Not For Me, For My Students: Reflections

As the time is near for us to submit our final Kenan projects, I cannot help but take a few moments to reflect upon what I have learned, what I have done, and what I will continue to do for the rest of my career. While the fellowship year is nearing an end, the lessons learned should (and will) be utilized to help our students succeed in whatever path they choose to take when graduating from high school.

In spending three weeks at Livingston & Haven, a company in Charlotte that primarily works with hydraulics and engineering, one may ask me exactly how the knowledge and insight I gained might be applicable to a middle school ELA classroom. At first, I will admit that I wasn’t all that sure myself. However, as I began to speak to employees, from the CEO to sales, to engineers and workers in assembly, I noticed how important communication at all levels of the organization was to ensure success.

Not only was communication important for the business aspect (in my first day, during my first hour, I sat in on a conference call to Ghana), but also for the safety of employees. On the manufacturing floor, everyone must communicate in a succinct, accurate fashion in order to ensure that no one is hurt. It is important for people to speak and write well, but also, and this is often forgotten…to LISTEN well.

So, how did this apply to my students? Since day one of the 2018-2019 school year,  I have taught my students the importance of confident, articulate speech, as well as the ability to listen to others. If students are giving a group presentation, I am sure that the rest of the class is listening, and sometimes they are required to make notes so they may ask questions at the end. I also have worked to increase their confidence and poise in public speaking. Mainly, talking in front of the class. With the exception of a few stragglers, I have my students less afraid to come to the front to the room to speak, and if they still are hesitant, they are willing to share their concerns with me, and receive some coaching to maybe try again next time.

Also, at the end of March, I will be chaperoning a field trip to Livingston and Haven with a group of STEM students from Kennedy Middle School. While yes, the trip will focus on STEM topics, I will ask our hosts to also let students know of the importance of effective communication in the workplace. It’s important, and will be integral to their (my students’) success no matter what field they enter after school.

My final product will be a three-four day unit for teachers to work with effective communication in the classroom. Students will be introduced to the importance of oral, written, and remote communication while also learning the importance of listening. We cannot forget how important it is to teach students to listen.

My head is still swimming with everything I’ve gleaned from this fellowship, and the inexperience has proven to be invaluable. The STEM world can even hand an English teacher so much to impart upon students. Never let someone tell you that they are incompatible! Our students may one day have an enormous impact in the STEM world, but how great will their work be if they are unable to communicate the results to the world?