Monthly Archives: June 2015

More than Monuments: What 8th Graders Learn on the East Coast Trip

Parents are always super nervous dropping their 14-year-old off at the airport and sending him flying across the country. Of course, I will be nervous, too, when I send my own children, but I wanted to take a moment to commend those parents who do. They spend six days watching their phones for text messages and worrying if their kid is getting enough to eat, sleeping well, getting along with roommates, and I’m sure far worse scenarios. To those parents, know you’ve given them far more in those six days than you could ever imagine.

What 8th Graders Learn

1. How to get up on time. If (and when) he sleeps through his alarm, the entire group will be waiting on him. He will hear about it all day.

2. How to be on time. Like when he slept through his alarm, when he doesn’t arrive back at the bus at precisely 3:45, he will hear about it from his peers. Repeatedly.

3. How to Read Street Signs. When she is told to be at 42nd and Broadway and she is at 50th and 7th, her group needs to figure out how to get back.

4. How to live in tight spaces with other people. She needs to figure out how to share a bathroom and two beds with three other girls. Not taking 45 minutes in the bathroom is often a viable solution.

5. Why his parents tell him to get some sleep. He learns that only getting a couple of hours of sleep can be painful the next day. Of course, he might still do it the next night, however, he understands why.

6. Why his parents tell him to eat right. Binging on junk food always seems like a good idea at this age. Inevitably, one of those kids throws up.

7. Good shoes trump fashion. Those cute sandals she brought on the trip that match her new shirt are thrown to the bottom of her suitcase after the blisters of the first day.

8. Sometimes you can’t be goofy, even with your friends. TSA and the Capitol police have little room for horse-play or 8th-grade humor.

9. How to ask for help. Whether from a teacher, a tour guide or even a security guard, sometimes it’s necessary to ask when something is needed. He has to take care of his own needs.

10. How to pay attention. Well, at least the ramifications of not paying attention. When he didn’t hear what time to be back at the bus, he will be late. Again, he will hear about it. Repeatedly.

The best part about these lessons is that they come with a safety net. That kid might be the last one on the bus, but there are many adults making sure he gets on the bus. As a chaperone, my job is to not only to give the kids an educational experience, but also grant them that little bit of freedom. It’s the freedom that teaches them the most. A dear friend of mine commented to me once that after this trip, her daughter came back different. Older. More mature. That’s the bonus of this trip. So, to the parents that choose to send their kid, I tip my glass. You’ve given them far more than a trip of a lifetime. 🙂

I interviewed the kids at the airport. Someday I will learn to turn my phone to landscape when recording.

Genius Hour Part Deux: The Genesis of Genius

Galileo Galilei is credited for saying, “Passion is the genesis of genius.” This has never been clearer to me than watching my students give their Genius Hour presentations. Letting them choose the topics to research was not only motivating for each student, it was interesting to watch. EVERY student in the room was listening to EVERY presentation. Crazy.

Things I learned:

  • Practice Presenting: As much as I went over my guidelines and rubric, it wasn’t enough. So many of my students still have a hard time looking at the audience, not reading their slides, and not speaking clearly. Some of it might be that they are just 8th graders, but I think modeling and practicing would improve the process ten-fold. Luckily I have some stellar presentations on video!
  • Demand More: On that note, a few students got the audience involved with Kahoot quizzes, asking for volunteers for demonstrations, and even getting the audience out of the seats for a gallery walk. This needs to be the norm. I need to help them move beyond standing and simply presenting their slides.  Again, better modeling.
  • Length: My students researched every Friday for about seven weeks. Then in May, testing hit. We had to abandon our 20 percent time to make room for other curriculum because we lost so much instructional time. In retrospect, it worked out. Most were done with their research by then and were just working on their presentations. Heck, many were done after five weeks. I think next year, I’ll shoot for six weeks and just work on presentations skills for the final stretch.
  • Dress for Success: It’s funny that just the sheer requirement that students be “appropriately dressed” for a presentation, made it that much better. They looked the part and owned it. Dressing is all about mindset. It helped put them in the right frame of mind. I will absolutely require that next time.

All in all I was over the moon at what the kids researched and presented. Some didn’t dig as deeply as I would like, so I think better mentoring on my part will be key next time. I will say this with a beaming grin: every single one my students presented. Not one chose not to do it, as is usually the case. I had one student comment to me that she is normally so afraid to speak in front of a group, but this project was easy. I commented,”Because you knew the material, huh?” She responded, “It’s because I cared about the topic.” Wow. Just wow. THAT’S what it’s all about. Passion is truly the genesis of genius.

Check out our highlights: