS a reason I’m tough on them when it comes to writing. It’s not to be mean, and it’s not to make them feel inferior. Instead, it’s to prepare them for a competitive world where a misplaced semicolon could be the difference between getting or being passed over for a job.

Reality-Connector: The texts I read in school were often outdated and mundane. I want my students to form personal and world connections with their texts, so that it’s not just an assignment, but instead a gateway to the world. Too often, English Language Arts is seen as a subject that is in its own box, separated from the world at large. I want students to engage with texts that matter, and that also connect to the ever expanding STEM world. Nonfiction texts, and even fiction texts with a foundation in science will help students make those sorely needed connections between their reading and the world.

There is so much to think about after Summer Institute, and I’ll need some time for my brain to stop spinning before I can begin to put it all together, but I look forward to eight weeks from now when my students walk into my classroom, and the myriad befits of the Summer Institute can be shown.

Thank you, Kenan and NCCAT. It was an amazing week.

Learning from Each Other

Sometimes, the best way that we can learn as teachers is from one another. It is important that we remember that yes, we as teachers do have valuable knowledge to share with others.

Today, I listened as my cohort shared ideas of what works (and what doesn’t work) in the classroom to keep students engaged. I shared a bit of my own wisdom of my use of humor in the classroom. Over the years, it has become glaringly obvious that if students have the opportunity to laugh a bit, it opens the door to learning. Other colleagues shared ideas such as “mood meters” and funny dances and movements that keep their students involved and learning.

It is hard to believe that tomorrow, I’ll be packing the car and heading home from the Summer Institute, but the vast amount of knowledge and the connections formed with other teachers will allow it to seem like the party never ended. So lesson learned from today’s post? Network, network, network. The teacher next door to you might be able to give you a single piece of advice that can be immensely helpful. In turn, you might be able to offer advice too, creating a true professional network built upon the giving and taking of information to better each other.

What an amazing day!

I’m stopping in quickly before dinner tonight to espouse how amazing the day was, as we were able to team up and complete an amazing scavenger hunt that took across along trails, next to streams, and around NCCAT to interact with, photograph, and learn more about nature.

Sure, it’s nature. Sure, it’s the identification of plants. Does that matter to me as an ELA teacher? ABSOLUTELY! Students can learn about imagery and descriptive writing. Students can work on persuasive writing as they ask to protect a threatened species in North Carolina. Students can work to compare and contrast two different plants or organisms. See? We’re just getting started. The last few days have given me much to work with as I strive to bridge the gap between Language Arts and STEM (making it STEAM)!

Exhausting Day!

Whew! The past ten hours have been full of knowledge to the point where my head is still spinning, and my brain might be at the “full” stage for the next few hours. We were warned ahead of time that today would be a sit-and-get type day, which might explain my >4000 step count for the day, but it was well worth it. Those who know me are aware that I’m a rambler, so I’m going to condense today’s post into bullets, for your sake.

So, here’s what happened today:

*Myers-Briggs Personality Results: Sure, I’m an INFJ and that’s all well and good but how can I utilize these strengths in the classroom? These insights might help me to better serve my students as I adapt to certain situations in the classroom, and my students would be better off for it. Of course, imagine how helpful it would be to gather this data from our students (with parental permission of course) to use for lesson differentiation.

*Branding Ourselves as Educators: It’s easy to say, “Oh, I’m this type of person,” but it’s better to have it in a tangible form. We must remind ourselves each day of who we are, as in reality…we’re in sales. We have students who are our customers, and we have knowledge to “sell” them. We must have a vision for ourselves…a mission statement, if you will, in order to keep ourselves on the ball. While these are steeped in fluidity, today I found myself to be a “Creative, Relevant, Reality-Connector.” Students need the chance to be creative in their endeavors, but also must see relevance and connections to the world around them in order to become engaged.

*Project-Based Learning: Rather than a simple assessment asking students to find a definite answer, why not present them with a problem that forces them to think outside the box? Allow students to roll up their sleeves and become interested on a personal level with a task so that they might take some ownership and pride in their product, rather than rote memorization that goes away after the test. Remember that students do want to be involved in their own education, and not simply “talked at.” Give them the opportunity to research and create rather than simply to regurgitate.

*Culturally Responsive Pedagogy: Our students come to us from different walks of life. It is important to understand that this is not simply related to race, but to different learning styles that are in the seats in our classrooms. Teachers to realize their own biases, work to eliminate them, and begin to understand the differences among their students while utilizing the “data” to create relevant teaching so that students can succeed. Gone are the days of streamlined lesson plans that leave out various abilities and learning styles.

*Flipping the Classroom: I’ll admit to being rather hesitant to this one, as it seemed like a lot of work that may produce so-so results. However, with accountability and encouragement, students can utilize on-line tools to learn so that less time can be spent in the class period simply dictating information, and more time can be spent with the hands-on creation. Students may feel more comfortable learning in the comfort of home. Yes, there may be accessibility issues, but they can be worked around, and lessons differentiated. Flipping allows not only for teachers to spend more time engaging with their students, but also to bolster their own technological knowledge as they create exciting lessons and videos for their students.

*Reading in STEM: Working at a STEM magnet, this seemed like a logical course to drop in on. My first thought as I walked away was to have students reading about science, and responding to it. Think about authors’ points of view, ways to write letters to various scientists, or even take the perspective of an animal that is on the brink of extinction. What might you say? What requests do you have for the humans around you?

I was excited about today, and while I’m slightly overwhelmed right now, I look forward to decompressing over the next few days and inserting all of this knowledge into my curriculum for the upcoming year. My soon-to-be students have no idea what they are in for!

-Until next time…

Hit the Ground Running!

It’s not every day that you’re given an opportunity to spend a week nestled in the mountains of North Carolina to receive an incredible learning experience with twenty-four other educators from a across the state. I consider the opportunities for development of my own pedagogy, but those who will receive the greatest benefits from these workshops will be my students who will eventually learn lessons that have been strengthened by this time honing my craft with fellow NC educators.

Next week, I will begin an amazing internship with Livingston Haven, in which hands on experience will eventually translate into connections made in the classroom between STEM-based education and the applicable skills for the workforce. My students will learn the importance of STEM knowledge and how it will apply once they leave the walls of the school. The frequent question of, “Why do we have to learn this?” will be answered with factual ways in which to utilize their knowledge to not only enrich their minds, but also to land themselves a good paying job after school.

Wait! You’re a Language Arts teacher! STEM doesn’t matter to you. Well, let’s remember that it can also be called STEAM…let’s not forget those Arts. After a wonderful conversation with the CEO of the company where I’ll be spending time soon, we determined that the major need in our schools is for students to be able to enter the workforce with an ability to COMMUNICATE. When a scientist with a Master’s Degree struggles with grammar to the point where it’s difficult to understand his writing, there’s a huge doorway through which a teacher who wishes to bridge the gap between Science and Language Arts can enter and instruct.

Look for more updates soon, as this week promises to be full of knowledge and strengthening relationships with colleagues from across the Tarheel State.

See you soon!