I really need to shower more often – not because of the summer heat but because that is where my insights seem to wait for me. This morning’s thoughts revolved around connections.
I thought about how cool it might be to operate in a Humanities Department rather than the more narrow History Department. I am still pretty attached to my discipline, so I see the Humanities piece as an umbrella, at least for now. Then I started thinking about the identity crisis for History – does it fit best in Humanities or Social Sciences?
While I have always seen natural ties between History and English, with skills and even content in the lens of historical fiction, I am blessed with colleagues who are pushing me to explore the links between History and Science, even History and Math. There is so much potential here, especially in developing more inquiry-based learning for our students. In fact, the summer work that most interested members of my department was work developing “history lab” classes for next year.
On another level, I have spent the past year developing my PLN through mainly electronic but also face-to-face connections. I am really looking forward to continuing that work next year. As an extension to that Professional Development I looked for opportunities to connect my students to others. With the help of Mike Gwaltney, my sophomores connected with his sophomores at Oregon Episcopal School to take the first steps in having our students collaborate on work. We are hoping to develop that more for the upcoming year. I was also able to connect my students with authors and experts through Skype. Creating and using my connections to enhance my students’ experiences and helping them make their own connections is something I hope to keep working on.
While I really love being able to communicate with people all over the US and even the world, there is great power in community connections. Through two of my colleagues, I witnessed the value of having students from Upper and Lower Schools work together, with older students mentoring younger ones. It is a gift to teach at a K-12 school, and I need to keep in mind that some of the best collaborators are just in another building on our campus.
Finally, and most important, as I reflect on the past year, the greatest success stories for me as a teacher were a result of having forged a meaningful connection with the students. It is an ongoing process of getting to know students and their needs, but it is at the heart of what we do as teachers. Students really tap into their potential when they feel connected, with that material and with the teacher. I am reminded that students learn new material by connecting it in some way to something they already know. Daniel Willingham reminded me of that as I make my way through the #sschat summer reading book.
So next year I want to broaden the way I see my discipline and open up my mind and my classroom to all of the possibilities these connections offer. I had been feeling that everything was rather disjointed and random until my shower this morning. That was when I connected the dots to see the full picture.