The most important thing I can do for my students is to be a connector–someone who creates experiences that extend their classroom learning into the real world.
Whenever I can, I try to connect my students to the the knowledge and expertise of cultural institutions, of local businesses, and of other non-school based specialists. These opportunities help students make better sense of the relationship between what goes on in school and the world in which they live.
A teacher can make connections even without a lot of money. I recommend starting small, and incorporating three specific strategies:
–Aligning students with local real-world experiences, getting kids outside the classroom and face-to-face with new people and new situations,
–Recruiting local experts, asking them to volunteer to meet with students and share what they know, and
–Enlisting the help of colleagues, who can collaborate on projects, presentations, and grants.
The result can transform student learning: With just a little planning, integrating expertise outside the classroom enlivens instruction and transforms the ways students learn and share what they know.
What I did well…
“We can dream big for our kids!!” I believe that encouraging message came through in my presentation, accompanied by a plethora of practical strategies to make fresh ideas happen. In an educational world increasingly driven by testing mandates, creativity and passion can suffer, students all-too-frequently disengage, and educators can become discouraged. I wanted to share strategies I’ve found to blast through the stultifying boundaries and enliven learning. I so appreciated the comments and examples of the session participants; they dug into the activities and generously shared their ideas and insights.
What I would do more of, better, or differently…
I thrive on the excitement of building something novel and visionary, and in my work reaching out to educators across the country I’ve found many like-minded colleagues ready to dig deep. I’m not sure I adequately communicated the sense of empowerment and rejuvenation this work can bring, not only to the students but to the teachers as well!
However, reflection, innovation, and ideation take time, and tailoring special projects like the examples I offered here can be years in the making. This work of expanding opportunities within and beyond the classroom can and should be an exciting creative outlet, never an expectation to heap higher a plate that’s already overflowing with duties and responsibilities.
I still want to grow this practice by…
I would be delighted to hear from other educators about their experiences implementing this strategy. I am endlessly inspired by my colleagues and know I would be energized and grow from the interchange of ideas. Teachers are incredibly talented professionals – boundless creativity, deep knowledge of content, attuned to students’ passions, cultivating close ties to families, businesses and resources across their respective communities. I want to take advantage of every opportunity to learn from my amazing peers!
About June Teisan
June Teisan is a veteran urban educator who designs and delivers vibrant learning experiences for students and fellow teachers. She served as Michi...