Today’s former student post comes all the way from Virginia! “R,” as we’ll call her, was part of the Studio (my project-based learning classroom) for only a year before moving away from the county and state. Inside, R describes how that freshmen year shaped her thinking academically, and the class’s lasting effects on her today. We had lost touch for a little while, but thankfully she recently sought me out for a letter of recommendation. Losing R from the program those many years has always saddened me to some degree. As a teacher, you can go about your day-to-day routine and not always be mindful of students who have passed through your room. While R has not been on my mind all the time, her email to me recently really jogged my memory and allowed me to remember her time in my classroom–a time I think we mutually cherished. Read on to see for yourself.
“Learning to think outside the box and learning not only how to solve problems but how to think of problems to solve were the hardest parts of the class.”
When I got the books from my summer reading list after the 8th grade going into 9th grade as a freshman, I was completely frustrated. These books were ones that were actually challenging and ones that I couldn’t just breeze through like I had done since I learned how to read. I finished the books just in time for school to start and went into the class hoping that the class was going to be easier than the summer reading; and it wasn’t. The first nine weeks of freshman year were probably the hardest weeks of school that I had ever had. This class was challenging me to do more than do the minimum amount of work to get an A. School was easy for me up until this point. The first few projects, looking back on them, were just like any other poster board projects for any other class. What came later was what made it interesting.
Learning to think outside the box and learning not only how to solve problems but how to think of problems to solve were the hardest parts of the class. Once you had an idea, though, the sky was the limit! The projects we made in the class were one step or less away from being reality. I was lucky to be part of a group who took an idea past the class and actually did something. I was part of the team that brought the Learning Garden to Suwannee Georgia. We called sponsors, fundraised, planned, and built a garden which talked about agriculture, its history and the technologies within it.
My favorite part, and the part that impacted me the most, was the expo. At the end of each semester we picked our favorite project, improved it and made it ready to present to the public. We presented our projects to anyone and everyone who showed up. This gave me skills to get a person’s attention, to make a table and space presentable, and public speaking skills. These skills along with the research skills and the incentive to challenge myself have helped me through other classes, getting prepared for college, and even figuring out my career path. Because of the expos, I have decided to pursue a degree in hospitality at Purdue University this coming fall and afterwards hope to have a job in event planning and management.
My favorite part is at the end when she cites the class’s approach to projects being an inspiration for her career pursuits. Thank you, R, for being willing to share. Thank you for reminding me why I love my job.