Teaching, Sharing, Learning, and Growing Every Minute of Every Day: 1440 Minutes a Day, 24/7. This blog serves as a venue for BHS staff to showcase their teaching, sharing, learning, and growing that takes place every minute of every day. I am grateful for their service to our students, their commitment to excellence and their dedication to infusing a sense of pride into everything they do.
Saturday, September 21, 2013
Teaching is an Art, Not a Science
Post by Dan Eizyk: Dan has been teaching Social Studies for 5 years; the last two years at Bettendorf High School.
Let me start off by saying something I have always thought was true- teaching is more of an art than it is a science. Last week I was approached by the Principal of my school to contribute to a blog in which I would share a teaching idea that would foster some discussion on how we connect with our young people- which brought me back to my prior statement. Swapping one living being with another, a plant for a student, might help clarify my point (or add some confusion). You see, in the real world, one cannot “make” a plant grow. You only put a seed into fertile soil, cultivate a nurturing environment, hope, and wait. Sometimes it works well, and you get yummy fruit. Other times you fail miserably and you are left with nothing, or worse, gross fruit.
In the same way, one cannot “teach” a student to have curiosity, to be passionate about learning, or to have empathy for their fellow human beings. You can, however, create an enriching classroom experience which is capable of cultivating these attributes, hope, and wait. Sometimes it works well, and you get awesome results. Other times, you get gross fruit.
Needless to say, I love my job, and am happy to share an idea which I believe has had positive results in one of my courses for the past couple of years, and which you too could try in order to get good results in a class...
“WHY does it even matter to me? That event was soooooo long ago, those people sooooo far away”
That’s right. It’s that kid. You feel your muscles tense up and your teeth grit ever so slightly as you prepare to give your special spiel to a (mostly deaf) audience who have heard the same spiel from their previous teachers. What if you could avert this ever-present doomsday scenario?
In Current Issues, I use a website called E-Pals (www.epals.com) to connect my classroom to other classrooms around the world, and it works wonders. Like a tech-infused, penpals on steroids program, Epals allows my students to correspond directly to a classroom in a region we are learning about in class. My students create videos to send to their assigned country, highlighting who we are, cultural facts and nuances, social norms, and other fun things we can think of. They in turn do the same, and we watch in amazement as our classroom takes a virtual “field trip” to Russia, China, Israel, Brazil, and Turkey. Students who have never even left the great state of Iowa get an eye-opening cultural awakening via their pen-pals.
Furthermore, on a daily basis, each student corresponds with their particular Epal, using a device such as their IPAD,smartphone, transformer laptop, and even my computer. Every day during fourth block, I have students asking me in the first five minutes of class if they can quickly send a message to their Epal in Tatarstan, Russia. That’s right. Students begging me for the opportunity to write. How can I refuse that?!
Through the sending of messages, videos, and pictures, each of my students builds a personal connection to a teenager miles away and worlds apart.They learn about different customs, practices, and ways of life. They learn to respect other cultures, religions, races, and ethnicities. They become ambassadors to their nation, and take on responsibilities they might not have been ever given in a traditional classroom- I do not monitor their correspondence, as I have never yet had an issue with inappropriate communication. I trust my students (this blog was proofread by a student, thanks Kylie), and I think this helps them reciprocate this trust back. Finally, students learn the answer to the question posed earlier- why it matters to them.
As upwards of 700 deadly rockets and mortars bombarded cities in Israel, and countless people were seeking shelter, often donning gas-masks, class was canceled for a week in Kiryat Bialik High School, located in Haifa, Israel. How did I know class was canceled? One of my students approached me and told me, worried about her Epal’s safety. You see, last year we were doing this project with a class in Israel when pandemonium broke out over there. In the ensuing internet blackout, I fed news reports from their teacher to my kids about their Epal’s well being. These weren’t strangers who were being attacked, they were literally their classmates, and in some cases, their friends. Needless to say, my lecture on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict was closely followed. Students wanted to know. They wanted to learn. I tried to teach. To hope. To wait.
Here is a link to a brief article (in Hebrew, but easy to read with google’s translation tool) from our Epals last year. None of them got hurt, and they are all doing well now. http://tinyurl.com/ljlqfnb