Teaching the Power of Perseverance and Risk-Taking through the Stock Market

Sometimes, when I’m at a faculty meeting, I mean, by myself during my free time, I like to imagine what it must have been like to have been a miner during the great gold rush of the 1800s in California.  Many of those people gave up everything they had to move west in search of gold and fantastic riches, only to find nothing and lose what little they did have.  That sounds terrible.  I’m not sure that I would have been able to do that.  It seems risky.  However, for some of those brave souls who left their former lives behind, they did strike gold in California.  They were able to make a great life for themselves and their families.  Things did become better for a select few of those courageous men and women who moved west to search for the big payday.  But, again, only a few of those many people who went west got lucky, while the rest struggled, suffered and eventually moved back east where life was a bit easier for them.  Was the risk really worth it?  While many people would probably say, “No way,” others might have some different thoughts on the question.  What if they did strike it rich?  Even if they didn’t find gold, wouldn’t the life experiences have been worth it?  Should we always live our lives in fear of the unknown?  If those few lucky folks who did strike it rich in California hadn’t made the massive trek west, they would never have known what they were missing; their lives would have been drastically different.  So, does the struggle and hardship that it took for those who did find gold outweigh the benefits that came with getting rich?  Are some risks too risky?

My sixth grade students are going to be addressing these very questions in the near future as we began our unit on Financial Literacy yesterday in my Study Skills Class.  Are some financial risks worth taking?  Today in class, I modelled, for the students, how to navigate the Stock Market Game website that we use for this unit.  I showed the students how to login into the website, access information about their portfolio, find information regarding financial news, and buy, sell, and trade stocks, bonds, and funds.  I also explained the value and importance of using Google Finance as they begin to choose what stocks, bonds, or funds in which they will invest.  I fielded a few of the numerous questions the students had about using both websites.  Being mindful of the fact that I want my students to utilize the problem solving skills they’ve been learning all year, I only addressed some of their questions.  I want the boys to realize that with effort, patience, and perseverance, they can solve their own problems.  While this can cause some frustration within the students, it’s crucial for genuine learning and understanding to happen within the brains of my students.  Then came the fun part.

The students were able to start digging into the Stock Market Game on their own.  First, they chose their partner for the unit, thinking about who would be the most effective person with which to work.  When they met with me to report their groupings, I asked them, “Why is this a good pairing?”  I was so impressed by their insightful and thoughtful responses.  It is clear to me that my students have grown much over the course of the year and truly know themselves as learners.

Some of their responses:

  • “We know each other really well and therefore, know how we work.  This tells us that we will work well together.”
  • “We are roommates and we work really well together.”
  • “We get along well and compliment each other well.  I’m the thinker and he’s the risky, creative one.”

Amazing!  Once they determined with whom they would be working, they generated team names.  This activity probably provided the boys with the most fun in class today, as they took their time to create unique, relevant, and humorous names.

Some of the team names:

  • Moneymakers
  • The 9999999999 Digits
  • The World

My students are so creative.  Following the naming of their teams, the groups read and discussed the rules of the Stock Market Game and completed a corresponding comprehension worksheet that allows me to know if they truly understand the rules of the game.  It was at that point that we ran out of time in class to move any further, but that was okay because they were now excited.  The are ready to jump onto their portfolio page and start making transactions as of Saturday.  I closed class by sharing the team names they had generated.  Laughter filled the room.  I then informed them of what is to come in class on Saturday.  Their eyes lit up as they thought about buying stocks.  In what companies will they invest?  Which group will take the big risks and which groups will take the more conservative approach to investing in the market?  Much like my students, I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Excitement is in the air, much like it was back in the 1850s during the huge gold rush.  Like the miners back then, some of my students will take risks in how they invest their money that will pay off, while other groups may find that their risks cause them to lose large sums of their fictional money.  In the end though, my students will all learn many crucial skills regarding financial literacy, have a ton of fun, and learn how to take calculated risks.  As some of the gold miners discovered, sometimes, the best things in life come from much hard work and perseverance.  Not everything will work out as planned, but isn’t that all part of the adventure that is life?  Failure happens and struggles are inevitable, but we can learn from the adversity that comes our way.  If my students begin to learn this valuable lesson by the close of the academic year, then they will be ready to tackle any challenge they are faced with in the future, especially if it involves money or mining for gold.

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Choosing the Most Effective Read-Aloud Text

It seems like hundreds of new books are being published each year.  Are they all great?  What makes a book great?  Will everyone like every book?  Are all books meant to be read aloud?  The answer to all of these questions is, No.  Because of that, as teachers, we need be mindful of the books we expose our students to.  Not every book is right for every student.  It’s all about interest level, reading level, and appropriateness.  It’s important that we teach our students to know how to find just the right book for them as they will need to know how to do this on their own in the future.  We want our students to read books that they love so that the skill of reading becomes second nature to them.  As much learning happens through reading, it’s crucial that our students know how to tackle any text thrown their way.  Getting students hooked on reading in the upper elementary grades is important in helping our students foster a lifelong enjoyment of reading.  The same goes for the read-aloud novels we choose to use in our classrooms.  Will our students enjoy the books we choose?  Will they be engaged in what we are reading?  Are they effective in helping teach important reading strategies our students will need to learn to grow into strong readers and thinkers?  Choosing the right novel to read aloud to a class during mini-lessons can be very challenging and difficult, especially if you are trying to tie it into your unit of study.  There is a finite collection of books written on some topics, and so it can be very cumbersome to find a book that will be engaging, interesting, appropriate, useful in teaching reading skills, and good to partner with a particular topic.

Over my school’s lengthy March Break, I wrestled with choosing the next read-aloud book I wanted to use in my Humanities class.  Should I just use the one I’ve used the past few years The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate?  It’s a great book for teaching students how to make inferences and draw conclusions.  Plus, it’s fun to read aloud, and the boys have always enjoyed it.  Why not stick with what works?  Because it is no longer a new book, many more students have read it.  Should I use a read-aloud novel that many of my students have already been exposed to?  Is it that okay?  Would it foster an atmosphere of boredom?  While the age old adage of, If it ain’t broke don’t fix it, could apply in this situation, I also feel as if it’s time for me to mix things up.  In order to stay fresh and excited in the classroom, I need to be constantly trying new things, taking risks, and challenging myself as an educator to grow and develop.  So, during my spring vacation, I decided to choose a new read-aloud novel.  That, oddly enough, was the easy part.

What book should I choose?  I want it to tie into my unit on figurative language, and so a book written in verse like The One and Only Ivan seems fitting.  Unfortunately, there are not too many books written in verse that are appropriate for a sixth grade audience.  So, I looked, searched, and researched those young adult books written in verse.  I found a few that tickled my fancy.  So, I explored and read reviews about all five of them.  While two seemed really perfect, I then thought about the author.  My first read-aloud novel of the year was written by a white male, while my winter term read-aloud text was crafted by a woman.  So, should I choose the novel written by a black male or the other, written by a female?  Since I just finished reading a book aloud to my class that was written by a woman, I decided to go with the one written by a black man.

Booked by Kwame Alexander was the novel I settled on.  As I had never read it before, I made sure to preview it before I started reading it aloud to the class.  After two days, I finished the long text.  Wow!  It is an amazing work of fiction, brilliant in every way.  The poetic verse the author uses sets the tone and atmosphere of the story.  The novel paints the portrait of an eighth grade boy who plays soccer, has a crush on a girl, and is dealing with family turmoil.  The story is relatable for my students as they come from all different types of families.  It will also allow me to teach my students how to read between the lines and make inferences from a text, as the author does a great job of telling the readers information without actually coming out and directly saying it.  The verse flows like a river as the main character, Nick, comes to terms with growing up and learning.  The figurative language is beautiful and shocking all at once.  Because the main character enjoys playing soccer, there are lots of vignettes on the sport sprinkled into the story, which will engage many of my students as they love playing sports.  So, there you have it.  I chose my next read-aloud novel.  I felt great about my choice and couldn’t wait to jump into it today in class.

After a short introduction to hype the new novel, I had the students analyze the cover and title to determine what this novel might be all about.  They came to some great conclusions.  “I think the main character is so booked up with stuff in his life that he doesn’t have time to play soccer or do what he loves.”  “I think it’s about soccer.”  I then read the brief summary listed on the book jacket to provide a more specific introduction to the story for my students.  They all seemed hooked.  One student said, “I got chills from that first section you read on the soccer game because I could really picture it.  I felt the emotion.”  Nice, I thought, I chose well.  They seemed engaged, and I hadn’t even started reading them the first page.  As I read the first several pages of the book aloud to the class, I observed their expressions and body language.  Many of the boys seemed enthralled.  They laughed when appropriate and sat in awe at other times.  It was awesome.  I was even able to introduce the concepts of drawing conclusions and making inferences during the read-aloud today.  The author provided us with a tiny hint about the relationship of the parents of the main character early on in the novel, and so I asked my students, “What is the author trying to tell us about Nick’s parents?”  They all seemed to get it.  Sweet!  After I paused reading aloud to them to transition into the silent reading portion of today’s Reader’s Workshop block, I asked the students for their thoughts on the novel.  Almost everyone really likes it.  They like the short verse and emotional nature of the main character.  As the students made their way to Morning Break, several students told me how much they like this new read-aloud book.  I love that I found another engaging and relevant book to help teach my students about how to be effective readers.

So, what does this all mean?  Choosing the most engaging and relevant book to read aloud to students as a way of teaching reading strategies is crucial.  If I had chosen just any book or even if I went with the text I had used last year, I would not have been able to engage my students in the same way that I did today with my read-aloud choice.  Being selective in what novel I choose to read to my students helps me to be sure that my students are actively learning the reading strategies they will need to be successful in the seventh grade.  Students learn when they are engaged, see the relevance in what they are doing, and are able to make connections from what they are learning to other things previously learned.  Utilizing interesting books that allow my students to draw conclusions and make connections, allows me to foster a sense of compassion and joy in the sixth grade classroom.

Reflecting on my March Break

As the sun sets over the hills, I’m feeling very reflective.  You see, today marks the end of my lengthy March vacation. During the first week, I lived on my couch as I recovered from the flu.  Being sick is horrible. I felt so helpless. Thankfully, I am blessed to have an amazing wife who took care of me and nursed me back to health.  During the second and third weeks of break, I did much school work. It was a ton of fun. I love planning new units, learning about new teaching practices, and finding out what other teachers do to help their students find success in and out of the classroom.  In between all of this work and healing, I spent tons of time with my family. We watched basketball and had fun together. That was my favorite part of the entire vacation. I felt alive again. I wasn’t just going through the motions like a robot, instead, I was experiencing life.  It felt amazing!

While on vacation, I did much research, reading, and thinking about teaching, and more specifically, learning about my research topic.  You see, this year I’ve focused my energy on gathering intel and data on how best to introduce and present new activities and projects to students.  Are rubrics the most effective way to do this? What makes an effective grading rubric? Do rubrics prevent students from being creative and solving problems?  So, I’ve devoted the past 10 months to trying to uncover the answers to the many questions I have about rubrics and project introductions. And what I’ve discovered isn’t too surprising, but has allowed me to think more closely about how I craft units and projects.

Throughout the course of this year, I’ve tried out numerous rubrics and project introductions to determine what works best.  I’ve even engaged my students in a discussion on the topic, explaining my research project to them. My conclusion is this, grading rubrics and project introductions only do so much.  Those students who strive for academic success, will triumphantly complete any task thrown their way with or without a grading rubric or project overview sheet. They will do well no matter what, because they want to do well.  Those students who struggle academically don’t often reference the rubrics while working because they haven’t found their passion yet, in most cases. So, spending the time to craft a relevant and useful rubric is futile as most of the students don’t even give rubrics a second glance while working on a project or task.  So really, rubrics and project introductions make no difference in how the students perform on various projects and activities.

This then got me thinking…  So, how can I help engage all of my students in a way that allows them to see the relevance in what we’re doing in the classroom?  How can I create projects and assignments that get my students excited about the prospect of learning and doing? How can I help all of my students see the value in learning and growing in school?  Simple, it comes down to the project or task itself. Is it interesting? Is it engaging? Is it relevant to my students? Will it be fun for the students? Will it challenge students while also providing support for those who need it?  

So, during the month of February, my students worked on a research project regarding Africa.  I constructed it in a manner that provided the students with much choice and flexibility. Here’s what that project looked like for the students…

What’s This New Project All About?

Hey, do you remember how at the start of the year we talked about the purpose of PEAKS class?  How it’s the most important class you will take while at Cardigan? How it will help you learn and understand the basic, foundational skills you will need to be a successful student at Cardigan and beyond?  Well, here is a prime example of how PEAKS class can and will support you as a student…

Now that you understand the importance of using an open mind when learning about new people and places to prevent the use and creation of stereotypes, it’s time for you to venture out into the world of the unknown regarding Africa.  What do you wonder about the continent of Africa? What do you want to know more about? Sure, you know about the basic geography of Africa, but what about the specifics of the Nile River or how the Atlas Mountains impact northern Africa?  What about the people of Africa and the forms of government used in the numerous countries within the great continent? So, go forth, challenge yourself, and learn more about the amazing and mysterious continent of Africa.

What Now?

  1. This is a solo project, which means you will be embarking upon this adventure on your own.
  2. Start by creating a New Document in the Humanities Folder of your Google Drive.  Title it Africa Project and share it with Mr. Holt. You will use this Google Doc to record your research process.
  3. Choose a lense through which you want to study Africa: People, Government, or Geography.  Record in Google Doc.
  4. Choose a specific topic, about Africa, that you want to learn more about regarding the lense you chose.  Examples: Nile River’s Impact on Eastern Africa, How the Government of Sudan Led to War in the Country, Compare and Contrast Governments of Zimbabwe and South Africa, Tribes of the Sahara, etc.  Record in Google Doc.
  5. Meet with Mr. Holt or Ms. Levine to be sure you’ve chosen a challenging and appropriate topic.
  6. Find at least three reputable sources regarding your topic.  Your sources could be print sources, online sources, or interviews.  Record in Google Doc.
  7. For each source, explain how you know it will provide you with the information you are looking for.  Record in Google Doc.
  8. Meet with Mr. Holt or Ms. Levine to be assessed on your ability to choose reputable resources.
  9. Create an MLA-style Sources Used page in your Google Doc for your three sources.
  10. Meet with Mr. Holt or Ms. Levine to be assessed on your ability to utilize the MLA format when documenting sources used.
  11. Now you’re ready to start digging for knowledge nuggets.
  12. Choose a note taking form to record your findings: Bullet-Style or Two-Column Style.
  13. Take notes from each of your sources.  Be sure to include lots of fun, interesting, and important information regarding your topic.
  14. Meet with Mr. Holt or Ms. Levine to be assessed on your ability to extract information from a source.
  15. Here comes the really fun part of the project.
  16. How do you want to present what you’ve learned about your topic?  Poster, Trading Cards, Speech, Historical Fiction Story, Play, Report, Diorama, etc.
  17. Meet with Mr. Holt or Ms. Levine to be sure you’ve chosen an appropriate vehicle to present your research findings.
  18. Create your visual aide.
  19. Meet with Mr. Holt or Ms. Levine to be assessed on your ability to think critically and be creative.
  20. Now, here comes the hard part.  Get ready for the challenge of your life.
  21. Participate in the first-ever Learning Exposition, in which you will present your visual aide and what you’ve learned about your topic and research process to visitors.  Be prepared to answer difficult questions, wow the visitors, and teach others about your unique and engaging topic.
  22. Reflect on your learning process.

On What Am I Being Graded?

PEAKS Class Graded Objectives

  • Students will be able to choose reputable resources regarding a research topic.
  • Students will be able to utilize the MLA format for citations when documenting sources for a research project.
  • Students will be able to extract important facts and information, in written form, from various resources.
  • Students will be able to convey information orally to an audience regarding a specific topic.

Humanities Class Graded Objectives

  • Students will be able to think critically about a topic in order to compile relevant and appropriate notes.
  • Students will be able to utilize creativity when making a relevant yet unique visual aide regarding a research topic.
  • Students will be able to design an engaging presentation for an audience regarding a specific topic.

When is Everything Due?

  • You must choose your lense and topic by the start of class on Saturday, February 10.
  • You must choose your three reputable sources by the start of class on Wednesday, February 14.
  • You must complete your MLA Sources Used page by the end of Humanities class on Wednesday, February 14.
  • You must have your notes completed by the start of class on Friday, February 23.
  • You must have your visual aide finished by the start of class on Friday, March 2.
  • Learning Exposition will take place on Saturday, March 3.

That’s it.  Nothing more specific than that.  No formal grading rubric, just an overview of the project.  That’s all I equipped the students with. I introduced the project in a way that highlighted the freedom and choice with which they were provided.  While I didn’t go into detail about each aspect of the project, I did answer all of the questions the students had about the expectations of the project.  Throughout the project, I made sure to do that. I didn’t give information unless they asked for it, and even then, I generally answered their question with a question.  I want my students to learn how to solve their own problems by using creativity and perseverance.

The result?  The boys loved it.  They had so much fun with this project.  Almost every student when above and beyond my wildest dreams and expectations.  Although they only had to create one visual aid, many of them had numerous pieces to share with the audience members during the exposition in the class.  The advanced students in my class challenged themselves to learn as much as possible while creating an engaging and relevant presentation, and the students who sometimes struggle in class, challenged themselves to learn much and step outside of their comfort zone.  They all worked so diligently on this project in and out of the classroom. They asked for feedback and used much of their free time to exceed any expectation they felt I had set for them. It was amazing. I created an engaging and relevant project that allowed all of my students to meet and exceed the objectives.  Even without a specific and detailed grade rubric, my students rocked this project like it was a concert.

This experience helped me to prove and solidify what I had hypothesized after collecting much data earlier in the year.  It’s not about what you tell the students in terms of the expectations for a project or task, it’s about the task or activity itself.  Is it engaging and fun? If it is, the students will learn much, utilize their problem-solving and creative skills, ask questions when confused, and meet or exceed the graded objectives.  As teachers, it’s not about how clear and specific we are with the graded expectations of an assignment. It’s about getting the students excited without telling them too much. Let them wonder and make noticings on their own.

As I came to this grand realization, I found myself thinking about how I can transform my curriculum for the remainder of the year to make it more engaging and fun for the students.  How can I get them DOING the learning? Over the course of my school’s March Break, I spent much time creating a brand new Humanities unit that will have my students talking with and to each other, discussing big ideas, writing poetry and plays, playing with words, acting out a play, creating new words, discussing the power of words, and learning the ins and outs of the English language.  After I mapped out the unit in a day by day format, I looked at what I want and need the students to learn regarding figurative language. I thought about each lesson, activity and project in terms of engagement. Will these tasks and lessons engage my students? Will they be learning relevant skills and content that they will be able to apply to their future English and history courses? Will they enjoy the activities and have fun learning about words and the power they hold?  This exercise and experience wasn’t about creating strict and detailed expectations on how the students will be graded and assessed, oh no. It was all about making sure that my students will be engaged in the learning process. If they are interested in what they are learning about, their brains will do the rest.

For me, this year has been transformative.  I’ve realized that rubric or not, it’s about the lesson and learning task itself.  I need to create units and lessons that will intrigue and challenge my students in new and unique ways.  I need to get them excited about what we are learning. If I can do that, then the rest will easily fall into place.  After a productive and restful March Break, I feel more alive about teaching and education than I have in a long time.  I’m ready to engage my students in the learning process in relevant and meaningful ways. I’m ready to challenge them to think critically, ask difficult questions, take risks, be creative, try new things, fail, and have fun as we embark upon the final nine weeks of the academic year.  No more feeling like a robot. It’s time for me to think like my students and find ways to ensure that I am reaching and engaging all of my students so that they can reach their full potential in the sixth grade.

Helping Students Learn How to be Professional Adults

While I’m in the midst of my school’s March Break vacation, I’m stuck here on my couch recovering from the flu.  Yes, that’s right.  Despite all of my incessant handwashing, healthy eating habits, and attempts to stay hydrated over the past week as the flu epidemic hit my school prior to our vacation, I fell victim to the flu virus.  Being sick is no picnic, but it’s allowed me the opportunity to reflect on my teaching and life: I’m so blessed to have an amazing wife who is helping nurse me back to health, despite my sometimes negative demeanor towards her; I am lucky to have a talented son who is putting forth great effort to achieve his goals even when life gets complicated; I am fortunate to work at a school filled with dedicated and committed colleagues who truly care about the students; I am inspired daily by my sixth grade class that is overflowing with young men who strive for excellence in life and academics.   Although my throat is still quite sore and I’m so congested that I can barely hear the beeping of the microwave oven, I’m feeling mentally amazing.  Life is Beautiful, is not just the name of an Oscar-winning movie, oh no.  It’s also my mantra that keeps me going.  While the great weather prognosticators of our time have predicted a huge snowstorm for the New England area tomorrow and Thursday, the weather outside gives no indication of this impending doom.  It’s sunny and beautiful outside, just as it was in my classroom Saturday morning, on the final day of classes before the big March Break.

As my body was in the beginning stages of breaking down from the flu virus on Saturday morning, my mental facilities were fully intact as my students participated in the Learning Exposition that took place in our classroom.  The boys had been preparing and planning for this since early February.  They chose their topics, became experts on them, and then created engaging and informative presentations to convey what they learned to others.  I crafted this project as a way to engage my students in our unit of study, Africa, review some of the foundational study skills introduced to the students earlier in the academic year, and to help prepare them for meaningful lives in a global society.  While I want my students to enjoy what we are learning and doing in the classroom, I also want my students to understand how to be professional, engage in complex and serious conversations, field difficult questions, and prepare for the unknown.  The research project that the students completed in my Humanities class forced them to create an engaging visual aide, know their self-selected topic as well as they know how to play their favorite video game, and then share what they learned and know with others in a real-world manner.  They dressed for success and presented their knowledge learned to other teachers from our school.  This was a challenge for some of the students as they have never had to complete a task like this before.  Some of my students come from schools where this was not an assessed skill, and so they were very nervous and anxious about having to do it.  As the real-world demands that all people tackle problems and solve them, I want to be sure that my students know how to do so in appropriate, creative, and professional ways.  While sixth grade boys are far from professional adults, they need to learn what professional looks and feels like so that they can one day be ready to live meaningful and professional lives.

This project allowed my students to learn how to solve problems regarding topics that engaged them.  As they researched their topics, some of them ran into roadblocks such as not enough information or lack of interest.  I helped my students troubleshoot these issues as they occurred.  Some students ran into different types of problems that seemed very advantageous such as too much information or interest in another aspect of the topic.  The students learned how to navigate this crazy world of research.  They then had to prepare a meaningful way to showcase or “publish” their knowledge.  This was probably the most important yet most difficult part of the entire project for the students.  While some of them wanted to take the easy way out by creating a slideshow presentation, I challenged them to think about their topics.  Is a slideshow the best tool for you to convey the information learned in a meaningful way?  For most students, this forced them to step outside of their comfort zone and take a risk.  They tried new things and put together relevant presentations.  Although this challenging task proved difficult for all of the students, they preserved, devised innovative and unique solutions to their problems, employed a growth mindset, and got the job done.  Saturday’s Learning Exposition was a remarkable success.  The students nicely highlighted their learning and ability to be professional as they shared what they learned with other teachers and faculty members.  The teachers in attendance were amazed by the quality of the student presentations.  The boys knew their topics very well and shared what they learned in engaging ways.

While my students are far from joining the workforce and going off into the real-world any time soon, I do need be sure they are aptly prepared for their future before tomorrow becomes today.  Helping students learn how to address adults professionally, convey their thoughts in meaningful and relevant ways, and share what they learned in engaging ways, is simply one way I can be sure my students will be well-equipped to live meaningful lives in a global society upon completion of their academic careers.  Projects like the one we just completed allow students the chance to practice what it’s like to be an adult who is in charge.  As I told them, they were the teachers in the classroom on Saturday.  They were the adults who had to navigate the sometimes uneasy waters of life.  What if your computer malfunctions?  What if someone asks a question you can’t answer?  What if the unexpected happens?  This unique and special experience the students went through in my Humanities class over the past three weeks allowed them to think like an adult and be prepared to tackle real-world problems.  It was awe-inspiring to watch my students talk to my fellow colleagues in exciting and professional ways.  They were polite and in charge.  Mission, accomplished.

As my body begins to heal itself with the aid of modern medicine, I’m left pondering all the beauty that life has to offer.  How did I get to be so lucky?  How is it that I am able to work with such a fine class of sixth grade boys who are constantly growing and developing on a daily basis?  I’ll chock it up to good Karma.  Yeah, that’s it.

Why I Love Teaching: Part 732

I love challenging students to think creatively and critically.  I love observing students as they overcome difficulties and solve problems in new and unique ways.  I love watching students grow and develop.  I love being a teacher.  I love the hard days as much as the great ones.  I love working with students and colleagues as we work together to change the world and make it a better place for all people.

My Humanities class today provided me with yet another reason why I love teaching.  As the boys worked on finalizing their Africa Project presentations in class today, I walked around and observed.  I occasionally fielded questions, but mostly just provided the students with feedback on their work.  What impressed me the most, aside from the great focus and dedication on the part of the students, was their diligent work ethic and ownership.  The students weren’t okay with just finishing their presentation, oh no.  They wanted to make their poster, slideshow, or website, the best it could possibly be.

I had students ask me:

  • “Can I draw a ski lift going up my poster towards a mountain peak and then add in skiers to give my poster some color and creativity?”
  • “Can I talk to the drama teacher to get a costume for my presentation?”
  • “Can I make a quiz to go along with my presentation to make sure people are listening and learning?”
  • “Can I add a Google Maps portion to my presentation so that people can see where the battles happened?”

I was so proud of their self-awareness and ability to use a growth mindset while working.  They weren’t simply working to get things done, they were working to create the best final project possible.  Those students who didn’t necessarily know what to do to improve their presentation, asked for feedback from me.  They wanted suggestions or ideas on what they could do to make their visual aides even more meaningful and engaging.  After I provided them with some ideas and possible solutions, they got right to work revising their project presentations.  I was amazed.  They want to be sure that they WOW! the faculty members attending tomorrow’s Learning Exposition.  It’s not about checking things off of a list for almost all of my students; it’s about showcasing their learning and talents.  “Look at what I know, learned, and can do,” their presentations will be shouting tomorrow during the big event.

At the close of today’s work period, I shared these noticings with the class.  As I talked to them about their phenomenal work ethic and effort, my body shivered in excitement and joy.  My students have come so far since September and I am so proud of each and every one of them.  It’s on days like today that I’m able to celebrate this growth and progress with them as a class.  And this is yet another reason why I love teaching.