As you’ve seen on the BioRx blog, Author Shannon Ralph is 2015’s Kansas Teacher of the Year. She’s spending part of her semester traveling and speaking on behalf of Kansas teachers. Keep up with her KTOY adventures here on the blog and on her Twitter page.
One of the recent pleasures I had in my latest journey as Kansas Teacher of the Year was the opportunity to visit to Central Heights High School in Richmond, Kan. this past Friday.
Before my day began I was able to have a conversation with the principal about their school and district. He clearly was proud of their accomplishments, and it is always refreshing to know a principal who has that kind of heart for his school. Of course, this small district is facing budget challenges and we talked some about strategies for dealing with the recent cuts. Principals and superintendents sure do have a tough job, but I can say without reservation that they are concerned about making sure students are provided excellence in education.
I spent two hours in a biology classroom and two hours in a physical/space science classroom. Central Heights (3A) is much smaller than Dodge City High School (6A), so it was fun to see how a smaller school differs in respect to class size and handling of class activities. It reminded me how impactful it is to have fewer students. It seemed much more powerful to interact with these small groups. I have often said that size is one of the biggest variables affecting learning. (I see this in my own classroom. This semester I have one block of 19 students and a second block with 29 students. Same content, same great kids, just more of them.) I happened to be in the hall during passing period and did not notice the “crush” of students that we see at my school.
Physical differences aside, the essence of education, the desire to learn, is the same. Students are students are students. They want to learn, they want to know the relevance of what they are doing and they want to succeed. I was only with Central Heights students for a short time, but I felt the same draw to these teenagers that I do to the teens in my classroom. Kids are cool, especially when you see their interest piqued with something you are teaching!
My host biology teacher made a delicious homemade chicken soup for the staff of 20 during the lunch hour. After lunch, we attended a all-school assembly where I visited with students about facing challenges with a growth mindset.
I’d actually like to give a shout out to: Regan Markley, Kalliope Craft, Sarah Wood and Brandy Sanders for accepting my challenge of purposely taking on a difficult class or activity in order to cultivate a higher learning opportunity. I hope to report with back more students who are doing this very thing. Putting oneself in a situation that will lead to betterment in some way is a choice, and it is not always the easy choice. BUT the outcome whether failure or success, always leads to experiential learning!
Being in a completely different school was an amazing experience for me. I walked away with some things to think about as well. I’m wondering if I might set up some kind of exchange system within my own district next year. USD 443 Elementary Teacher of the Year, Mindy Burkhart told me that seeing what happens with her elementary students as they move up in grades has reaffirmed her desire to properly prepare her students. Perhaps more teachers should be able to have that experience??
Until next time, rock on!