Care & Empathy Training: Preparing Student Mentors to Work with Reluctant Peers

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Today I had a tremendous opportunity to put some of my research from my doctoral study to use in a whole new setting. A few weeks ago my special education department chair came to me with concerns about her peer mentors struggling to connect with her most at-risk students. (For quick background, my school has an ‘academy’ dedicated to serving our 50 most at-risk students as identified by grades, behavior, attendance and other factors under the special education umbrella.) I immediately jumped at the chance to provide training for these mentors, believing my newfound expertise in care ethics could help enlighten these mentors approach to working with their more reluctant peers.  Continue reading

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Studio Reunion 2: #PBL Chat w/ Former Students

Adobe Spark (13)

I’m excited to announce that early next week I’ll be posting another conversation with another group of former students who were part of my Studio program–a fully immersive project-based learning (PBL) classroom. You can see last year’s conversation with a few students here.

The students I’ll be meeting with are mostly students who entered the program after our inaugural year (and after we had learned a lot!). They are all in the midst of their college careers and will be able to speak to how a PBL environment in high school shaped (or didn’t shape) their post-secondary experiences. Look for the post to be up Monday afternoon.

Under-prepared? Distracted? Overwhelmed?: The Role of CTE and Internships as Laboratories for Work and Life

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I feel acknowledging my blog’s sudden turn toward Career and Technical Education (CTE) and my state’s Work-Based Learning (WBL) program is important. I have a few ideas marinating for the blog concerning my more traditional focus on project-based learning and literacy, but for the next few posts, I am going to dive even further into reflecting on the role of students participating in CTE courses, internships, potential benefits, and what must be done for those benefits to materialize for more students. My first post on the subject was a few weeks ago. I lamented the challenges I saw my 11th and 12th grade students face to really prepare for an internship and the workforce. Today’s post has some similarities, but I now put the critical lens on myself and other CTE educators.

Why? Well as the title suggests, my WBL students this year are a combination of under-prepared, distracted, and overwhelmed. The first adjective is mine. I have to own my conjecture that my students are under-prepared based on my observations from the last month. I also own it because I am one of the reasons they appear unprepared. The second adjective society must own. I know I feel distracted. My phone distracts me; my email distracts me; television distracts me. But what my frontal lobe affords me that my students’ does not is impulse control. I can typically make a conscious effort to walk away from those distractions. My students, as a product of the world they inhabit (one they’ve had little say in shaping might I remind you), are distracted, but their distractions far outweigh mine as an adult. The last adjective belongs to them. They use this word to describe themselves. The reason I get most from my students to why they do not complete a task, communicate clearly, or avoid responsibility is they mention feeling overwhelmed.

So what’s the solution? We are. Educators are. I am. Continue reading

What Work-Based Learning Has Taught Me about the Classroom, Work, & the Spaces Between

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In the state of Georgia, we have a work-release program for students aged 16 years or older coined Work-Based Learning (WBL). Essentially, if a WBL coordinator at a school uses the program well, WBL becomes a bridge for students from academics to the work force through meaningful internships. Most states have this sort of program and while I have learned more about it over the last three years, this is the first year I find myself in the coordinator position (along with a few other distinct roles). A coordinator is responsible for piles of data, including, yes, grades, attendance, applications, but also, inputting information into a state database, maintaining your own database, evaluations from various businesses, maintaining and developing a roster of businesses, sign-out sheets–the list really does go on and on. The amount of paperwork can certainly be justified. We’re talking about real work, real businesses, adolescents and adults working together for a common good. That all translates to a need for accountability from everyone involved.

In the opening weeks of this school year, my eyes have been opened to the challenges my upperclassmen face and the realities they face in the world waiting for them after high school. If you follow my blog, there is a good chance you know I am an advocate and proponent of using the classroom space as one where not only is content taught but soft/21st century skills are practiced as well. Hence, my strong belief in project-based learning (PBL) as a viable and important instructional method. The WBL program is meant to support growth in these areas as well. Really, before a student even qualifies for WBL at 16 the hope is they have taken at least one course in Career and Technology Education (CTE) where many of those skills are to be focused on continually. What has become apparent in the last few weeks is despite CTE, or even exposure to some PBL, many of WBL students really do lack the soft/21st century skills necessary for their success beyond the confines of high school. Continue reading

Get Eclipsed… Totally: A Fun Video to Celebrate Friday & Next Week’s Eclipse

My district made the distinct decision to delay the release of all levels of schools for an hour this upcoming Monday to account for the once-in-a-lifetime solar eclipse event. Our school was tasked with determining the best way to handle the logistics of the day, so we decided to make it as celebratory as possible. The rather silly video above was shown in our advisement time today, and it’s just too much fun not to share. The Film A/V students who filmed and edited the video did a great job and are each a testament to the growth of that program on our campus (we literally put this together yesterday!). Besides dealing with the terrible, cringe-worthy grammar on the eclipse glasses–they literally say ‘Get Eclipsed Totally’–the video was a blast to make.

Happy Friday everyone! Enjoy having a laugh at me and a few colleagues’ expense.