A couple of weeks ago I stopped by Jon Barry’s grade three classroom to talk with students. He walked me around his room to show all the ways his students were learning core subjects by examining the plight of endangered animals. One of the final components of the TDU is a letter writing campaign to different governments. Students apply social studies lessons about how laws are made to appeal to leaders around the world.
Here, Stacy Trinh and Jon Barry reflect on the TDU process and their experiences.
What do you enjoy about this teaching approach?
Stacy I really love seeing my students make connections to other areas of learning. Not only are they applying their newfound knowledge in writing, but bringing that knowledge to social studies and specialist classes help solidify it in their brains. I love how excited they’ve been about this TDU! They get pumped up about making the world a better place. It’s inspiring to see a young generation vowing to make life on Earth last.
Jon I enjoy how everyone is on the same page, both the teachers and the students. Everything the students learn about and study in homeroom and specialist classes is interconnected. This helps the students to realize that what they are doing is relevant and worthwhile. Everything is geared towards a common goal.
I love how we can discuss things in homeroom relating to our topic and the students already have knowledge on the topic. Often this is from their learning in specialist classes where they have discussed the issues I am raising in homeroom. Of course it is a two way street and I’m sure specialist teachers feel the same way about their interactions with the kids.
Tell about something you learn from your students.
Stacy I’ve learned that children will always be curious and will always ask questions. Sometimes, they ask questions that I might not know the answer to. If that happens, they don’t stop there – they look for reliable resources to find answers. My students have taught me to persevere.
Through this TDU, I’ve also learned how good hearted the students are at KIS. In a world where media tells us and shows us terrible things, they shed some light into the goodness that exists. They truly want to make a difference and save their endangered animals.
Jon I constantly learn from my students. They often look at things from a totally different perspective to me, which only makes our learning stronger. As a teacher I never presume that I know it all and I welcome new ways of thinking, and insight from my students. We are stronger when we work together as a team.
What challenge or failure did you or your students experience?
Stacy I will always feel like I could have done more to help my students reach a bit farther. I think the biggest challenge for me was being new to teaching TDUs. Luckily for me, I am on a team with very talented and experienced educators who have done this before. It was a whole learning process for me and I wanted to be the best that I could be for my students. With learning comes failure, but I am glad to say that I have learned from mistakes and hiccups. The great thing about it was, my students didn’t even blink and they knew exactly what was expected of them and how to push forward!
Jon I can’t think of any specific “fail” that my students and I have had that really stands out. I think it is more important how we react to our “fails.” Once we acknowledge that failure is a part of learning and we embrace it, then we can forge ahead and make progress. I know it is a cliche but Einstein said it well when he declared “A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.” Once students and educators overcome their fear of failing and embrace it as an opportunity to learn, the world suddenly seems a brighter place for everyone.
Sarah Donaldson, Sally Merriman, Jon Barry and Stacy Trinh are classroom teachers. Specialty teachers involved are Jeremy Jacobsen, KoLAB; David Lee, Design; Megan Godek, Technology; Marsha Bycraft, Art; and Megan Greene, Library.