Walt Disney once said, “Crowded classrooms and half-day sessions are a tragic waste of our greatest national resource — the minds of our children." I agree. Through lesson plans and class activities, teachers have the ability to mold and shape the children who will be running our businesses, defending our country, and leading our nation. These children will need critical thinking and creativity skills to solve the problems they will face.
I’m Jeremy Rinkel, Scholastic’s Classroom Solutions teacher advisor representing 9th–12th grades, and in August 2011, I begin my fifth year teaching for South Central Community Unit District #401. South Central School District is a small, rural school district in southern Illinois with 658 students. South Central High School has a population of approximately 220 students, 45 percent of which qualify for free or reduced lunch.
Before becoming a teacher, I worked several jobs in sales and marketing, none of which gave me the fulfillment that I get in the classroom every day. Believing that making a difference in a student’s life is much more important than making a sales quota, I went back to school and earned an MA in teaching in 2007, and three years later another MA in educational policy studies with an emphasis in globalization. . Also in 2010, I co-authored the book Classroom Remixed: Incorporating Technology in the Globalized Classroom. The book focuses on the Millenial generation and ways to reach them through the use of technology. In addition to teaching freshman and sophomore English at South Central, I am an adjunct instructor at Kaskaskia College.
My ultimate goal is to create a class environment where students can be creative and learn life skills they can use when they leave my classroom. Time restraints and our push to succeed in standardized tests have us scrambling for ways to teach our students creativity, collaboration, communication, and critical thinking. These four skills are necessary for a student’s success regardless of the job they pursue. However, with an open mind and a basic knowledge of 21st century technology, these skills can be easily taught — even under difficult circumstances.
Understanding that today’s students are “digital natives,” I am often researching new technology and have brought in many FREE Web-based applications for assignments. I want students to have experience with online message boards and uploading assignments. I also want to provide a “voice” for students who often have great points to share, but are afraid to speak up in the traditional classroom. It’s important to recognize that some students are more technologically savvy than others, but we have to find ways to keep all students engaged.
I look forward to sharing our classroom activities with you as we learn age-old skills with new-age tools.