"As an educator in the low income, inner city area of Houston, I am charged with the task of instilling an appreciation of our nation’s history with our youth. The greatest challenge I face is presenting the state expectations and curriculum in a manner that is engaging, makes real and meaningful connections and is relevant to my students’ lives. Many of the students I teach are facing daily trials and hardships that the average adult would find insurmountable. The hardships my students are facing at their young age range from living well below the poverty line, being involved with drugs or in gangs and teen age pregnancy. Despite these obstacles, we work tirelessly to ensure student success while consistently raising the expectations and standards. For many of our students, they struggle through and only meet the minimum standards if at all. As a public servant, I find this to be unacceptable and in order to promote student growth and learning, it is imperative that I better educate my students by furthering my own education and deepening my own understanding of the curriculum I am charged with teaching.
For the last several years, I have taught the curriculum as intended and have interjected engaging activities to the best of my ability, but I have always felt as if a piece was missing. I share my passion of history with my students but it seems to be slightly stale since I myself have not experienced traveling our great nation and visiting the nation’s most influential landmarks. I know exactly what my students are missing because I too am a graduate of my current school district. I can relate personally with my students but I struggle to make the connections just as authentic between them and the standards they need to master.
My fellowship will cover the span of approximately two weeks and over 4,000 miles to bring the most significant historical landmarks of our “Land of Liberty” back to my students. During my experience, I plan to video tape and take photographs to include in each unit of study. Sites will include the Capital, national monuments, historical sites of significance, the Liberty Bell and the Statue of Liberty. In order to best document my experiences, I will create an e-manual that provides teachers on my campus, as well as throughout the district with activities, photos and videos aligned with the state standards. The video tape, photographs and alignment e-manual will be shared on our school’s common drive, district website, as well as posted on-line for teachers across the nation to access. By posting on my blog, teachers throughout our district, as well as other districts across our state, will have access at their convenience to materials aligned with our state standards. I will also have the opportunity to share electronic interactive lessons developed around the historical landmarks covered during my fellowship. These lessons will be posted to an on-line global resource sharing ground called Promethean Planet. By uploading lessons, teachers from across the country and even the globe can download and benefit from the knowledge and experiences the fellowship will provide me and my students.
After several years of following the same curriculum guide, it is time to modify the curriculum in my classroom. In order to make it engaging, connect to my students and still meet state expectations, it is imperative that I utilize technology to guide the modifications needing to be made. I need to grow as a teacher and one of my greatest weaknesses is technology. This fellowship will push me to use technology in new and innovative ways on my campus. I want to master loading videos on the web, creating a blog, hosting a website, creating a photo gallery, linking engaging videos to the curriculum guide and essentially “flipping” the classroom altogether. To “flip” the classroom, I am going to have to provide direct instruction via the World Wide Web that students will access prior to coming to class. These taped “chats” will be created throughout my fellowship. Students will access these prior to a unit of study to give them a chance to build some prior knowledge and make some connections before coming to class.
This practice should empower children to be responsible for their learning as well as being prepared for class discussions and activities. I can monitor the video views, answer questions and make any necessary adjustments based on their questions or misconceptions. Once every unit has a “preview video,” I will develop a blog for students to discuss the unit and post assignments. The resources acquired on my fellowship will supplement my classroom instruction, provide hands on activities and allow me the opportunities to develop internet based inquiry lessons. My students will become part of a global community of learners using skills and media that are necessary to the 21st Century learner. Not only are they necessary for engagement but they are skills and media that are necessary for students to be proficient in in order to be successful in higher education and/or the work place. I want my students to be prepared not only for our state exam but for life.”
Michael Luster, Jr.
Olle Middle School - Alief, TX