How Does Our Garden Grow?

When I was a senior in high school, I had the opportunity to teach a kindergarten class. I spent days designing the lesson, and I will never forget the look of excitement in the eyes of the students as they participated in the lesson I created. A seed was planted; I wanted to become a teacher!

All teachers are responsible for inspiring students to contemplate and investigate career pathways as well as promoting college and career readiness. Teaching is one of those careers. The U.S. Department of Education reports teacher shortages throughout the nation in all geographical areas, subject areas, and grade levels (U.S. Department of Education, Office of Postsecondary Education, 2015).

While grow-your-own strategies have included initiatives, such as alternative licensure programs, formal efforts have not included the classroom teacher in the recruitment of future teachers. Teachers of all grade levels have the expertise to grow-their-own through purposeful efforts.

  1. Identify potential educators and plant the idea in their hearts and minds. Ask if they have ever considered becoming a teacher, then follow the question with specific, descriptive feedback on why they think they could be a successful educator. Encourage capable students from kindergarten through 12th grade. Include parents and guardians in the mission. During formal and informal conferences, share why their child would be a successful educator. Collective efforts produce an abundant harvest.
  2. Use “yes . . . but” in conversations to emphasize the positive aspects of the profession. Make it a practice to follow a voice of concern with a statement on the joys of teaching. Be mindful of how encouraging messages about teaching can influence a student who is entertaining the thought of teaching. Consider how your reactions to the challenges of teaching enhance and contribute to the grow-our-own approach. All careers have challenges, yet students in the public schools typically do not regularly interact with other career professionals nor do they hear about their difficult times. Teachers are part of a student’s daily life. Consequently, explicit positive messages are important during difficult times.
  3. Share your story. Reveal the motivation behind becoming a teacher whenever the opportunity arises. Describe the events and special people who inspired the decision. Telling one’s own story inspires prospective educators and serves as a reminder as to why you entered the field. Reconnecting to your vision of teaching revitalizes your spirit and strengthens your mission of inspiring others to consider teaching. Share the chapters of your teaching life so that your students might begin writing their own.
  4. Create opportunities to explore teaching. Ask students to serve a mini apprenticeship as a teacher’s helper for a day or a week. During this time, reveal the positive aspects of a career in teaching. At the end of the apprenticeship, recognize the student with a certificate, a tangible reminder of the special event. This guided practice enables students to discover the enjoyment of planning lessons and making a difference in the lives of others. Students also can be assigned to work with teachers in the younger grades to build confidence in working with others while experiencing education from the teacher’s side of the desk. Student organizations, such as Educator Rising, provide the framework and support to encourage a career in education. Furthermore, Educator Rising promotes interest by allowing high school students to “test-drive” teaching and empowering teachers to act as ambassadors for teaching (Brown, 2016). These ongoing opportunities for practice exposes students to the enjoyment of planning lessons and making a difference.
  5. Think like a marketing agent and visually promote your profession. Positive messages in the classroom can inspire future educators. Posters that celebrate teaching and the power of learning can motivate students to consider a career as an educator. Highlight successful teachers on a bulletin board or in published news articles. Have students create works about teachers who have influenced them.
  6. Be a role model. Attract students to teaching by simply doing what you love to do: teach. Be the professional your students want to emulate. Welcome your students at the door with a smile. Facial expressions, attitude, and social interaction become your runway moves. Positive actions and reactions serve as fertilizer that encourage students to perceive education as a desirable calling.

The opportunity to teach during my senior year in high school planted the seed for a fruitful career in education. Teachers have the capacity to grow-our-own. Encouraging students to consider a teaching career begins in kindergarten and continues through 12th grade. Teachers hold the solution to cultivate and mentor the next harvest of teachers to make our garden grow.

Dr. Kathleen Wagner is an Assistant Professor of Educational Studies and Secondary Education at Eastern New Mexico University. She teaches courses on curriculum, instruction, and assessment, supervises teacher candidates during student teaching, and serves as the Assessment Coordinator of the College of Education and Technology. She is also the counselor of the Omicron Upsilon chapter at ENMU.

 

The Messy Business of Teaching Science

image2“It didn’t go like I wanted it to.”

The tears were streaming down her face before she even sat down.

A half hour earlier, I received an email from Marshall: “Are you in your office? Can I come meet with you about my lessons?” I assumed she needed to borrow materials or perhaps alter the next day’s plan, so I was a bit shaken when she immediately began crying as she entered my office. The capstone assignment for the science methods course is to plan and teach a 3-day mini-unit. In the course, we have talked about teaching and learning through inquiry, the 5-E cycle of instruction, STEM . . . all to prepare students for the experience of teaching hands-on, exploratory science. The week had finally arrived and the students were ready.

“It didn’t go like I wanted it to.” By her expression, I thought that maybe a student was injured.

“Okay, take a deep breath and tell me what happened. It’s going to be fine.” I was already familiar with her mini-unit, as we did a great deal of collaborating in class.

She wiped her face and explained, “Well you know I’m in first grade and we did a lesson on pollution so I had buckets of water and they had to work with their group to filter the water until it was clean so that we could talk about how hard it is to clean pollution and how we need to not pollute our surrounding bodies of water, because you know we had the oil spill a few years ago, and I thought it was going to be really good.” She talked so quickly, without a breath, like she was eager to unburden. She continued, “Well it was a disaster. The water got everywhere and the kids were talking too loud and my cooperating teacher hated it because they were being noisy and it was so hard to get them to be quiet.”

image1“So did the water have anything in it that could stain their clothes?”

“No, but it was all over the place.”

“Did they clean it up?”

“Well, yeah, we had paper towels.”

“Do you think they were learning?”

Her eyes were still red, but she was calmer at this point. “They were definitely talking about what I wanted them to talk about. They were just so excited that I couldn’t get them to be quiet, and the teacher hated that.”

“Just so I’m understanding . . . you’re upset because they were excited and noisy and made a mess . . . with water.”

“Yeah.”

I was relieved and almost felt like laughing.

We were confronted with a true teachable moment for a future teacher.

“Listen,” I said, “There are definitely classroom management lessons to be learned here. But science is messy sometimes, and that’s fine. It should be. They’re first graders, and you gave them tubs of water, then told them to touch it. Of course it’s going to make a mess!” She giggled. “Water dries. If your students are exploring and learning, then making noise and messes is part of the process.” She still had 2 days left to teach, so we then spent a few minutes talking about ways to truly manage the noise and mess, not eliminate it.

Marshall had fallen prey to a feeling that many teachers often struggle with: the discomfort of giving up control.

It’s a delicate balancing act of maintaining a safe and positive classroom environment with the freedom to explore, and even fail sometimes—letting go of the need to be perfect, to be right, to be “in charge.”

This is a frightening, but liberating, experience for a preservice teacher—one that I wish more teachers experienced!

elizabeth-allisonDr. Elizabeth Allison is an assistant professor of elementary science education at the University of South Alabama in Mobile, Alabama. She enjoys teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in the K-6 program as part of the Department of Leadership and Teacher Education. When working with any students, whether in the k-12 setting or in teacher education courses, she strives to instill a love and respect for science and education.

Operation Literacy Engaging Everyone

We don’t know his name, or that of his older sister, but we were still moved when he exclaimed, “I love Dr. Seuss! Daddy can I take this one?”

chapman-literacy1We glanced at one another excitedly as the boy clumsily pulled the Seuss work out of the book station we had just inaugurated. His sister found one, too, and was proud to be like her brother, book held high above her head.

Smiling, his father asked him which books he was going to bring back for other kids to take.

As they walked away hand in hand, the boy, his sister, and their father continued their conversation about books, and about reading. We were filled with a sense of gratitude for a moment that brought our vision of free neighborhood book stations to life.

These seemingly unplanned moments where learning connects families, communities, and each of us to a deeper self are what we live for as educators and future educators.

This year’s Literacy Alive! project brought many such moments to the members of Chapman’s Chi Beta Chapter.

Each year, the chapters of Kappa Delta Pi connect around a national literacy campaign called Literacy Alive! to “create programs and events in their communities that bring empowering literacy skills to their participants.” This year, more than 150 projects were submitted nationally, adding up to 57,052 people served and 44,625 books collected for distribution. As a chapter, Chi Beta was recognized for its partnership with a local initiative: Operation Literacy Engaging Everyone (Operation L.E.E.) in Anaheim, California.

Operation L.E.E.’s Facebook page reads, “We are a group of community members out to promote literacy and spread the love of reading in our community by providing book stations with free books.” The book stations are located at various homes and businesses in Anaheim, and represent a true community effort. A vision of local educators, the book stations are filled with donated books that anyone can borrow or take or donate. Operation L.E.E. started with five book stations and hopes to increase that number throughout Anaheim and in other interested cities.

chapman-literacy2Our first adventure with Operation L.E.E. was at the South Junior High School Service Day, where Chapman’s KDP members were tutored in making book stations by students. The amazing woodshop teacher, Chapman alumnus Matthew Bidwell, guided us around the classroom while seventh and eighth graders made assistants of us and demonstrated their mastery of carpentry. It was a fun and exciting day of building book stations from instructions, wood, and know-how.

As future educators, we talked about how it reminded us that our students will always be our greatest teachers, and that our classrooms can be spaces for doing good.

chapman-literacy3We also helped sort more than 500 donated books, prompting a recognition of our community’s generosity and spirit.

As book donations rolled in they were collected at the home of Operation L.E.E. leader, Juan Alvarez. A local educator and parent, Juan welcomed a collaboration with Chapman, and KDP members helped distribute books to book stations around Anaheim. Juan also welcomed us to his home, where we hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony for Operation L.E.E. at the location of the first official book station.

chapman-literacy4Here, Operation L.E.E. was presented with congressional recognition from Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, and the book stations officially went live!

In recognition of the success of Operation L.E.E., KDP awarded Chapman’s Chi Beta Chapter with a Silver Award.

chapman-literacy5As the project continues to grow, you can help by donating books, providing funds or materials to build more book stations, or volunteering to host a book station at your home or business (contact operationleeoc@gmail.com).

It was exciting for us to help support local educators who are moving beyond their classrooms to make an even greater impact in their community. And we were able to practice engaged citizenship by helping local educators bring a model program into fruition.

In addition to strengthening our relationship with one of our partner districts in Anaheim, we also developed new partnerships with other collaborating organizations such as Los Amigos de Orange County and the Anaheim Public Library.

chapman-literacy6Toward the end of the ribbon-cutting ceremony, we had our serendipitous visitors, our first book station patrons, and they knew exactly what to do. For us, it was like watching from a distance—watching our efforts and those of the community sprout into an opportunity.

For the father and his children, it was a seemingly spontaneous moment to talk about reading.

But we saw meaning in our project and could envision many such moments happening at this book station and at others around the city. Operation L.E.E. had come to life, and Chapman’s Kappa Delta Pi chapter helped make it happen.

Guest author Anat Herzog is an educator who has a deep love for her students and their families. She is a doctoral candidate at Chapman University and Literacy Alive! Coordinator for the Chi Beta Chapter of KDP. Her eventual goal is to open a school based on the pedagogical principles of John Dewey and Paulo Freire.