Can We Create a Better Future for Learning?

By: Shannon Boatwright

Yet again, my deep thinking, passionate child has inspired me. She cares deeply about the earth, animals, health, and people. She recently has become a fan of YouTuber, Prince Ea and I’m ok with that because this guy gets people thinking, puts important issues in our faces and forces us to think, to discuss, and to hopefully take action.

A couple of weeks ago she shared with me Prince Ea’s video, “Why School Sucks.” Now I don’t care for the title, though the realistic side of me has to agree on many levels. I’m an individual who has seen all sides of the occupation world. I’ve worked with big companies, I’ve worked with small, family-owned companies, I’ve worked in the entertainment business, I’ve been a freelance worker, I’ve been an entrepreneur, I’ve been a stay-at-home mom, I’ve taught privately, and now I teach in the public school system. I’ve seen and experienced a whole lot from different sides of the game, therefore I feel like I have a well-rounded view of this issue at hand, which is:

We NEED to create a better future for learning!

Our system is askew. It needs MAJOR reform. When my girl showed me Prince Ea’s fabulous video mentioned above, I had just taken my middle school classes through a lesson about the tools in the actor’s toolbox. After the lesson, I pointed out to all my students how I made sure to present the information in such a way that reached every type of learner – visual, auditory, kinesthetic. They read the information, they saw the information in unique ways, they heard the information, and they physically experienced the info. My students were given every opportunity to develop a deep understanding of the knowledge I was imparting on them. And my students responded very positively to this. They appreciated it.

After I saw Prince Ea’s video, it certainly made me feel good about my teaching approach. I made sure to share the video with all of my classes. I loved his main point that we are all different learners and the sooner we discover our individual learning style, the sooner we can be successful. He also encourages his audience to never let someone tell us that we are slow or incapable of doing anything. I felt like this was truly a crucial piece of advice that my students, and everyone for that matter, need to hear.

My students were captivated by the video. I honestly think it helped them put the pieces together and gain an appreciation for my efforts, as well as build a confidence in themselves and understanding their own personal educational journey. It was a wonderful experience to impart this knowledge and realization on my students.

I also made sure to show my students Prince Ea’s video, “Ten Celebrities Who Failed.”

This video just reinforced the information in the first video I shared with them. It reminded them that everyone has obstacles to overcome, but success can be attained. With persistence, incredible effort and confidence in your ability, success can be yours.

In relation to this topic, I came across the Facebook channel, “Atttn: Stories Worth Your Attention.” They share a variety of videos that make incredible points and also get people thinking. On this channel, I recently saw a video in which Mike Rowe discusses the importance of learning a trade. In the U.S. so much emphasis is put on getting a college degree, and we’re often led to believe that going to college is the only path to success. The truth is, many companies cannot find qualified people to fill important trade positions. I especially like Mike Rowe’s point that “the jobs that exist right now, do not require a four-year liberal arts degree. They instead require the willingness to actually learn a skill that is in demand.” Think on that. I’m sure everyone could provide an opinion, personal experience, and input on that topic.

To top off my inspirational journey with this whopper of an issue, my fabulous girl then shared Prince Ea’s video, “The People vs. The School System.”

In this captivating video he asks, “How do YOU think we can create a better future of learning?” The question alone blows my mind and immediately sends me into a tailspin of all the ways I want to answer the question and demand change for the learners of the world.

There are a lot of videos out there of teachers’ and principals’ reactions to this video. They all seem to agree with what Prince EA says, but some do point out that he doesn’t necessarily provide a solution. Well, he does bring up other countries who have made the change to create education success. So there is a solution – MAJOR CHANGE. Look to other countries who are creating such success with their new and improved education system and model them. There’s your answer. Our problem in America is that there are people willing to discuss it, to agree on these issues, yet they don’t have the guts to stand up and attempt to make a real change take place. The higher-ups are stalling any chance for progress because they’re on the fast track to something greater – which really just means, they’re on their own personal mission for higher status and higher pay. Therefore, we lower folks in this education totem pole are trapped in a sense. We’re at the mercy of those in the higher positions above us and until these higher level position people are willing to take a real chance in making a difference then the change will never, ever happen…we will stay within the confines of this ridiculous education system that is in desperate need of reform.

Yep, it’s certainly a vicious cycle. As individuals, what we can do is create awareness and simply change how we do things.

As a student: Discovering how we learn and making sure our teachers understand how we learn best. Being open, honest and aware!

As a teacher: We must make the effort to reach each student. And along with speaking up about this topic with our fellow teachers and our students, we must bring the issue to the higher-ups, creating a respectful atmosphere that makes them have to listen and want to be a part of making a change. Truth is when enough voices demand change and show the proof for why it’s so crucially needed, then the higher-ups have to do something. Right? We must respectfully put the people in power in positions to have to make a change and take action. They have to feel the pressure. We have to rally and speak up if we want to create a better future for learning. But that movement always starts at the grassroots, and that is where our power lies!

So if you are passionate about this topic, whether you’re experiencing it firsthand in some way, already have felt the blow of the flaws of our system, see the effects of a lacking system on the job front or are living it with your own children, share your thoughts, create conversation, engage in the mission to improve learning for all.

Molding Words

By: Shannon Boatwright

One of my incredible, honors drama students was recently accepted into the SC Governor’s School for creative writing. This is not an easy program to get accepted into.  This particular young lady is wise beyond her years and always impresses me with her smarts and her skills. She happens to be a fabulous actress. A natural. I discovered recently that she is a writer and a really good one. I have to admit that I’m sad I did not really discover this talent of hers until the end of her 8th grade year. I too, love to write. I enjoy the challenge of putting words together in such a way that it grabs people’s attention, even hopefully inspires them or makes them think. This brilliant young girl and I share a love for writing, whether writing for ourselves or for others. I love her style, I love her wit. I wish I could share more of her writing here, especially the entry that got her accepted into Governor’s School. But for now, I’d like to share just a little taste with you readers – a bit of a tease if you will. Her name is Melissa Cripe. In the years to come, as she continues to create success for herself, I have a feeling her name will be known. My hope is that she will never stop building on those natural talents of hers and that she will continue to shine and share her artistry!

I am young, I do admit. I don’t have fifty years of experience under my belt, making me see the world in a point of view that makes everything have twelve different meanings, each one worse than the last. I’m not going to spill some philosophy that no one wants to hear. I can’t promise you that you will want to hear this, but I am going to try to make it worth something. Because there are very few truths in the world, and here’s one. Words are just words, no matter how fancy and sophisticated they are. Words can be molded into anything you want, but they don’t have to mean anything. Most of the time they don’t mean anything. That’s what writers are here for. They make words into something that may hold a little bit of weight in society. They make words into something that may mean something to someone. Words are a writer’s paint and paintbrush, music and instrument. A writer isn’t given fancy tools to work with. Nothing to spend a lot of money on and nothing that will improve their writing with its price tag and fancy material. All writers have is words, and dang is that hard. But I am here to bend my words into something that might help simplify this place we call the world. I am only 14, but that means my view of the world is untainted. I say things as I see them, not as I have heard others say they have seen them. So, if my words don’t agree with yours, write something of your own and see where that takes you.

                                                                                                Written By Melissa Cripe

Characterizations

By: Crissie Miller Kirby

As I sit here tonight, grading spelling tests, homework assignments, and creative writing pages, I reflect on my new position and exactly what wisdom I am trying to convey to “my kids.”

BooksWhile my official title and role is an English Language Arts teacher for middle and high school, I want to be much more than that. I want to be a champion for them. I want them to learn that education is more than a number in a grade book. While I have admitted that I, myself, was overly concerned with my numeric grades growing up, the extra lessons were not lost on me either. Little did I know that those people who taught me English and Grammar and Algebra would, in fact, be educating me on how to be a better person in the world; and, ultimately, they have taught me how to be an educator as well.

Do I set out to impart important life lessons on them? No, not exactly. Certainly they are always in the back of my mind, but I don’t structure a lesson plan around them. This week’s lessons with my oldest students, my ninth and tenth grade English I and English II classes, have offered me an opportunity to share something I feel is important as we move through our lives: how to see the good in others and how our thoughts can be used to uplift others instead of drag them down.

Our focus right now is Literature, and, in doing so, we have discussed characterizations of some of our texts’ main and secondary characters – characteristics that are both plainly stated and others that are inferred from the story and setting and actions. How has this played out into a life lesson, you ask? As we were writing, on the board, characterizations of fictitious people, one student half joked that we should do a characterization of another student. That student actually agreed and a new, better homework assignment was born in that moment. I had my students write their names twice on a piece of paper. Each name was put into a bucket and each student drew two classmates for whom they would do characterizations. I gave only one stipulation: the characterizations had to be positive. If a classmate had a seemingly negative trait, think on it. Could it be positive in some manner?

Initially, I thought that I would just have them turn their characterizations in and at first that is what I did. But, as I began to skim over them in class, I decided that this might be a perfect opportunity for these students to see themselves as others see them, and to see that, even when you don’t get the grade you thought you would get, the day your best friend is upset with you, the day you get into a fight with your parents, that you have value. You have worth, and others see positivity radiating from you.

So, this afternoon, I took some time and compiled the characterizations and have prepared a page for each of my students. And I can hardly wait to hand them out tomorrow and talk with my students about the information they see in front of them.

When was the last time you told someone about the positive characteristics you see in them? Have you ever? I know that I have not done this well. I challenge each of you to take time out of your day to think of someone who might need an encouragement boost today, write out some positive characteristics and give it to them. It may just be the encouragement that he or she needs.As I sit here tonight, grading spelling tests, homework assignments, and creative writing pages, I reflect on my new position and exactly what wisdom I am trying to convey to “my kids.”

While my official title and role is an English Language Arts teacher for middle and high school, I want to be much more than that. I want to be a champion for them. I want them to learn that education is more than a number in a grade book. While I have admitted that I, myself, was overly concerned with my numeric grades growing up, the extra lessons were not lost on me either. Little did I know that those people who taught me English and Grammar and Algebra would, in fact, be educating me on how to be a better person in the world; and, ultimately, they have taught me how to be an educator as well.

Do I set out to impart important life lessons on them? No, not exactly. Certainly they are always in the back of my mind, but I don’t structure a lesson plan around them. This week’s lessons with my oldest students, my ninth and tenth grade English I and English II classes, have offered me an opportunity to share something I feel is important as we move through our lives: how to see the good in others and how our thoughts can be used to uplift others instead of drag them down.

Our focus right now is Literature, and, in doing so, we have discussed characterizations of some of our texts’ main and secondary characters – characteristics that are both plainly stated and others that are inferred from the story and setting and actions. How has this played out into a life lesson, you ask? As we were writing, on the board, characterizations of fictitious people, one student half joked that we should do a characterization of another student. That student actually agreed and a new, better homework assignment was born in that moment. I had my students write their names twice on a piece of paper. Each name was put into a bucket and each student drew two classmates for whom they would do characterizations. I gave only one stipulation: the characterizations had to be positive. If a classmate had a seemingly negative trait, think on it. Could it be positive in some manner?

Initially, I thought that I would just have them turn their characterizations in and at first that is what I did. But, as I began to skim over them in class, I decided that this might be a perfect opportunity for these students to see themselves as others see them, and to see that, even when you don’t get the grade you thought you would get, the day your best friend is upset with you, the day you get into a fight with your parents, that you have value. You have worth, and others see positivity radiating from you.

So, this afternoon, I took some time and compiled the characterizations and have prepared a page for each of my students. And I can hardly wait to hand them out tomorrow and talk with my students about the information they see in front of them.

When was the last time you told someone about the positive characteristics you see in them? Have you ever? I know that I have not done this well. I challenge each of you to take time out of your day to think of someone who might need an encouragement boost today, write out some positive characteristics and give it to them. It may just be the encouragement that he or she needs.

As I sit here tonight, grading spelling tests, homework assignments, and creative writing pages, I reflect on my new position and exactly what wisdom I am trying to convey to “my kids.”

While my official title and role is an English Language Arts teacher for middle and high school, I want to be much more than that. I want to be a champion for them. I want them to learn that education is more than a number in a grade book. While I have admitted that I, myself, was overly concerned with my numeric grades growing up, the extra lessons were not lost on me either. Little did I know that those people who taught me English and Grammar and Algebra would, in fact, be educating me on how to be a better person in the world; and, ultimately, they have taught me how to be an educator as well.

Do I set out to impart important life lessons on them? No, not exactly. Certainly they are always in the back of my mind, but I don’t structure a lesson plan around them. This week’s lessons with my oldest students, my ninth and tenth grade English I and English II classes, have offered me an opportunity to share something I feel is important as we move through our lives: how to see the good in others and how our thoughts can be used to uplift others instead of drag them down.

Our focus right now is Literature, and, in doing so, we have discussed characterizations of some of our texts’ main and secondary characters – characteristics that are both plainly stated and others that are inferred from the story and setting and actions. How has this played out into a life lesson, you ask? As we were writing, on the board, characterizations of fictitious people, one student half joked that we should do a characterization of another student. That student actually agreed and a new, better homework assignment was born in that moment. I had my students write their names twice on a piece of paper. Each name was put into a bucket and each student drew two classmates for whom they would do characterizations. I gave only one stipulation: the characterizations had to be positive. If a classmate had a seemingly negative trait, think on it. Could it be positive in some manner?

Initially, I thought that I would just have them turn their characterizations in and at first that is what I did. But, as I began to skim over them in class, I decided that this might be a perfect opportunity for these students to see themselves as others see them, and to see that, even when you don’t get the grade you thought you would get, the day your best friend is upset with you, the day you get into a fight with your parents, that you have value. You have worth, and others see positivity radiating from you.

So, this afternoon, I took some time and compiled the characterizations and have prepared a page for each of my students. And I can hardly wait to hand them out tomorrow and talk with my students about the information they see in front of them.

When was the last time you told someone about the positive characteristics you see in them? Have you ever? I know that I have not done this well. I challenge each of you to take time out of your day to think of someone who might need an encouragement boost today, write out some positive characteristics and give it to them. It may just be the encouragement that he or she needs.

Welcome to My “New” World

By: Crissie Miller Kirby 

Classroom

By the time you read this, I will be firmly entrenched in my new routine and my “new” world. I use the term “new” loosely because while the job and position are new, the location is not new at all.

As many of you know, I have spent the better part of the last year searching for the “right” job; one where I could be challenged daily and where I could make a difference in this world. After applying for I’m not really sure how many jobs, interviewing for a few, and not being selected for them, I was beginning to become downtrodden. I was frustrated. I was beginning to get angry.

Then, shortly after the 2013-2014 school year ended for my children, I received the email that would change everything for me. In a very sad turn of events, my children’s school had two beloved, and long-time, members of the faculty pass away last year. To help fill those positions (along with a few additional ones), the school was seeking a number of new teachers for the 2014-2015 school year.

Did I really want to be a teacher?

Could I be a teacher?

I cannot explain the drive and desire that came from within me to become a member of the faculty at W. Wyman King Academy. There were the obvious benefits of being on the same holiday and vacation schedule as the boys and not having to wonder how they would get to and from school; but that was only the tip of the iceberg for me. It was more than just a random teaching position; they needed an English I and II teacher. English . . .  And what position in the world allows a person to make a difference more than being a teacher?

Hmmmm . . .

I thought about it. Constantly. I could barely think of anything else.

I’ve always admired teachers. I’ve long been grateful for teachers, professors, and other faculty/staff members I’ve had in my life during my educational career; but, I just didn’t think I could actually be a teacher. I was unsure of my abilities. I was completely sure of my desire to make a difference and my love of English and grammar.

So, I did it. I applied for the English position.

And, I interviewed.

And, I was offered the position.

And, I accepted it.

Me? Be a teacher? And I was over the moon excited about it?

Yes, I was.

I mean, I am.

Our school year officially started on August 14th, so I have been filling my days and nights and weekends with school work.

And, you know what? I love it. I love the challenge that each new day brings.

In addition to English I and II, I am also teaching three middle school grammar courses, so I have 5 different sets of students each and every day. Teaching 6th through 10th graders provides an almost hourly change of pace, as each group has their own dynamics that are special and unique. There is definitely no monotony here! Being in an independent school setting provides me with relatively small class sizes that range from a low of 11 to a high of 17; it also affords me an opportunity to really get to know my students.

We are already moving in to our 3rd week of school, and the excitement has yet to wear off for me. I love being in my classroom, books and chalk (or dry erase markers) in hand. I love to see the looks on “my” kids’ faces as we work together and those light bulbs begin to flicker on. I love reading their daily “bell work” musings. I look forward to seeing what this coming year will bring and being able to share it with you. (Some of my kids want me to put them into my Every Woman blog postings!)

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I commented that the location of my new position was not new. There is something a little bit surreal (and more than a little bit funny) every time I unlock the door to room number 7 at W. Wyman King Academy; a room in which I, myself, was educated less than twenty years ago. Rooms that, in a few short years, God willing, will also hold my boys, as they each have attended WKA since 4K.

You see, my new world is only “new” in theory. My journey has led me to a place that is as much like home as any other. Life has truly come full circle.