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

My Foray Into Teaching Students Who Might One Day Also Teach Students

Chemistry Teacher with Students in Class

I’m facilitating an Examining the Teaching Profession course this year. The prospect of teaching the course is exciting, but it’s my first foray into (1) teaching an elective (formally anyway) and (2) teaching introspectively from that stand point of being a teacher and engaging students who may one day decide to be a teacher as well. Looking ahead into the possibilities of the course, it will be one of the cornerstones to the education pathway in my academy (Public Service and Leadership). In the meantime, the course–instead of being filled with freshmen and sophomores–is composed of mostly seniors and a few juniors. Developing the course has been a bit of a metacognative experience since I am currently reflecting on my own practices and philosophy as a seven year educator.   Continue reading

What is Writing?: A Revealing Conversation with 9th Graders

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My first week at my new school went well. I was asked by most of my friends and family how I felt about my first week, and I told them the truth: ‘It was wonderful; they’ve (the students) already taught me a lot.’ And it’s true; they have taught me a lot about both my classroom, myself, and them as students collectively. My biggest takeaway, however, centers on what I learned about their perceptions of what writing is and what writing isn’t.
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Starting Again: A New Year, A New School, A New Adventure, and a Few Icebreakers

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Come Tuesday, my new adventure at a new school officially begins as students pour into my classroom at Lanier High School. Last spring I announced my intention to change schools and take a new position. I’ve spent the last five days preparing with my new colleagues for a new school year, and so far almost everything has been amazing. I’m working with some incredible educators and administrators, and there is a certain excitement in the air around the school’s upcoming focus on academies and project-based learning. Pedagogically, I couldn’t be happier about what this year could bring. I’m mindful, however, of what it will take from me personally to step up and take on not just the role of teacher of students but also a leader of fellow educators. Even beyond that, my work with our local community will be critical to the growth and sustainability of my academy. I’m excited. This year will test my mettle and at times my resolve. I can already see, though, that I have people to lean on who are just as excited as I am. Inside today’s post, I’m simply going over what I’m using for my first day icebreakers as well as inform you, my reader, of what my academy is looking for since I’m hoping someone out there might have some great connections I could connect with this year. Continue reading

Advisement Matters

I have worked on my school’s advisement team for four years now. When I initially joined, my primary motivation was to simply be involved at another level at my school. (The small summer stipend didn’t hurt either.) What I discovered as I worked beside our group’s lead counselor and a few of my peers was that I have a genuine heart for what an advisement program means for all stakeholders–students, teachers, parents, and administrators–everyone.

Our superintendent puts an emphasis on advisement in our district; the county has spent a good deal of money developing analytics and devising ways to interpret the data we get from student and adviser surveys. Five years into developing these tools, we’re just now understanding what they could mean for us and our kids. Seems like a long time, right? What aggravates me and many others in education is that no one is willing to stick with anything long enough to see its true implications, so I commend my district for sticking with the analytic tools they’ve developed since the dividends are just now visible. Even within any given school, advisement is different and often times changes on a large scale as someone gets the next big idea from year to year. That’s how it was at my school the first few years, but now for the last three years we’ve kept with the same basic format and we’re starting to see its benefits on a larger scale.

For the last five years we’ve had freshman mentoring where our junior and senior leaders mentor our freshmen throughout the year. To a degree, this has become a popularity platform and something to notch on a college application resume; however, at its heart it really does give our students the ability lead our youngest group and generates safe and beneficial relationships between a freshman and their often times feared (a misrepresentation) upperclassmen peers. From tenth to twelfth grade, our students have one adviser for all three years and each is attached to an interest topic (i.e. sports, movies, music, health, gaming, etc.), and we try our best to keep groups to no larger than about 16 students. (Bear in mind that we have nearly 2,700 students total.) This year my students are seniors. What I’ve enjoyed most, as I reflect on our current program so far, is that I really know these students. I care for them deeply, and I have an experience with them that is leveled in a way that typically doesn’t happen in a regular classroom.

I’ve never been more conscience of what we do right at my school and district than while taking class this summer. I witnessed stories of broken approaches to advisement and the defeated spirits of other educators who felt like many of their kids–that advisement is a waste of time.

The truth is that advisement is what you and your school make it. Is it a priority? Do you gather feedback from the stakeholders? Do you take that feedback seriously and make changes accordingly? Do you see advisement as the great equalizer that it should be? I don’t mean to be accusatory, but advisement could be the difference between a student gaining a scholarship, making an informed decision about a career, taking the SAT or ACT, or going to college at all. No matter the socioeconomics, advisement can provide access to information that many students and families do not know how to find on their own or answer the questions they don’t even know to ask. Maybe more importantly though, is advisement’s ability to form relationships between students and faculty that genuinely matter.

I realize I’m appealing to a great deal to peoples’ pathos right now, but the logic is there too; there are facts that back up advisement’s importance and relevance. Most are found in the retention of college students, but the premise is the same in high school. If a child knows someone cares about them, what happens to them, their success, then students care in return and engagement changes as well.

Simply put–advisement matters.