Teachers need the vision to use resources to bring students rich experiences
Teachers are adults and while few of us would consider ourselves wealthy, most of us would consider ourselves well-read with a breadth of experience. Beyond that many of us, along with our families, visit places and do things that enrich our own lives and the lives of our family and children. The unfortunate thing is many times the students in our desks do not have that same opportunity, or even if they have the means they are not from families where education is valued to a point that family activities may revolve around those type of activities. While lack of opportunity is not an uncommon refrain in blog posts or education articles, I think something that deserves some attention is the eye of a teacher.
As teachers in our particular subject area I don’t think it is a stretch for me to say that we look at the world through the lens of education. In particular, we look at the world through the lens of our content speciality if we are at the higher grades or in higher ed. I believe the lens is broader for elementary teachers who teach subjects from one end of the spectrum to the other. The goal of this blog post, and my call to action, is that we use our teacher eyes to enrich the lives of our students, in many cases using the same structures that we create for flipped classrooms. Let me give you an example
Finding inspiration at a farm show
Just this past week, I took a personal day-off, and pulled my own child out of school, to go to a large agricultural trade show called The Farm progress Show. This show is the largest outdoor agricultural event in the world, but more importantly for me it is the best classroom in the world. I have a 12 year old that is a very capable reader, generally enjoys math, and has a budding love for science. But it’s not his abilities, or lack of abilities, that I’m concerned with, my concern is fostering his interests and helping him make connections at 12 years old that may lead him to lifelong vocations. What I decided, as a flip learning teacher who makes videos all the time at my desk at home about math, was that that there’s no reason I can’t take the advice of @bennettscience and take my cell phone show on the road. Even though I was on my personal time, I talked with representatives from various manufacturers, biological producers, automotive mechanics, and people from all walks of life that have some relation to agriculture. I simply interviewed individuals that I found interesting for short one and a half to two minute interviews. We learned about a closed-loop methane system for farming utilizing resources on the farm to power the farm. We learned about properties of, and interactions between, crystals and electricity to make diesel injectors from a long time diesel mechanic sponsored by Ford. I talked to a student who wasn’t even out of college but was displaying work with weed abatement in a tent for a multi-billion-dollar worldwide company.
I talked about the fear of public speaking with the gentleman in charge of the development of a hydrogen powered tractor for one of the biggest machinery producers in the world. Each person I talk to or interviewed was passionate about what they did and although it related to agriculture it was broader in terms of science math engineering trades and every other area that schools try to touch.
Show and tell
As I wandered around the acres and acres of this trade show I simply uploaded those very short videos to YouTube, and then sent emails to all the students in the high school from my cell phone with some of these highlights. My goal was simply to pique the interest of a few students that could not attend such an enriching event by bringing a little bit of my day, and my perspective through teacher eyes, to their inbox. When I got home I compiled the eight or ten videos that I had taken into a single Google Doc with a quick video intro and another quick commentary section about a particular interview I found touching. I put a few titles, a few topics, and verbal introductions to make a mini curriculum out of it. I tried gathering content for a variety of disciplines and age levels as although I teach math we all have a variety of interests and what we experience does not have to be related only to our own classrooms. Finally, I sent it to all the teachers in the district again via their inbox. (Click here for the document)
The response from the teachers in my district varied, with a few of them use them during a homeroom time throughout the week, and another is using them during their current events component of their curriculum. A few others are incorporating them as examples into curriculum where they get to it or in appropriate spots. While only a handful of teachers may use what I produced, it doesn’t matter because I found it valuable for me. I used all of them in my homeroom for intervention learners. More than that, my son got the clear message that not only what Daddy does is important but also the things that he’s interested in can be used to reach broader audiences. This little project stemmed from me simply using the tools I use for my flipped classroom and looking through my teacher eyes.