Teacher Innovation #1: “Week 19: Equipping Seniors to Leave Our Classroom Nests”

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The first entry in the Teacher Innovation Summer Series comes from my colleague and friend Bill Smith. Bill is veteran teacher having taught in an ELA classroom for 14 years. This past year, Bill worked closely with many of our seniors and as you will read, he faced a few interesting challenges. Today’s post focuses on developing authentic conversations with senior who are on the verge of leaving our familiar and prescriptive schoolhouses.

by Bill Smith

“But I haven’t done anything yet! I’m just a student…”

“How do I calculate my HOPE [scholarship] GPA…?”

“I don’t have any work experience….”

“What’s the passing score for the SAT?”

“My ACT score wasn’t good enough. Now what…?”

“Who am I supposed to get references from…?”

What is that smell? Fear? Exasperation? Is it coming from them or me? Why do I have to fight so hard against making assumptions about what my students are capable of, of how far they’ve progressed? Maybe I’ve just overlayed my own high school template on this situation: I think I saw my guidance counselor once in the four years I was there, and one of my English teachers kept a poster of SAT dates by her door. That was it; at no time did any of my classroom teachers connect me we resources, skills, practices, or people to help me get to college. And of course I was going to college, so I’d just wait for the conclusion of that chapter of my life for someone to wave their magic wand and make an English major ready to get out and land some interviews. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

Student Voices: A Former Student Connects Her PBL Experience to Her Career Choice

 

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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.
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#zineculture Week 5 Update: Some Ol’ Friends Stop By

 

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This week I was able to bring in two good friends from my college years into my classroom to discuss the world of zines as they experienced them. Rusty and Nate were some of my most cherished friends during my undergrad years. They spent a solid year developing and producing their own punk rock/hardcore zine that they sold and distributed at shows they played or went to. They took time out of their very busy schedules to come speak to my students about their zine adventures and answer questions. Continue reading

Student Voices: A Ga Tech Student Share’s Her Post High School PBL Story

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This post is a very special treat for me and anyone who has followed the blog for a period of time. Last year, I developed a “Student Voices” series aimed at allowing students I had taught in a project-based learning classroom (The Studio) to speak to its impact on their high school experience. I’m pleased as punch to share with you an essay from one of these students who has since graduated, been accepted to Georgia Tech, and is now a thriving freshman in her second semester there. I won’t ruin what she has to say by commenting on it much here, but please have a look inside and see for yourself what she has to say about her experience four years in the making.

Also, something to be excited for this upcoming Friday is my first post on the #zineculture project. Stay tuned. Continue reading