The Impact of PBL & Authentic Learning: An Email from a Georgia Tech Student

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So it has been a little while since I have brought up PBL exclusively here on my blog. While I spend a lot of time on this blog talking about my research pursuits and literacy in its multiplicitous forms, please know that project-based learning (PBL) and real-life inquiry is still my passion. In today’s post, I am sharing an email I received about a month ago from a former student who I taught in my earliest years as a PBL teacher. She is currently in the last half of her second year at Georgia Tech. The email is a strong reminder to me in my darkest moments of instructional frustration that the work I do and the unconventional methods I use are important and have an impact on my students’ futures. In the near future, this same former student will be writing a guest post that will expand on this email, and she can truly share in her own words the impact PBL and real-life inquiry has had on her life. I hope some of you innovators out there enjoy this as much as I did.

Coach Jones,

Believe me when I say I had full intention to email you over the break, but alas I got too busy catching up with my DVR at home. 🙂

I wanted to share some news with you personally, (although you may have seen my recent Facebook post). I’ve accepted 2 internship offers – one for this semester with McClain International, and one for the spring with Lockheed Martin. I could not be more excited!

After accepting the second one, my dad made a comment that while yes, I have worked hard in school thus far and my grades show it, I wouldn’t have gotten two jobs out of only less than 10 that I applied for (which is a much higher ratio than many people experience) if it weren’t for my ability to interview well.

In my interviews for both positions, I found it much easier than expected to answer all of the behavioral questions they threw my way. More specifically, though I’ve had a small bit of project experience in college, I found myself talking about my experiences in PBL. All of my interviewers were amazed by some of the things I talked about doing in high school. One of the guys at Lockheed sounded so taken aback by the idea of five high school juniors building a multi-touch table from scratch, and even jokingly asked where they could get one.

You are one of the few I have to thank for the skills and experiences that helped me in the job search journey. The opportunity to speak on behalf of PBL this summer in front of all of the teachers and admins was another one of those experiences that I think helped me to really formulate discussing what PBL had taught me. And yet again, I cannot thank you enough.

Again, thank you for pushing me so much in high school, because I truly believe that the experiences I had then have had a monstrous impact on what I’ve been able to accomplish today.

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While she is very kind to thank me in her letter, I want to be clear that me sharing this email is not about me. I ended up wanting to share this (after spending a month thinking about sharing it) because it emphasizes the impact innovative teaching practices have on a student’s future. This young lady would probably be successful in life whether or not she was ever in my class; however, the opportunities afforded to her and the experiences she has had are wholly unique to her time in my classroom. That, to me, is what stands out.

Powerful, no?

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