Being in touch with your students is a goal of any good teacher. You want to know what your students are interested in so that you can try to make use of it in your classroom. I talked to a teacher last week about a lesson she was doing in which students turned in a meme they created as their finished project. What a great way to get kids to see big picture and create something using their new knowledge. I have to ask though… why did the assignment sheet say Make a “Meme”? Why is the word meme separated? Why is it singled out or made to look special? I’d be willing to bet that to her students, memes are not anything new or special or exciting. They’re a normal part of everyday. They offer a laugh, are easy to share with friends, and might even be the only way your students get their news. We do this to our students all the time; make their normal seem abnormal. We’ve got to stop. No more, Is That “Tweet” Worthy? worksheets or “emoji” activities. Embrace their culture. Instead have them summarize the novel you read in 140 words or less by actually using Twitter. Encourage them to use emojis in their book review, what better way is there to show how it made them feel? Don’t force them to make memes, make it an option. I’d be willing to bet that your cool, hip, trendy lesson plan is old news to them, so just embrace it and leave the quotation marks at home.
Your Personal Learning Network may arguably be your most valuable resource in not only your career, but in your personal life as well. As I take my next steps to becoming a teacher, I have begun making conscious efforts to expand my PLN as much as possible. Here are some ways I've done this.
1. Twitter Chats
#iaedchat is something I was not unfamiliar with before this semester, however I finally began to utilize the awesome opportunity this August. Because I was very involved in studying education in high school and come from a family of educators, I knew about #iaedchat when it first began. I periodically tuned in to it on Sunday nights throughout high school and my first year of college, but never felt compelled to get involved. Since I did, it has opened so many new doors. Not only was I able to contribute to the crucial conversations being had by educators across Iowa and beyond, but I also found this Twitter Chat to be a great way to get connected with other educators and expand my PLN. This resource is great now, as an education student, because it allows me to learn from those in the field and over a wide variety of age levels, locations, and content areas. In my future career it will still allow me to learn from my fellow teachers but will also be a way for me to share my knowledge and experience. The chat I participated in on November 6th was very interesting as the topic was Parent Teacher Conferences. This is not something I have much of any knowledge on, so I learned a lot from watching, talking to educators, and contributing my ideas which resulted in feedback.
2. Using Twitter to Connect One-on-One
During the #iaedchat on November 6th I had the opportunity to ask a principle at a school in Iowa about his experiences with student-led parent teacher conferences. I replied to a tweet of his during the chat and he urged me to directly message him to discuss his experiences. He has had a lot of experience with many forms of conferences and had a lot to share. Being open to reach out to educators on Twitter like this in the future will help me to continue expanding my PLN as well as learn from others’ experiences in addition to my own.
3. Creating Educational Pinterest Boards
Pinterest is a great tool not only to share and find ideas on a variety of topics, but also makes it easy to organize these ideas. In the past I have used Pinterest to collect holiday gift ideas, online shop, and occasionally send hints to my parents about what I wanted for dinner. I have just begun utilizing this great tool for educational purposes as well. I can search a variety of educational topics and hundreds of people have probably pinned or shared their ideas on Pinterest. When I find things I am interested in, want to go back to read later, or know I’ll use a lot I can pin them to boards I have created by category. I can share these boards as well. Maybe in the future I will use Pinterest with my students to share resources or websites I think they would benefit from using. I can also use my boards to share with other educators.
I read an article months ago about kids of my generation and younger growing up faster than older generations. I wish I had saved the article, or even just remembered what site I found it on, because of course now I cannot cite it or even check its reliability. The topic really stuck with me, because I remember thinking about its links to education. If this is really true, then as a future educator I need to consider that every year I will be meeting a new group of kids who are at a completely different stage in their learning than the last.
This article talked about all the different tools my generation had at our fingertips when we were just tiny kids. While my mother and father were given plastic rattles and stuffed bunnies, I had few toys that didn’t sing or read to me. My parents did wooden puzzles and I played LeapFrog. Now when you go to church on Sunday morning or have to sit in a doctor’s office waiting room you are surrounded by kids holding iPads and tablets and their parents’ cell phones. This is not a rant about the rotten technology age, so those of you considering closing the tab, bear with me. I think it is great that we have these tools, and if you haven’t taken the time to play on some of these educational apps, you’ll be amazed, but I’m a little concerned about society’s expectations of kids.
Change is good, change is necessary, and change is inevitable. If you aren’t moving forward, you’re standing still, right? I, Taylor Trimble, agree that parenting has to change from generation to generation. I also agree that society should expect more and more from the world and push our young people to think bigger and be better, but I am having so much trouble agreeing that kids need to learn more quickly, think like adults, and mature faster. What valuable skills will kids miss out on? If we continue to supply kids with tools that eliminate the need for them to be creative and innovative, aren’t we skipping some valuable steps in their development?
I read another article recently (which of course I didn’t save, write down, or bother to check the authenticity of) which was talking about how moms spend so much time planning games, crafts, and activities for their kids, that those children never have to entertain themselves. I couldn’t help but agree that this age of “super-moms” often take all the thinking and learning opportunities away from their children by planning out their every second. I remember spending many summers with chores lists, money to go swimming, and nothing else but free hours to create my own worlds full of make-believe. I’ve been a teacher for as long as I can remember, as my favorite toys included school desks and super old text books. I may not have been working on science, math, or writing in my 3 months at home, but I was definitely working on my creativity, collaboration skills (my sister and I fought a lot), and problem solving. After all, when you only have a reading textbook and and one crummy box of flashcards, you’ve got to get creative on how to teach all the other subjects.
The other day I was sitting in on the first graders in TAG class, and the teacher asked this question: “There are 20 birds in a tree, and a hunter shoots one. How many birds are left in the tree?” Immediately one little boy said, “None, they all flew away.” And here I was thinking 19. Kids think about the world so much differently than the rest of us, and that’s not a bad thing. Why do we want them to think like us, anyway? If all the kids in the world are taught to think like the adults in the world, then when those kids are adults, what’s our world going to look like? The same. Change is necessary, remember?
I’ll be honest and say that I don’t have any suggestions or a perfectly laid out tactical plan for promoting more creativity in kids. I will, however, say that I think it’s important that we all recognize that kids are growing up faster than they used to, and we’re pushing them to become the same kind of people that we already are. Again, I don’t think growing up faster is a bad thing, but I am beginning to get concerned about what’s being left out on this quick road to adulthood. Maybe I need to accept that kids are just going to keep growing up this way, or maybe I have a good point. Who knows? The important thing here is that we have these conversations, because if we don’t see a variety of perspectives then we aren’t going anywhere. I challenge you to recognize your role in a child’s life. Are you teaching them to use their minds, or are you showing them how to think like you? Are you facilitating their ideas or leading them through each step of the process? We need to let kids act, think, and grow like kids and not like adults so that as they get older they continue to think outside the box.
Our elders are taught to look down on my generation as a bunch of rotten, spoiled kids who only care to have our noses in four inch screens and our butts in comfortable chairs. They call us disrespectful, arrogant, and rude. When I walk into a room, smile, and shake the hand of an adult, I am met with a look of disbelief, followed by a nod of approval directed at my mother who walked in behind me. When I call a professional and have to leave a message, my call is not returned, but when my teacher leaves the same message, a call arrives the next day. When we enter a classroom we are assigned a desk in a neat row, because we can’t be trusted. I’ve learned to stop referring to myself as a student, as that immediately makes me less worthy of someone’s time. Some days I can’t wait to get wrinkles. I guess what I’m asking for, is for everyone to give us a chance and to try a little harder to say yes sometimes.
So often my peers and I hear that, “At the rate we’re going, our world will be a disaster when we are adults,” but I beg you to give us more credit than that. After all, we’re the kids with the world at our fingertips. We can get a hold of information faster than we’ve ever been able to before, and you’re telling us to slow down. You might roll your eyes when we spend hours on the internet talking to people we’ve never met and researching places we’ve never been, but why shouldn’t we use this amazing tool every chance we get? Think of it this way… you’re not going to move a pile of rocks with a shovel when you’ve got a skid loader next to you. If my class is researching the education system in Botswana, I guarantee we can be on the phone with an English classroom in the country tomorrow. Tell me that’s making me less social. It’s all about how you use these amazing tools. Why spend time memorizing things that would be easier to just search, when we should be learning how to work together, get things done, think creatively, manage our time, or talk to strangers? Now there’s something google doesn’t do better.
If I have learned anything about people in my short eighteen years of life, it is that we love to focus on the negative. The very world we live in screams no. No, the average person cannot aspire to be a CEO or MVP. No, a child cannot approach an adult for an intelligent conversation. No to out-of-the-box thinking, to singing at the dinner table, to wearing polkadots with plaid. I know a lot of people would say my generation will only push this world closer to the inevitable hell we all seem to think we’re headed for, but us? We “millennials”… we think they’re dead wrong, and I think for once there’s something to be learned from us. All we say is yes.
I’m not asking a lot from you, I swear. All the world needs is a little more open-mindedness. So here’s where we start. “Hey dad, what are you working on?” Don’t say it… don’t say you’re just finishing up some things for a project. Don’t say, “Give me five minutes and we can watch that movie together.” Tell me you’re pricing wood flooring alternatives because right now you’re $5,000 over budget and they need the quote tomorrow, because you know what? I probably wasn’t going to hear about that in 4th period economics. We need to know how the real world works and that’s something we can’t just look up. I mean yeah, we can google it in like three seconds, but google isn’t going to recommend we always order from the Carpetland one town over because they’re more reliable than the Carpet One next door.
As much as you think we only enjoy staring at our screens, you couldn’t be more wrong. Humans are knowledge hungry, every last one of us. I’m not saying we don’t need to know how to do things the long way, and I’m not saying 24/7 screen time is a good thing. What is a good thing, though, is the slow with the fast, the old with the new, and people of all ages working together. We youngsters need more work on our face-to-face stuff, and grandma, I’ve told you a million times that typing an entire sentence into google isn’t going to get you anything good, no matter how well you punctuate it.
Perhaps if given a little responsibility or even just a little faith, my “ungrateful and useless” generation can be part of the solution, not the root of the problem. It’s time to realise we are in a world where yes we can is the only answer. A world where answers practically precede questions, so we need to embrace the simplicity and use it to grow. All we can ask for from you is a little more optimism and a lot more faith in us. We can’t afford to take no for an answer, because in the time it takes to say no, someone else has already said yes and now we’re stuck in the dark ages while they’re answering the next question. Take our word for it… yes we can always comes out in your favor.
Future Educator. Iowan. Passionate about People.
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