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!