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