On December 19th I finished up my long term subbing gig in Flagstaff. I wrote a little about going back to the classroom and then a midway report. I will once again reiterate, that I had a delightful time working with the 7th grade at Alpine. When people would ask if I would enjoying myself, I would answer the same as always… I am happiest in the classroom. This was no different.
During the week of December 9th, we took 100 7th graders to Cathedral Wash in (way) Northern Arizona. The first trip was during quite a cold snap in the area and had the teachers digging out every last bit of fleece in our possession to bring along just in case. Having never taken a group through the wash, that first group moved pretty slowly and we didn’t make it all the way to the river, but fun was definitely had by all. Day two found us with warmer temps and a little bit better prepared to make the push to get all the way to the river. It has been awhile since I have sat on the edge of the Colorado River and it was as gorgeous as I had remembered. Definitely spent more than a moment breathing in the wonderfulness. Day three was a bust for going through the wash as there had been rain over night and the wash was a skating rink. We improvised a day at Lee’s Ferry (where we randomly ran into Flagstaff celeb Brian Dierker) and hiking a bit to the Lonely Dell ranch for lunch and then hung out on the Navajo bridge a bit before making the long trip back to Flagstaff. It was an exhausting week, but thoroughly enjoyed all of the hiking, exploring and learning along the way.
During my last week in the classroom we completed the Dispassionate Landscapes project (referenced here) and invited in the community and parents for a night of sharing the learning. It was delightful to meet the parents, discuss what the students are learning, and asking the students show off their ideas and thoughts. A special visit was made from the authors and artists connected to the original installation that inspired the project. They were incredibly impressed with the outcome and the kids were excited that they were receiving feedback about their work from the public.
The projects were not a 100% success – they struggled with writing from an unbiased perspective, finding a landscape to focus on was flummoxing for some, there were technical difficulties, and some students had difficulty engaging. If I were to do that particular project over, I would have spent much more time breaking apart the process and giving them more time to think about and capture an image. All in all, though, the vast majority of students produced work that stretched their abilities, forced them to consider and write from a new perspective and present that work to a community based audience. Went well, but definitely room for revisions.
From a macro look on the whole experience I can offer this… it is incredibly difficult to be the long term sub that wants to do big things. I’m pretty sure the kids thought I was nuts on more than one occasion, but as with all things I’ve experienced in the classroom when you employ these items, things sort out – Set high goals, help to create connections between learner and content, revel in their kid’ness, don’t take yourself too seriously… and always let them know that you care. These are the things that work. I am honored to have had the chance to share in their learning if only for a little bit and I look forward to going back in the spring to assist with some of their big expeditions.
For now, though, I am back in the City of Brotherly Love, preparing for Educon 2.6, reconnecting with the teachers at SLA@Beeber and McMichael School and getting ready for the official launch of the Dell/SLA grant. I hope to make time later this week to write about the Philly school based work that I am doing!