I have officially been on summer break for a week. The end of the school year was bittersweet for me this year for a number of reasons. I have been teaching at my current school for five years and I turned in my keys a final time as I have accepted a job in another school district. It is a great move for me as I will be able to use both of my certifications, English and History. For myself, I need to remember the importance of recharging during the break. And as I reflect on the 2011-12 school year and begin to focus on next year, I remind myself of three things I want to strive to give to my students: Inspiration, resources to succeed, and support.
I recently watched the movie October Sky after completing my 3,2,1…Go For Launch Unit. I often watch movies from a different perspective than my class, this time focusing on what the teacher, Ms. Riley, does for her students. What struck me first about what this teacher was imparting to her students was inspiring them to succeed in life beyond her classroom. She found out their interests, and, using that information, encouraged them to research those areas and learn things on their own.
Allowing my students to custom design and launch their rockets was something new and exciting. Providing engaging activities to accompany a novel or short story, inspires students to give their best when they can see a tangible goal ahead of them.
Ms. Riley also proved to be a strong advocate for her students, working to equip them with the resources they would need to succeed. Despite the fact that her administrator didn’t agree with what she was doing, Ms. Riley did not give up and, on her own, purchased a book on rockets and gave it to the boys. She provided the book, her knowledge on the topic, and her time to observe and listen to the boys as they worked through their rocket project.
Bringing in Amazon Kindles, Flip video cameras, and other, newer technologies into my classroom gave students the opportunity to be creative with tools they use outside the classroom. Anytime students can see a cross-over between the "real" world and their world at school, the learning environment benefits.
Finally, Ms. Riley provided crucial support for the boys, encouraging them when they were discouraged. During a particularly difficult time, one of the boys actually dropped out of school, and only returned after the dedicated teacher expended the effort to provide the necessary encouragement he needed to go back. By allowing the students to study something they were interested in, she supported learning in a non-traditional way.
Inspiring your class, equipping them with the resources they need to succeed, and supporting their efforts will change students’ lives. Isn’t that what teaching is ultimately about?
Thank you for following my class throughout the last school year. I hope that we have inspired you and your students to try some new things. Thank you to Scholastic for the wonderful opportunity to put my classroom in the spotlight this year. I will end with the words of President John F. Kennedy, "Let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities, because in each of us there is a private hope and dream which, fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone and greater strength of the nation."
I hope that I provide a hope and each and that every one of my students’ dreams are fulfilled. Have a great summer and a wonderful new school year in the fall!