Super Teacher's Job is Never Done!

Super Teacher's Job is Never Done!
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Teaching is the profession that teaches all the other professions. ~ Author Unknown

My goal is to reveal one teacher's humble journey of self-reflection, critical analysis, and endless questioning about my craft of teaching and learning alongside my middle school students.

"The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called 'truth'." ~ Dan Rather

Thursday, February 2, 2012

What ever happened to student projects?

In the age of accountability and testing, it is easy to forget about students' loving learning for the sake of learning and discovery, not for a certain grade or test score. Ask yourself how YOU can incorporate more fun, innovative, technology-based, and creative projects into your curriculum. Your students will enjoy finally getting to use their imaginations again, and you will love the process -- and products!

Stimulate Students' Imaginations with Project-Based Learning

In the Classroom with Brad Kuntz

As teachers, we have an incredible opportunity to engage our students in real-world problem solving that will greatly benefit them as learners. By creating dynamic and engaging projects, we can show our students how to use the knowledge and skills they are learning inside the classroom in their lives outside of the classroom, and give them a chance to demonstrate what they can do as resourceful and creative residents of their respective communities. Then our students will see that their education is the key not only to improving their own lives, but also to improving the lives of those around them.

We are under so much pressure to cover every single learning target in the curriculum that we rarely get to discuss why students should know what we're teaching or how they can put it to use in their lives. And yes, it's important to connect the knowledge and skill set they're learning to potential careers. But not all students are in touch with their own career possibilities or can even think that far ahead. Therefore, whether you connect your students to the school community, a local business or nonprofit organization, or other entities within your area, reaching out beyond the four walls of the classroom may be what it takes to motivate students to participate in their own education and to help them imagine their own futures.

Combining standards-based instruction with a community outreach component is not easy, so start small. Try adding one new component to something you're already doing. Perhaps for this term's research paper, your students can write about the work of a local nonprofit organization. They could research what the organization does and the issues it addresses, and they could even volunteer to work with the organization. Then they could write a paper about what they learned and create multimedia presentations, which would teach them about the problems directly afflicting their community as well as specific ways in which they can lend a hand to address these challenges.

No matter the content area, or the size and scope of the unit, real-world connections can be built in to your lessons. Perhaps during an ecology unit, students can organize some native habitat restoration or invasive species removal. Maybe there's another unit where students could begin a neighborhood composting program, or organize a tree planting activity. Math students can try crunching and graphing budget information from the school district to better understand the financial restrictions facing their school. For advanced language students, there's no limit to the extent of project possibilities they could undertake with members of the community. And the list goes on.

Project-based learning can be an effective way for students to gain a healthy perspective about their role in society. And giving students these opportunities can be exactly what they need to link their efforts in school to the real world. We need to provide young people with the tools necessary to turn their ideals into reality and to open their eyes to the value of education and the role it will play in their futures. We can prove to our students that their actions can make a difference and that their voices will be heard if they become thoughtful, informed, and engaged citizens.

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