A Note: A Former Student Recalls the Value of Her Project-Based Learning Experience

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This will be a rather busy week, so the next part of the “Building an Ethic of Caring in the Classroom” will likely be delayed. As a quick preview, the post will explore the nature of how a classroom, at times, sets itself up to have winners meaning there has to be losers, and the dire implications that can have on a student’s education. See parts 1, 2, 3,  and 4 by clicking the linked numbers.

Today I am simply sharing a note I received from a former student, Tiffany, who was part of my first project-based learning (PBL) immersive classroom (The Studio) with my friend and colleague, Nic Carroll. Her note is a reminder why teaching is such a rewarding occupation, and it certainly champions what PBL as an instructional approach may inspire. Tiffany is a recent graduate of the Georgia Institute of Technology. Enjoy!

Hi Carroll and Jones-y,

Before I begin, I am typing this on my slow, laggy phone, so I apologize (particularly to Coach Jones) for any typos…

I just wanted to send you a little note to thank you both AGAIN for being such an influential people early in my career. I know I have thanked you both before, but I will be eternally grateful for the impact you made in my life.

PBL completely changed my life aspirations early on, teaching me to pursue my passions, regardless of what the world was telling me. PBL allowed me to explore my creative side, transforming PowerPoint presentations into memorable experiences and creating websites and logos, early in my ‘career’.

On Wednesday, I interviewed for a graphic design position that also includes PowerPoint design/animation. Let’s just say that PBL came up, and I found myself reminiscing back to the moments with PBL that truly changed my life.

Fast forward to today… I was just offered the position a few hours ago and am so excited. While I have loved and will continue the freelance life as the Founder/CEO of TDang Designs LLC, I am super pumped to be learning and working under someone else. And as I celebrate with my friends and family, I just wanted to share my life update with 2 people that have been an integral part in shaping who I am today.

I can’t thank you both enough…

So much love,
Tiffany

No, Tiffany, thank you!

Building an Ethic of Caring in the Classroom: The Emotional Elevator

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Series: Part 1//Part 2//Part3

We all ride in the emotional elevator–sometimes daily, other times weekly, and there are a few of us who only tend ride it occasionally, sparingly.

The emotional elevator is a term used to talk about our thoughts’ journey back and forth between the lower (emotional pain and pleasure centers) and upper (cortex, rational thought) parts of our brain. Out of the FOG explains the term “riding the emotional elevator” well and gives some great examples if you want to know more about the concept.

Most of us spend the majority of our lives moving up the emotional elevator (i.e. higher order thinking, rational thought), but at times our elevator can plummet to a lower floor quickly, where we find ourselves reacting out what feels good in the moment, ignoring the long term consequences of an action. While for most adults this is more of an occasional occurrence (with exceptions of course), an adolescent’s emotional elevator is moving between floors regularly and often. Educators can play a unique role in their classrooms during what is truly a volitale for a student during their middle school and high school years.

But honestly, this post is not about students’ emotional elevator journies; it’s about teachers’. Continue reading

Building an Ethic of Caring in the Classroom: Mindfulness

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Series Part 1//Part 2

“I can’t imagine a time you were an impatient teacher!”

When I tell new colleagues, parents, or students that I once considered myself an impatient, borderline mean teacher, they often say, almost verbatim, the statement above. I have worked diligently and intently on becoming the kind of teacher any student would want to have and that I know I would want my own children to have, but the truth is in my early years out of college, I was not that teacher. That’s not to say I was horrible, but I was the type of teacher who would snap at a student if they asked for directions I had just explained to the class. I used sarcasm regularly when I considered a student’s actions dumb or ignorant. I taught as though everyone was listening, and I was at the center of all learning. Typing those admissions out now hurts, but they are true and part of who I was.

Last week’s post gave five practical ways to embed caring in a classroom. Today’s post is a bit more philosophical and will challenge some people’s beliefs concerning discipline and behavior. My goal is not to ruffle feathers so much as to provide a different lens to consider when acting as an agent in a classroom, whether that agent be a student or the teacher. The title, “Mindfulness,” is a plea for teachers to be forthright with their caring philosophies in their classroom as well as for teachers to be reflective and thoughtful–parts of myself that I had to develop once I was self-aware of my impatience and treatment of students. A teacher’s job is challenging on many levels to say the least, and we are all human. Humans make mistakes, including saying and doing harmful and even malicious words and actions respectively. While we cannot eliminate that “bad day” we may all have from time to time, we can, as educators, be far more mindful of how we act and what we say even on the bad days. I consider the advice in today’s post practical too, but I recognize not everyone will agree with the advice. If anything, the post is simply sharing what I have found to be most effective in my classroom and what has made a me a better, more reflective and caring teacher. Continue reading

Building an Ethic of Caring in the Classroom: 5 Protocols for Promoting a Caring Classroom

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Check out the first post of the series HERE.

The temperature we set in our classroom matters. While the literal thermostat in a classroom does matter (“Why is it so hot in here?”), the thermostat I am writing about is the instructional climate we set for our students, which I believe should be challenging but comfortable—where challenges can be taken on in a caring, trustworthy space. How we do this comes in many forms, and I would argue context, of course, matters. But I would also argue there are few actions any teacher can take to create a caring classroom that students want to enter every day. This shouldn’t surprise us, but really, it always goes back to good ol’ Maslow. In today’s post, I explore a few practical protocols any teacher can put into motion tomorrow in his or her classroom. Continue reading

Building an Ethic of Caring in the Classroom: Throw Fear Away

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Welcome to the very first in a series dedicated to foregrounding love in lesson planning and instruction for building more caring classrooms. I realize that someone who just read that first sentence may have been immediately turned off by my use of the word “love.” Love is a big, complicated, and even messy concept that we know even the Greeks wrestled with as they needed at least four different words to try and capture its multiplicitous meaning. The love I am attempting to depict in this series is a love we commit out of inclination; we are urged from within to aid, help, be kind, and express care towards others. My hope is that expression of love is exactly what we want to convey to our students and that we would want a teacher to express to our own children.

While future posts will rotate their themes and focus, each going forward will have some practical, ready-to-implement learning experience you can use. The only exception will be posts that bring former students’ perspectives together for the sake of discussion. Today I am sharing one of the first experiences I developed for students well before I became a researcher, and I was simply seeking to better connect my students to the potentially extraordinary learning experience they could have in my classroom. I never named the experience, but I feel for the sake of making it a useful tool for others, I am calling it “Throw Fear Away.” Continue reading