Side Note: This is for my EdTech 537 course at Boise State University
This post is by my co-collaborator Gayla Vukcevich who is a 5th and 6th grade English teacher at an independent school.
During the school year, I teach. But during the summer, I am a student. I am always a learner, but in the quiet of a summer morning or in the middle of a rainy afternoon, I hunger for information and new ideas that will make me a better teacher, a better thinker, or a better person. I am mesmerized by the information at my fingertips--and so I read, and I play; I search, and I gather, and I experiment, and then I switch topics and do it all over again.
This hunger for knowledge and information and satisfying curiosities is what I strive for in my classroom. Some students come to me ready to learn, soaking up whatever I lead them to. Other students come and sit and wait for inspiration. True and authentic learning, though, happens when a person digs in the details of something that is fascinating. The richness of real learning is something to be celebrated. When students are learning about topics because they can’t resist digging in...wow!
Over the past month, I have wondered about many things. Some things, like what kind of caterpillar is munching in my garden, have simple and direct answers. Others, like how do I bake ciabatta at home so it tastes like my favorite bakery, require research and experimentation on the way to creating a satisfying finished product. I have to be willing to try more than once, and I have to pay attention to all kinds of variables. Still other curiosities, like the bonfire I can see in the field behind my house and the voices, clear and spirited, rising and falling like the flames in the darkness, simply lead me to think and wonder and peruse my imagination. This is my favorite kind of curiosity--and in these moments, the writer in me takes over, and the end result of my observations could take any form.
that lit up the neighbor’s back yard
with bright orange excitement
rose and fell
and suddenly is gone
And the blackness left behind
is more unsettling
than the explosion of accelerants
that first brought it
to my attention
Summer is a different kind of learning for me, and I imagine my students feel the same. I spend part of each day reading my Twitter feed, and though I rarely post anything of my own, I am following some amazing educators who share bits and pieces of things I want to know more about...and so I dig deeper. I spend part of each summer in my classroom, sorting through the piles that accumulated during the year, reflecting on how to organize better for next year, weeding out things that I will never use, but also realizing what I need to know more about to make my class the best learning environment it can be. I spend a great amount of time with my children, beach days and friend days, travel days and at home days. I learn from them and with them. And every summer, I reserve one weekend to learn more about writing. In the company of other writers, I practice the craft that I teach--true and authentic.
My students are learning this summer, too. They travel, attend camps, swim, hang out with friends, and attend family events. They will bring those experiences back to me in August, and we will write. Some will be reluctant, some will struggle with the freedom of topic choice, and some will thrive. I hope to provide the opportunity for my young writers to experience the excitement of learning, just like the days of summer. Students’ best writing happens with they write about topics they value--when they dig in and work until they have created something meaningful.
Summertime allows me to choose what and how I learn, as well as what I do with what I’ve learned. Offering those freedoms in my classroom leads to true and authentic learning experiences.
George Phillip is a social studies teacher and designer.
Ramsey Musallam - www.cyclesoflearning.com
Karl Lindgren-Streicher -
Josh Stumpenhorst -
Jason Bretzmann -
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