Book Review – A Letter to My Teacher

At the Feaster Book Fair, I picked up an adorable book that helped me keep perspective on a tough day and  helped me remember to be empathetic even when I am feeling overwhelmed and stressed. The book, A Letter to My Teacher by Deborah Hopkinson, is a great reminder about why we have patience and positivity even when we are exhausted. Throughout the book, an active and curious student seems to test her teacher’s patience with every chance she gets. With the best of intentions, this young learner causes what could be chaos, except the teacher uses such positivity and care every time that she responds to the misbehaviors of this young learner.

Building Relationships

“When I slipped away to look for hidden treasure in the root cellar, you and the whole class had to trudge down the old stone steps to find me. I think even you lost your patience that time.  ‘Exasperating’ was the word you used. I remember because that night my mom helped me look it up in the dictionary.’

Deborah Hopkinson

I feel like every teacher who dreads a field trip can relate to this quote! However, from this page, it is clear that the teacher has made a positive impact on this child. Even though they clearly had a conversation about a tough moment, it is evident from the way the student went home and looked up the word that there is a strong relationship. I was left predicting how this positive relationship was built…here are my best predictions:

  • Teacher assumes positive intent when the student is “acting out”
  • Strengths are recognized and applied to learning experiences
  • Student’s interests are understood and connected to learning
  • Patience is used and explanations about expectations are clear
  • The teacher uses creative responses when discussing inappropriate or dangerous  behavior

I see these events happening all the time on our campus – where teachers are focused on making learning applicable to each individual student! Just this past Friday, I was hearing a story about how a teacher makes her kindergarten students so intrigued in everything by sharing exciting stories about the most random things; for example, by telling the students how special the assignment they are working on is because it is their chance to show how their brains are growing. Every teacher has these moments when they know they have made a connection and tapped into the individual child. I encourage you to take the time to reflect on those!

 

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Recognizing and Applying Strengths

“Thanks to the math games we played, measuring our garden boxes was easy.”

Deborah Hopkinson

One of the things that we focus on at Feaster is being able to recognize and apply the strengths of each of our learners. We do this through applying RIASEC, having conversations with our students about what they enjoy, listening to what they share, making connections to their interests in academic ways and just by being available for them when we know they need us. We prepare our students for those moments when we know that they will have to rely on their academic intelligence to apply their learning from years ago. We support them and help them grow to experience every positive opportunity possible. This is what we do when we bring all of the programs to Feaster (ie Mindlabs, VAPA, STEM, STEAM, Feaster Farm with the chicken coop, hydroponic greenhouse and the tilapia pond, our after school clubs, our athletics programs, our band, our dance performances, our engineering lab, our science lab, our technology on site…) because we are focused on the learners and making sure that they grow academically, socially and emotionally.

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I would highly recommend this book to any teacher who wants to read a sweet story that will remind you why you have so much patience. This book is perfect for those days when you are exhausted yet you know that you have done great work and that it will show through in your learners and the community you have built. This is a reminder that when we build relationships with our kids, we are doing more than just getting to know them, we are helping them have a more effective learning experience and we are influencing their view of education and learning in general. I am proud of our Feaster staff for being like the teacher in this book – patient, caring, creative, full of positive intent and focused on what is important. Thank you, Feaster teachers!

 

Side note – if you are interested in reading this book, come see me in room 903! 🙂

RIASEC

To begin the quarter, we started off with our professional development meeting focusing on the #worldofwork. During this session, we met at the Sweetwater Treatment Facility and learned about alternative professions that our students could gain skills for starting today that relate to blue energy. During our time there, we heard from the Innovation Station’s Michael Bruder as well as several other notable speakers who explained more about the percentage of job growth in this area that they foresee in the near future. This PD connected to what we are doing in our Mindlabs classes with the RIASEC themes and also gave some great ideas for creative and collaborative projects that will help connect your STEM, STEAM and VAPA lessons to the RIASEC themes of – realistic, investigative, artistic, social, enterprising and conventional.

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RIASEC

Similar to when we visited the San Diego Electrical Training Center, we had learned about ways to connect our classroom lessons to skills that are required for careers that do not necessarily require a four-year college degree. These skills and curricular connections can help students adjust their mindset so that they seek out careers that build on their existing interests and strengths. By giving our learners time to explore additional opportunities, we are also enabling them to recognize qualities within themselves that they may not necessarily have noticed without our support or guided lessons.

Applying these themes is something that can be done whenever you give group assignments and challenges. You may have various tasks that require your students to apply characteristics that help them successfully demonstrate their ability to be realistic, artistic, social, enterprising and/or conventional. By providing these opportunities and pointing out times throughout the day when these themes can be applied, we are helping our students be more aware of developing these skills.

Getting our students to start thinking about how they are demonstrating these skills can be done by first conversing with them about each different theme and helping them recognize the characteristics they have within themselves that may demonstrate these themes.

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Misconceptions

Often times, learners have misconceptions about various professions. This was addressed and elaborated on when the speakers shared some conversations with their students about gender stereotypes in various career paths. We can clear these misconceptions up starting right away in kindergarten. By getting students to discuss different careers, having them draw pictures of people who may hold those careers and by having guest speakers come in or participate in FaceTime video conferences, we can help our learners see that their career choices are limitless as long as they make a goal and stay focused on achieving that goal.

Sample Lessons

During our time at the Sweetwater Treatment Facility, each grade level participated in lessons that reflected the RIASEC themes.

Realistic (click the link for the video)

  • Objective: Build a circuit that can be used to adjust the sound level of a device
  • Skills Gained: Students are using the problem-solving skills they have learned to follow multiple step instructions from a technical manual that will eventually help them accomplish the task
  • RIASEC Connection: This activity is an example of the “realistic” theme because it gives the learners an opportunity to accomplish a task that is relevant to their science and informational reading as well as their use of technology outside of the classroom. It also requires to learner to use real life skills and applicable pre-existing knowledge.

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Investigative

  • Objective: Engineer a wind farm that will minimize the use of fossil fuels in your community
  • Skills Gained: Students analyze the factors impacting their surrounding area to construct a wind farm, they must understand the basics of the wind patterns in their area and strategize to make sure that they use the correct size blades and design their windmills so they face the correct direction
  • RIASEC Connection: This activity is an example of the “investigative” theme because it requires students to try several different designs and models before committing to one final product. The students need to research and apply thier knowledge in science in order to complete this challenge successfully.

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Artistic

  • Objective: Design an energy efficient school that uses sustainable energy
  • Skills Gained: Students being to research and consider alternative energy solutions that they may not have considered before. As they research, they are learning how to apply their knowledge in a new way by designing a school or structure that relies upon green and/or blue energy
  • RIASEC Connection: This activity is an example of the “artistic” theme because it requires learners to use their knowledge to design a prototype or product that will help reach their objective. The students can use photographs, movies, paintings and drawings to successfully apply their art skills to complete this challenge.

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Social

  • Objective: Plan a community event to promote your school’s robotics team
  • Skills Gained: Students must understand what logistics go into planning an event and they must consider potential problems like space, numbers of attendees, strategies for promoting the event, etc.
  • RIASEC Connection: This activity is an example of the “social” theme because it requires learners to organize and plan an event that could potentially be held at their school. These students needs to connect experts in different areas in order to plan a successful event.

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Enterprising

  • Objective: Write a sales ad for solar energy
  • Skills Gained: Students learn about how to market their product and develop entrepreneurial skills by considering who their target audience is and by recognizing their interests and marketing towards each person as an individual by considering their particular needs
  • RIASEC Connection. This activity is an example of the “enterprising” theme because it requires learners to take a product and market it to a target audience. These students need to be energetic and ambitious in order to create a successful advertisement.

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Conventional 

  • Objective: Complete an “I Have Who Has” round to learn technical definitions and respond to specific scenarios.
  • Skills Gained: Students learn about the basics of a planned topic by reviewing technical terms and answering each other’s questions
  • RIASEC Connection: This activity is an example of the “conventional” theme because it requires each learner to both speak and listen to their fellow team members in order to complete the objective while maintaining order and organization of the activity. These students need to show their organization skills and extreme focus in order to make the activity work.

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I encourage you to check out these lessons and to reflect on how you are already applying these themes in your classroom!

Importance of Time to Reflect

Reflection time is probably the most omitted part of our lessons due to time constraints and the desire to fit in as much as possible to our academic day. However, time to reflect can pose as a great way to better understand what your students are taking away from the day’s lessons. I am not saying that we should throw everything else out and just have students reflect, but I am saying that this can be used as a way to better understand what misconceptions still exist and help you form your small groups for the next time you meet or bring up the topics discussed. This can be done in the form of a closing circle, an exit ticket, or even a small group collaborative conversation.

“Reflection is a crucial part of the work that we do, and without looking back, it is almost impossible to move forward.”

George Couros

The Principal of Change


 

Addressing the RIASEC themes is not simply one more thing, instead, it is a way to get our learners to converse about the skills they are developing that could help them grow and learn about potential future careers. The lessons provided (as seen above) can be used to enhance your science, math and reading curriculum while helping students explore their strengths and better understanding the World of Work. Please share your thoughts on applying the RIASEC themes to you class!