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Life Lessons

Before this week, I never noticed how much of our instruction centers on life skills that will help our students lead strong, healthy, motivated, and proud lives. Yes, the content does creep in, and most times, it is our lesson's main event, but if you really pay attention to the commentary provided by our teachers as they teach this content and facilitate student learning, it is pretty cool how much of what we say teaches a valuable lesson for the future. 

After a few weeks off, I was excited to continue observing my students this week. And let me tell you, I left each class feeling excited about what I observed and eager to debrief with my students. As mentioned above, each class I visited moved beyond the content; instead, I witnessed instruction, advice, support, collaboration, critical thinking, student creation, implementation of various strategies, and development of student skills that are not only essential for the classroom but also for real-life and future experiences our students will have as they enter the real world. While they might not know it or appreciate it now, our teachers are making sure that students gain knowledge and experiences that will prepare them for future fun in their lives, and I was lucky enough to see it in action this week:

Pride. Focus. Critical thinking. Creativity. The students in Mr. Rose's Woods class were in the zone and building some awesome wood creations that they could take with them after completion. Students were engaged and worked diligently throughout the class period. Students utilized power tools to complete the building process, and many of them showed me their plans for their final product. One of my students explained that the hardest part of the process was figuring out the dimensions and then making sure all pieces were cut perfectly. If not, their designs would not work. He was so proud of his work, and I really enjoyed talking with him about it. Making/creating something - from start to finish - is a wonderful feeling. I was excited for my student to experience this sense of pride. All of the skills listed at the start of this paragraph are what we want for our students, but did you consider what else this class is teaching? What about the use of tools? Safety with tools? Measurements and dealing with supplies? Many of these students will go on someday to own a home. The skills they learn in this class will not only help them create beautiful objects, but they will equip these students to be handy, resourceful, and problem solvers in the future. Now that calls for a boomshakalaka.

Similar to Woods, I visited an Honors Chemistry class in which students were preparing for a lab. Mr. Parton explained the importance of safety, precision, and focus when it comes to their work in the lab. In addition, students also had to work with their peers to complete a task and rely on each other to complete calculations and other activities in order to successfully create a mixture to be assessed by the teacher. While this activity centered around the content, the skills the students had to use in order to gain success with the content are skills students will need beyond the Chemistry classroom: teamwork, focus, precision, ability to follow directions, and problem-solving.

In another wing, Health students were setting healthy goals for themselves to focus on over the next few weeks. They were asked to make a goal for either nutrition, fitness, or sleep and then craft an action plan. As I walked around and asked students what they planned to focus on, I realized how important goal-setting is for me when I am trying to take control of my health. Need to get in shape? I find a program, commit, and make a schedule. Need to eat healthier? I plan out what I need to buy and meal prep for the week. Similar to these real-life actions, our students were asked to be aware of what they need to live a healthy life and make a plan for how to get on track with one aspect of healthy living. From there, they would then have to assess and reflect on their actions. Did they follow the plan? What motivated them? What deterred them from being successful? What else can they do in order to make their healthy action plan a success? Yes, I’m sure you would agree...What an awesome activity for our students to understand the importance of goal setting, planning, reflecting, and adjusting when it comes to executing a successful plan.

Another student’s schedule brought me to Germany. Well...German class, but when I walked in, Ms. Wolfersberger was sharing some photos of a past student trip to Germany, and students were extremely excited about what they saw in the pictures. As Ms. Wolfersberger shared what they do on this type of student trip, she also explained some of the essential skills that one needs to travel. Reading maps. No, not Google Maps, but real, paper maps. Most students have never seen or held this kind of map. Figuring out the subway or other methods of transportation. Understanding direction and how to get from A to B. This just skims the surface of what one needs when traveling - especially abroad. Wow - what a great way to not only share information about Germany - content connected to the class - but also share some important traveling tips that can help anyone, regardless of where he/she decides to go. I also think it is pretty awesome that our teachers are so passionate and dedicated to taking groups of students overseas to experience other countries. I wish I would have done this when I was in high school!

To conclude, I want to share my final observation of the week, as I believe what I heard from Mr. Seidel is something that all students should hear numerous times throughout their high school career. With a band concert that night, the band class I visited was running through their songs for the show. Mr. Seidel continually motivated the students and also ran through expectations for the concert. Before jumping into expectations, he said, "I hope you are excited. It is going to be great." After playing a few songs, he explained his expectations for the show and challenged them to consider what motivated them to do well during their performance. He brought up that the students should consider who is in the audience and the audience’s excitement for the show: “How will that motivate you to perform?” The next part is my favorite; Mr. Siedel said, "Be in the moment. Support your peers. Be respectful. This is a moment for you to relax, enjoy playing music, listening to music, and supporting your friends. It will be fantastic." I love this. What wonderful advice. How often do we struggle to be in the moment and truly enjoy what we and others around us are doing? What a wonderful way to teach our students valuable lessons about being present in a situation and truly appreciating it for what it is. I would argue that this is something all people need to be reminded of from time to time. Our students heard it in band class that day, and it was awesome.

While most students don't know it yet, their exposure to this type of instruction and learning - the kind that will help them prepare for future life experiences - is why being a student is important and extremely rewarding. #whatsup