This weekend, I decided to spend part of my “retreat” at the beach watching videos. My wife Rebecca likes to spend time sitting at the beach; since I don’t feel much of a need to get a tan (see my picture here), I thought I would look for inspiring talks and videos to use for classes and future workshops.
In my search, I came across this powerful TED by Rita Pierson titled, “Every kid needs a champion” (you can view it at: http://www.ted.com/talks/rita_pierson_every_kid_needs_a_champion.html). Her basic premise is that kids will be more likely to learn if we (teachers) create better relationships with them. We NEED to value those human connections!
The past five years, I taught a 1-credit elective class, HHS125: Personal and Academic Success in HHS; honestly, the title isn’t appropriate because it’s a course focused on learning about self – values, purpose, personality – and how it applies to one’s vision and dreams. In years past, students enjoyed the class, appreciating the time to learn about himself or herself. However, I knew that something was missing. In my evaluations, students stated that the ONE thing they would like to have in the class was a way to connect with their fellow students.
This 2013 Spring Semester, I decided to “flip” my course; instead of the students doing the exercises and activities during class time, I had them do them outside of class, reflect on the results using an on-line journal that only I could read, then spend the following class time discussing and sharing their reflection with their fellow classmates. Very enriching conversations, for sure. On the last day of class, they shared their “self-portrait projects” (thanks Max Gibson, from Washtenaw Community College), a project where the students create “something” that describes what they learned about themselves during the semester and then share it with the class for 2-3 minutes. Immensely powerful stories! And at the end of that last class, everyone shared hugs and exchanged heartfelt goodbyes and best wishes. As a result of these small changes, the most common statement on this year’s evaluation was the fact that they loved the “class discussions.” In fact, a good portion of the evaluations stated that the class felt like they were “part of a family.” And for the first time in my life in a classroom setting, I felt like I finally “got it” – what I’m truly suppose to be here to do with students – and it felt AWESOME! And you can bet that I will share this “work” at the conference I’m hosting in September, “Educating for Purpose, Inspiring for Life!”
So, as you watch Rita Pierson’s TED Talk and read my brief story, do you think human connections is a necessary part of the learning process? Do you believe that relationships can improve education? Do you feel that every student needs a champion?