Monday, December 24, 2012

Meet the 2013 C2C Cohort! (Audra's Teams)

We have 10 teams in the 2013 cohort, each comprised of one Emory student (from public health or nursing) and one Teach For America corps member or alum. We can't wait to meet them and get started in January!  

Lauren Nelson
Dept. of Epidemiology, Rollins School of Public Health 
I was drawn to C2C because of my interests in teaching and public health. This program is a great opportunity for hands-on experience in a local classroom while gaining a deeper understanding of the dynamic relationship between education and health. I am excited about developing curriculum that not only improves health education, but also teaches applied public health skills as they relate to relevant math and science subjects. 

Keenan Davis
High School Chemistry and Biology, Carver Health Science and Research 
My vision for the classroom largely revolves around the notion of being future oriented--thinking about the future implications of one's current actions. I am constantly looking for opportunities to convince and motivate my students to think more about their near and distant futures and the impact that their choices today have on the potential for actualizing their goals. C2C has tremendous potential to expose my students to the effects of daily choices on their health, nutrition, and emotional well-being. 

* * *

Heather Marsh
Department of Behavioral Sciences and Health Education, Rollins School of Public Health
I am excited to participate in C2C because I love teaching others, especially on health-related topics, and want to become a better teacher. I am really looking forward to getting experience in the classroom and learning through the experiences of my classmates. 

Afkera Daniel 
6th Grade Science, Woodland Middle School 
I am excited to be a part of C2C this year because it will allow me to bring health education to my students in the classroom. I am looking forward to working with my health partner to develop engaging lessons that will challenge my students to think outside of our daily content.
* * *
Lauren Head
Pediatric Primary Care, Woodruff School of Nursing
I am eager to participate in C2C because community health promotion and education are essential components of pediatric primary care nursing and I believe this program will enable me to strengthen my skills in health care communication. I delight in working with children and anticipate that this experience will ultimately equip me with the experiences and knowledge necessary to be an effective pediatric primary care provider.

Kelsey Miller
Pre-Kindergarten, Kemp Primary School
I am excited to bring an MPH student into my classroom to ensure our nation's youngest scholars receive the health education they desperately need regarding proper nutrition, sleep habits, and oral hygiene. I'm also looking forward to working with my C2C partner in developing a plan to empower my students' parents and provide them with the skills and knowledge they need to overcome some of the greatest health challenges facing their families.

 * * *

Fodie Maguiraga
Hubert Department of Global Health, Rollins School of Public Health
My father taught for more than 25 years and he always inspired me. I still remember him taking my hand with the pencil in it and show me how to write when I was a 5-year-old boy. One of his wishes was that I would become a teacher. C2C will give me the opportunity to meet people from different backgrounds and interact with them in a giving and receiving process of leaning. As a future public health practitioner, C2C will help me learn how to organize and work with communities.

Kathleen Mitchell
7th Grade Science, Freedom Middle School
I am so excited to be a part of this class for a second year and being able to focus on the health issues that face the refugee population at my school; I think this will be as much of a learning experience for myself as it will be for my students.
* * *

Uduak Bassey
Department of Behavioral Sciences and Health Education, Rollins School of Public Health
C2C serves as a unique chance for me to engage in public health through health education. I've never taught a class, although I have tutored. I have always admired teachers and the skills the profession affords. I believe C2C will challenge me in ways that would help my growth and development as a budding public health practitioner.

Nina Hyvarinen
7th Grade Science, Bethune Middle School 
I'm so excited to bring C2C back into my classroom this year to introduce my students to topics in health. They have so many questions about their own health and bodies that I know they will be excited about this too, and perhaps together we can inspire them to pursue careers in health!

Meet the 2013 C2C Cohort! (Ariela's Teams)

We have 10 teams in the 2013 cohort, each comprised of one Emory student (from public health or nursing) and one Teach For America corps member or alum. We can't wait to meet them and get started in January!

Logan Kirsch
Department of Behavioral Sciences and Health Education,
Rollins School of Public Health
I am excited to participate in Classroom 2 Community because I believe the intersection of health and education provides a valuable medium through which to promote health and wellness among youth. Working with children is one of my greatest passions, and I think this experience will help to shape my future as a health educator.

Jenny Drucker
1st Grade, George A. Towns Elementary
I am excited to work with my Emory partner to share his strengths and health knowledge with my students, in order to teach them how to take responsibility for their health. When students can take responsibility for their own health from an early age, they develop important habits and mindsets to set them up for a healthy future. When students are able to prevent health issues, they can spend more time in school, focused on their education.

* * *

Stephanie Lambert
Hubert Department of Global Health, Rollins School of Public Health

I am excited to join the C2C team because I believe that good teachers are the pillars of our communities. They can guide a student to greatness, opening eyes to the wonders of the world and unleashing the potential of the mind. Oftentimes they are also in a position to provide kindness and comfort to youth navigating the difficulties of adolescence. Teachers transform lives, and I am thrilled to be given the opportunity to do just that.

Grayce Selig
11th Grade Chemistry, McNair High School
A student’s health and his or her classroom performance are intertwined. I have come to the realization that my students will have trouble succeeding in the classroom if their personal health wavers. Coming to this understanding, I am excited to partner with the Rollins School of Public Health in order to expose and inform my students to vital information, which otherwise, they may not get anywhere else.

* * *

Jodie Simms 
Family Practice and Nurse Midwifery, Woodruff School of Nursing  
I am excited about participating in C2C because I am always searching for ways to improve my skills as a health educator. I am passionate about working in small, underserved communities and I strongly believe in the power of community and education to improve health outcomes and promote wellness from an early age. C2C will provide me with the amazing opportunity to connect with schools and learn how to be more effective as a community health provider.

Lorna Whaley
K-12th Grade Special Education,Tri-Cities High School
I am most excited about participating in C2C because I fit perfectly into the puzzle!  Having graduated from the University of Louisville School of Nursing in May 2012, I currently am an RN, BSN. C2C is going to enhance my ability to infuse my undergraduate studies into my classroom every day with my kids.

* * *

Sara Millimet
Department of Behavioral Sciences and Health Education,
Rollins School of Public Health

I could not be more excited to participate in C2C. I am eager to learn practical teaching skills and experience to allow me to further develop as a health educator. Moreover, I cannot wait to join a team of wonderful professionals working towards breaking the vicious cycle between inadequate education and poor health in the United States.

Molly Magruder
1st grade, Perkerson Elementary School

I am excited to work with C2C because I am thrilled that my amazing students will get to be exposed to knowledge to which they might not otherwise have access. I'm also excited to learn a little more about public health myself! 
* * *
Kari Bannon
Department of Behavioral Sciences and Health Education,
Rollins School of Public Health

I am excited to participate in C2C because of the experience I'll develop working with students and my TFA corps member. I look forward to developing skills that will allow me to be an effective educator, and learning how to bring health into subjects where it is not often discussed. 

Rachel Hollingsworth
6th Grade Math, Freedom Middle School
Since I have been teaching, I have not had a single day of perfect attendance. Students are often out of school because health ailments that could have easily been avoided. If they are not in school, they are not learning. And, even if students are in school, health issues often prevent them from focusing. I am excited about C2C because it will help bring health care, health issues, and healthy life styles to the forefront of my students minds. And, as a result, they will gain a quality education.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Catch On Fire

I am still glowing off the high from the C2C final dinner. It feels like graduation where you don’t want to let go. I don’t want to not see Audra and Erin and ask Alice how her lessons went and watch Sahar’s expressions while she reflects on her teaching. Something huge happened here. That room radiated with the drive and commitment that emanated from every body in the room. 

The work we do is exhausting and endless but we work tirelessly and refuel with each other’s ideas, passion, and humanity. Sometimes I wonder if teaching is as much a skill set as about being someone who inspires. In the words of the great Lauren Lamont: We are on fire. Fire is the passion and urgency that drives us. We can spread that fire by touching someone else, disseminating this partnership to other universities, drawing our students into the cause, seeing leaders in everyone around us,  challenging injustice, and living lives where we embody respect and humility in all that we do. 

Join us.

Catch on fire. 


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

An Invaluable Partnership

For me, the most invaluable part of the Classroom to Community experience has been working with and learning from my Teach for America (TFA) partner. My TFA partner is Nina Hyvarinen, a 7th grade biology teacher at Bethune Middle School.

The value (and luxury) of having a partner really hit me while Nina and I revised my first lesson plan. Prior to our meeting, I was having a hard time understanding the difference between an objective-driven lesson and an activity-driven lesson and why/how an objective-driven lesson is more effective. Nina helped me by explaining the purpose of each section of the lesson plan in detail and by giving examples from her own experiences writing lessons. She went through my lesson, section-by-section, showing me not just how to re-work it, but why.

I went back to look at my first drafts, which I had written over a month ago, and compared it to the final drafts and was amazed by the differences (it is so embarrassing to look at now!). My final lesson plans are much more condensed in information, but more explicit in directions; anything I will say in class is written in the lesson plan. My original plan for my first lesson had 6 objectives that the students would be able to complete at the end of the lesson and 15 key points of new information that they would learn. Many of these key points were not specifically related to the objectives and thus were not included in the guided practice or independent assessment. I would never have been able to complete my original lesson on time, and there was too much information for students to remember. My final plan had only 3 objectives and 11 key points. These key points were all relevant to the objectives and were repeated 3 times: in the introduction to new material, during guided practice, and during the independent assessment.

After each lesson, Nina and I “debriefed” on what went well and what didn't. She pointed out what my strengths were (presenting information clearly so that all students could understand) and what I still need to work on (giving clear directions and then holding students to it, i.e. wearing my “teacher pants”). I don't think I have ever been so happy or willing to receive constructive criticism.

How have your TFA or Rollins partners helped you to grow?

~ Erica Hazra, Rollins School of Public Health

Monday, April 23, 2012

Closing Time

This past Wednesday marked the final Classroom to Community “class” period. But for the life of me, I can’t figure out what that means. Yes, we’re finishing our lesson plans and turning in final reflections. We’re graduating. We’re running away to South America or taking big kid jobs in Atlanta. It seems to me that it’s C2C version 1’s closing time and though we don’t have to go home, we can’t stay here…Well? GOOD.

The truth is, I’m confused by what I’ll do with my free time every other Wednesday and Friday. I’m wondering what I’ll dream about if not best practices in discussing burning and itching with 10th graders. But the lessons of C2C are vast and unforgettable, dynamic and resonating. So, compadres of the Classroom and the Community: Move on, but not away. Keep learning. Keep observing. Keep experiencing. Keep doing what you do and doing what you never thought you would.

In conclusion, while reflecting on the semester, there are, of course, point moments I remember—many of them surrounding Audra’s facial expressions and the general hilarity of our class members. But the greatest lessons are in a culmination of rare experiences:
  • Guest lectures and partnership with TFA teachers in and out of our Rollins classroom
  • Developing relationships with some mad cool kids aged 4-18
  • Fielding questions from these kids as they actively participate in their learning
  • Overcoming the terror of standing in front of a room and teaching something
  • Sharing both our successes and our failures in the classroom, in order to grow
  • Getting outside that comfort zone we all love and experiencing the doctrines that brought us into public health
But, to be sure, the list goes on. So, to draw on the very voices, which have defined my C2C experience, the following themes have been pulled directly from blog postings throughout the semester.

What have we learnedWho are we? 

Time to think
Multiple levels
I do. We do. You do.
On Fire
The moment

Who do you see in C2C?

--Erin McGrath Keyes

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Self-Segregation in Our Schools

As an environmental health student at Rollins, I have read only a handful of academic articles on race, ethnicity, and mental health, so I am certainly not an expert.  I do know, however, that I found myself upset at the state of the lunch room at my assigned school.

Growing up in Chicago, I quickly realized that segregation is certainly still a problem in our current world (many neighborhoods in Chicago are associated with an ethnic group, and there is not much ‘mixing’!).  Segregation was the norm, but it was something I was never okay with accepting.  I lived in a predominately Mexican neighborhood, was the president of “Project:  Diversity” (a group at my high school promoting cultural awareness), and have always had a diverse group of friends.

A few weeks ago while observing the lunch room at my school, I was bothered when I realized that nearly all of the tables were filled with students of the same race (this school is predominately African-American, but also has a number of students from east Asian, south Asian, Middle Eastern, European, and Latino backgrounds). This brought me back to our discussion in class about the book, “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?”, and I began to explore the benefits and disadvantages of this self-segregation.

Surprisingly, little research has been conducted on the attitudes of students toward their peers of other racial groups (Kurlaender & Yun, 2007).   In fact, in my brief search, I could not find any recent articles which discussed findings I hoped to see:  the vast social and educational benefits of interacting with classmates of other races and ethnicities.  

I did come across a few very interesting figures, and I would like your help in interpreting them.  Now, I certainly understand that racial identity and cultural connection is important (although, a personal anecdote, I went to a college of Swedish heritage, full of Swedes and Swedish-Americans just like me, and I am now realizing that just about all of my best friends were some of the non-Swedes…), but I did not realize it played such a role in overall comfort in the classroom.  If you get some time during this busy thesis, pre-finals week, take a look at this article, or at least explore the following figures with me!  

-Erika Rees
RSPH, Environmental Health

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Teaching makes me feel like a...

In doing my reflection about my first lesson and gearing up for Round 2...I came to the realization that preparing to teach and teaching makes me feel like anything and anyone but myself. Here's a short list of my "out of body" teaching experiences.

1. Lesson planning makes me feel like a GPS and by that I mean...

Destination: Learning Outcome. Estimated time of arrival: End of class period.

I have to create a road map for 20 students  and keep in mind that they will all be taking different modes of transportation ( learning styles). Some may make a wrong turn or need to  detour during the trip ( questions or lack of engagement).   I may have to recalculate and constantly make sure they  turn and stop when needed ( checks for understanding).

2. Preparing teaching materials and activities makes me feel like a mad scientist and by that I mean...

Take one small group activity, add 10 minutes of  lecture, and one exit ticket and what do you ENGAGING lesson ( insert not so evil laugh here)!

No matter what activities I put together or how I put them together, each lesson is my own unique creation.

3. Evaluating my teaching  makes me feel like a interior designer and by that I mean...

Couch...check! End table...check! Loveseat...check! All the pieces are there but they can always be moved or reupholstered  to make the space seem completely new and improved.

When teaching, I know I have all the basic concepts and ideas down but I can always change the way I deliver material and make the lesson look even better.  When "redecorating" my teaching, I seek the opinions of others and take their ideas into consideration.

4. Teaching makes me feel like a superhero and by that I mean...

I get to finally live out my childhood dream and be Batman! EXCITEMENT!

But teaching  is not just about saving the day...I am someone looked to for help and get to be a role model. If everyone in Gotham City strives to be like Batman and tries to help others...pretty soon there will be no one that needs to be saved.

So, what does teaching make you feel like?

-Carrie Oliver, Rollins School of Public Health

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Taking our Work Further

Kathleen Mitchell’s blog several weeks ago briefly outlined the student population she teaches:  her population includes both seventh graders who are refugees and currently learning English as well as students who are native speakers.  I have had the privilege of observing in Kathleen’s classroom, getting to know her kids and, just this past week, teaching a health education lesson.
After discussing health topics with Kathleen and doing an initial assessment, we decided that I would teach two lessons on nutrition.  I decided to start with the food groups for my first lesson.  The lesson was fun—the kids shared their favorite foods, shouted out which foods were vegetables, which were fruits, and showed me their muscles in order to identify a food with protein. 
            Teaching a class of students who are native English speakers as well as those who aren’t is a challenge.  While some students wanted to know if corn and potatoes were vegetables, others were learning the word “corn” for the first time.  When they were asked to draw their own plate, some kids were sly enough to draw a pizza and show how pizza had all the food groups, but others were struggling to find the words in English for the foods that they ate at home.
            I can say with some confidence that all the kids learned something; but what they each learned was different depending on their previous experience and knowledge, not only linguistically but also their nutritional knowledge.  For me this demonstrated something very important that we need to consider when thinking about improving health to facilitate better learning and vice versa: we have to remember where the kids are coming from.  Different languages are only the beginning.  Teaching and planning the lesson I was constantly asking myself, but what do the students eat at home?  What about their behaviors when they themselves choose their food? What are they able to choose? From my work with other refugees in the Atlanta area I know that the amount of money they have to live on is very little, and often times the access to food is also limited.  And it’s not just the situation for refugees.  Just looking around the area near Freedom Middle School where Kathleen teaches, there is limited access to food. 
Standing in the classroom chatting with these kids about food was great. I mean, who doesn’t like food?  But I found myself asking, how can we really make a change in their eating habits?  Two classes of 45 minutes with these kids won’t change their behavior.  What they need are social workers, nurses, and advocates who will help the kids and their families find the resources they need to access healthy, affordable food.
I think we as public health students have learned a lot teaching these health lessons, but what I’ve learned more than anything is that we can’t stop here.  As all the “Behavioral Sciences and Health Education” students from Rollins can explain to you far better than I, behavior change has multiple levels and requires intensive work.  That is what we as students, professionals, and a school must make an effort to do as well.  In order to really change something we need to put our energy into long-term community partnerships with organizations and populations who demonstrate a need for public health professionals.  Relationships like these can grow and improve, benefitting both the population served and Rollins students who will have an opportunity to see how health issues can be addressed in different communities.
 Luckily, one partnership has begun that aims to bring together Rollins students and TFA corps members to address these issues.  ConnectEd 4 Health, mentioned in Michael’s earlier blog, was recently started by TFA corps members and alumni as a collaboration between TFA and RSPH.  One of the goals is to improve health outcomes for students in the schools where TFA corps members teach.  This burgeoning partnership is an important and sustainable step towards creating long-lasting collaboration between public health and education leaders.  I am excited to see the work and progress that ConnectEd for Health makes in the coming years, and hope that all of us can contribute in some way.

--Brianna Keefe-Oates, Rollins School of Public Health, Global Health Department

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Lessons Learned. Great Lessons.

I taught my first lesson yesterday morning, and it was such an awesome experience!  I learned so much throughout this process—much of it from what I had not anticipated.  To start from the beginning, I’ll go back to last week when we turned in our lesson plan drafts.  After getting feedback, I started to think about how I could make changes to the lesson plan. 

This is where the learning began for me. 

The suggestions and feedback (although some specific to the content), was more about getting me to think.  What did I want the students to learn? How was I going to assess them? What was I going to do the get there?  Now these were all things we had talked about in C2C a few weeks earlier when Audra, Scot, and Ariela had talked about creating lesson plans—but this was a reality check.  I need to continuously ask myself these questions.

Ah, the power of discussion.  It was through conversations, emails, and phone calls with Michael, as well as, sitting down to talk with fellow C2Cers (shout out to Erin Keyes!) where I could bounce around some ideas.  This is when everything started to come together.  I had made the assumption that as soon as I got feedback on my lesson plan, I knew exactly what I needed to change, and that I’d be told what to do. No, no.  That’s too easy—now where’s the fun in that? Instead, they asked me questions. Questions that I didn’t know how to answer off the top of my head.  So I had to really give myself some time. Time to think

Can I just say? Props to teachers! It takes so long to make lessons, and you do this every day J 

Now I find myself the morning of the lesson.  I’m nervous and pumped (blasted some tunes on the drive down)!  Michael has reassured me that the students are excited for me to teach—little did they know that I was sweating bullets!  But honestly, as soon as I got up there and saw all of their faces, the nervousness (not the sweating) went away. It was so much fun, and oh boy, did I have my hands full! I had to field questions from students, keep them engaged, anticipate when their comments may go off track, pace the class, check to make sure that they were learning the concepts, and keep time!  I managed to do some of those more easily than others, but I had some challenges.  There’s so much I can (and want) to work on.

I look forward to debriefing with Michael, and learning more about what I can work on for next time in order to make a better experience for the students.  Self-reflection and feedback are key motivators for me, and this was the perfect opportunity.  Nothing beats experience.  It certainly put to rest any concerns and assumptions I had before I walked in that day.

I’d love to hear from fellow C2Cers and TFA CMs! How did the first lesson go? What worked? What were some of the challenges? How did the students respond?

- Sahar Salek, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Health (or lack thereof) in the classroom

I see healthcare issues every single day in my classes. They invade my lesson plans, they spoil labs, they get in the way of homework being completed, and they cause quizzes not to be finished. My school serves a high population of English Language Learners (ELL) who are refugees from over 100 different countries, so some of the health problems that I see are sometimes even “third world.” The fact that we do not even have a nurse to serve our school population of almost 800 students means that sometimes I, along with Google, get to be a nurse as well as a teacher.
One student more than any other stands out in my mind at the example of how a health care issue that could have been prevented impeded his ability to learn. Shane is a high achieving student, meaning that he scored in the upper percentile on the CRCT last year; he is a good student. He started to miss days of school and would frequently leave early, he was unfocused when he was in class, and he would often put his head down. One day, his mom came in and asked for his work, because he would be out for two weeks; he had to have emergency surgery because of a tooth abscess. She then went on to elaborate that his tooth abscess had been so bad that the hospital called DFACS because for his abscess to be at the point that it was indicated parental negligence.
This story points to a few reoccurring and underlying themes of healthcare issue in the classroom. Shane, although he was in an unthinkable amount of pain, did not want to add to the stresses of his mom. He shares her same concerns of being able to pay rent, being able to make the energy bill, and to be able to afford food. So, instead of telling her the pain that he was in, he kept it to himself because he knew affordable healthcare was not available to him. Furthermore, if Shane had been going to regular dental checkups, this could have been avoided. But again, this type of health care is simply not available to many low income students.
As a classroom teacher, I'd love to have readily available and healthcare to my students; even if it as basic as someone who can take their temperature when they are feeling ill. The myriad of illnesses from mental, to dental, to eye care, to basic hygiene, that I encounter on a daily basis go largely overlooked, even though they greatly impede learning. Because a large number of educators are not aware of the resources available for students, they often see these illnesses as something that they have to work with, rather than something that they can fix.
 I believe that the solution to the issue of poor health in low income student populations is twofold.    First, I believe by bringing in healthcare education into the classroom, not only will students be more comfortable expressing when they are not in good health, but they will also be able to identify their own healthcare concerns and ultimately prevent them.  Finally, by bringing a collaborative group of community medical partners, we can have a resource pool that is readily available to educators and students so that these health issues are dealt with in an effective and expedient manner.  
- Kathleen Kayner Mitchell, 7th grade science, Freedom Middle School

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Repeat After Me

“So you’re saying that we should only teach new material for 15 minutes in a 45 minute period?”  That was the question on all of our minds after Audra and Scot explained their example lesson plan.  Since most of us have been sitting in graduate level courses for the past year or two, the idea of repetition in teaching is somewhat foreign to us.  However, if you think about the basics of learning, repetition is key.  None of us learned to read, write, spell, or perform basic math functions like multiplication and division without lots of repetition.  How long did it take you to memorize your times tables?  I remember spending almost all of second grade going over them again and again. 

Of course, learning shouldn’t always be reduced to repetition and memorization.  As teachers, we should also teach students the skills they need in order to be able to self-learn.  If you think about it, these skills involve repetition.  Things like going over your notes after class, making flash cards to study, editing your essays, explaining what you know to a friend, taking sample exams.  As adults, companies try to sell us tools that will help us learn new material.  Their secret?  Repetition.

In his 9th grade math class, Trenton ensures that his students will practice the same type of problem several times over the course of a class period by creating lesson plans with built-in repetition.  First, students work review problems on their own, then the class goes over them on the board.  Next, new material is introduced:  the class works problems together, then students work on their own, then they help other students.  Finally, students work practice problems for homework.  The next day, the whole process is repeated as students go over their homework and work review problems. 

I do.  We do.  You do.

Repetition is the mother of learning.  

-Sarah File

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Classroom to Community through your eyes!

Familiar with Wordle? This is one of my favorite things on the Internet and can be incorporated into all kinds of classroom activities.

This is a Wordle taken from our mid-course evaluations, both from Rollins students and from Teach For America corps members. I took the text from the last part of our course evaluation in which Gaelle gave me some questions to ask that will help her design our class logo.

I will post something similar at the end of class with our final evaluation from the TFA perspectives and the MPH perspectives about what folks got out of the class.

So -- what do you think? Does this accurately reflect our class? What's missing? What's overemphasized? Interested in your thoughts!

PS -- Check out Classroom to Community in the Emory Report!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Defying the Laws of Physics

“Why are you doubting yourself?” Mr. Kacker asked, as the students of his physics class stared at him in silence. A girl in the back of the classroom raised her hand and bravely provided her answer to a difficult physic question; she answered correctly. “I don’t get mad when you get wrong answers,” Shawn stated, “I get mad when you don’t try.”
Physics, I’ll admit, was the subject I feared the most in high school. From learning Isaac Newton’s three laws of motion to grasping the difficult concepts of thermodynamics, I have always found physics to be incredibly challenging and often times discouraging to learn. From observing Shawn’s class, I can often see this fear of physics expressed in the eyes of his students. However, no matter the level of difficulty of the topic covered each week, I constantly see Shawn’s students continuing to push themselves and actively engaging in discussion and answering questions. Their willingness to shout out answers, raise questions, and relate concepts of physics to their own everyday lives is what impresses me. The students have shown me that with a little encouragement from their teacher, they are willing to learn anything. Physics is no exception.
As the weeks pass and the time of my first health education lecture draws near, my mind continues to be filled with questions including the following: What do the students need to learn about public health or their health? Where do they see themselves after high school? Is asking about their daily lives or plans for the future appropriate or will it be too intrusive? What are their learning styles and how can I incorporate all of them into my lectures?
“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”
-Albert Einstein

 - Alvin Tran

Saturday, March 3, 2012

A Week With Dr. Seuss

      “Criss-cross applesauce, spoons in a bowl,” called out Miss Drucker. Just like that, sixteen first graders crossed their legs, put their hands in their laps, and sat patiently on the carpet while Miss Drucker proceeded with her lesson. It was Dr. Seuss week at George A. Towns Elementary School, and Miss Drucker was teaching her first graders how to summarize a story using the book, The Sneetches and Other Stories. She captivated her audience from the beginning of the lesson when she introduced the topic of summarization. “Why do we read?” she asked. “To make our brains bigger!” “To get smarter!” “To get jobs!” were some of the answers.
      We discussed the Teach for America core value of Leadership in our Classroom to Community class this week, and as I observed Miss Drucker teaching her first graders, I noticed how much she embodied the vision of leadership that Teach for America has for its members. She sets challenging goals for her students, and works determinedly to help them achieve these goals. Some of the children came into class that year reading at a kindergarten level. Some of them came in at a low first grade level. Others were average or advanced. But each of them has a goal reading level, and almost all of them have made or exceeded their goal through the course of the year.
      The delight of reading Dr. Seuss helps Miss Drucker’s first graders engage with the material. This, combined with Miss Drucker’s energy, support and determination to push her students to achieve, has made a recipe for successful learning. It is truly amazing and inspiring to watch it happen.

Thursday, March 1, 2012


“The leap is so frightening between where I am and where I want to be. Because of all I may become, I will close my eyes and jump.”

I read this on a TFA blog about reflecting on the whole process of becoming a teacher. 

So much of teaching and leadership is truly that leap of faith – in yourself, that you can do it; and in others, that they may follow.

You all know how much I love teaching… but last night’s class was great because I didn’t do any teaching – I just got to sit back and watch. Honestly, I actually felt myself tear up at times watching so much greatness in our class. I felt really proud to work with such an awesome group of people.

In Audra, I can see the classroom teacher that she was and the amazing doctor that she will be. I think about how lucky Scot’s kids are to have such a focused and organized teacher… and what an amazing difference Amy will make with her ability to create such a clear and inspiring vision for her students and where that will lead her after getting an MPH. I thought about Lauren’s dedication to her corps members and their students and how much owns her role as a leader of teachers.

I thought about:
·   Alice starting to use her “teacher voice” in class (with a soft smile).
·   Sarah reconciling her previous experiences as a boarding school teacher compared to an inner-city classroom.
·   Lolly ready to change the world through PreK health ed.
·   Erin, newly introduced to backwards planning, describing several lesson objectives and methods for assessment.
·   The way many of you have started to refer to the TFA students as “my kids.”

In short, I see leaders: smart and passionate people who are outraged by inequality and are motivated to do something to change it. As we talked about last night, transformational leadership starts with a vision and an in-depth understanding of context: where are we now and where do we want to be?

And then there are the strategies to get from here to there. Those skills can be learned. But what really makes the difference is the willingness to take that leap – to decide to grow into the person you can become if you are willing to take a huge risk.

At some point in my life I realized that there were people behind me who believed I could do things I didn’t think I could do.  That gave me the confidence to take some risks I probably would not have taken otherwise. I would not be where I am now without those people in my life who encouraged me to close my eyes and take that leap.

In short, Classroom to Community would not be happening without that influence in my life because I would have been too scared to try something with so much potential to be great (or to fail, depending on how you look at it).

The best part of this class is that I get to be one of those people that can see all that potential in each of you. I get to see you realize that in yourselves and learn how to foster that in others – a spark into a flame into a torch to guide a greater vision.

Teach like you’re on fire. Lead like that’s the only place you gotta go.

Close your eyes and jump.

And that’s why I Teach For America.

- Ariela Freedman

Fighting Failure with Communication

Many students live in a world where it’s easy to give up on them. Their communities are burdened with so many challenges, that it’s easier to say “Get out!” than it is to tackle a behavior problem and acknowledge underlying social factors. Sometimes, this is rationalized by saying that the student is disrupting classroom learning—that you’re doing it for the benefit of the other students. But what do the other students see? They see you giving up on a classmate. Soon, they think, you might give up on them too. So what’s the point of behaving well?

Observing Ms. Bryson, I’ve seen an alternative teaching style. She constantly reinforces positive models, pointing out individual students and their behaviors. “I see Darius working hard on his class work. I see Kayla raising her hand quietly.” Instead of tearing the students down for their misbehaviors, she tells them, “I want you to tell me what you need.” Communication and resolution. It doesn’t always work. And it never looks easy. But there is something incalculably rewarding about seeing a student learn a life skill. This not only helps students create a positive learning culture, it helps them communicate their needs and their passions. Once they master communication, they have the potential to succeed.

"Education is not a way to escape poverty - It is a way of fighting it." 
 Julius Nyerere, former President of the United Republic of Tanzania

- Gaelle Gourmelon