Big News (and my first potpourri)

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Time sure does fly by; believe it or not, I will graduate with my Master’s Degree in 30 days. Unbelievable!

Because my life is a such a whirlwind at the moment, this is the first post that is truly a potpourri (and what would this blog be, without a few medleys of stories thrown in here and there?). It is also fairly long, so feel free to read what interests you!

Story 1: Big News

About three weeks ago, W&M held a professional education job fair at the School of Education. While I arrived unsure of what to expect, any nerves quickly disappeared after my first interview, where I was actually offered a letter of intent from a school district in Virginia right there on the spot. I went on to conduct seven more interviews over the course of five hours. It was an exhausting day, but it was also incredibly rewarding, as I made valuable professional connections with districts all across the state.

Yesterday, on April 12, I was officially offered a social studies position here at my practicum school at Hornsby Middle School in Williamsburg, Virginia! I received a phone call from the central office mere minutes after I finished teaching my last block of students. I had been on pins and needles for weeks waiting to make a decision. Around 6 pm, I returned the letter of intent, indicating that I was thrilled to join the Hornsby team here in WJCC.

Story 2: A Wild Jigsaw Lesson

Four weeks ago, I taught a lesson that focused on the five weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation. The Articles of Confederation was America’s first constitution and was adopted by the Continental Congress in 1777. However, because the colonists were wary of Britain’s monarchy, they intentionally outlined a new national government that lacked power and authority. Ultimately, the Articles proved to be a failure, and in 1788, delegates from the thirteen states convened in Philadelphia and ratified a new constitution – the U.S. Constitution.

The five weaknesses (per the Virginia Standards of Learning (SOLs):

  • A weak national government
  • Congress was unable to impose taxes or regulate commerce
  • No common currency
  • Every state received one vote, regardless of size or population
  • No executive or judicial branches

Anyway, as the students’ quiz on the Articles of Confederation drew near, I decided I wanted to design a lesson that would clarify these fairly abstract concepts by providing them with opportunities to create meaningful connections with the content in a personal, “hands-on” way. To this end, I carefully created five role-play scenarios that attempted to “recreate” the conditions that would have been experienced under the Articles. Students were sorted into groups and assigned one of the five scenarios according to their strengths, abilities, and learning preferences. After completing a specific task/learning activity, they were asked to reflect upon their experiences and identify which of the five weaknesses their scenario recreated. Finally, they shared their experiences and historical connections with their peers.

For the sake of brevity, I’ll give two examples of the scenarios.

Scenario 1 (No Common Currency): Six students were given different pieces of candy and a type of foreign play money. They were told that they needed to sell their piece of candy and buy a piece of candy using the money provided. They were also instructed that they would only be allowed to eat their candy if they came away with the currency of the highest monetary value at the end of the exchange.
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Of course, because they had been handed foreign and unfamiliar currencies from around the world, my students were unable to successfully complete their task (the operational definition of “successful” here means “peacefully, cordially, and calmly”). Thus, this recreated the weakness of no common currency – specifically, that states were unable to trade with one another without confusion.

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Scenario 2 (No Judicial Branch/Consequences for Breaking Rules): Students in this group were handed a deck of cards and asked to play the card game War. However, I gave secret roles to three students that essentially told them to cheat in different ways. For example, one student was told she could look at her cards before playing them. Another student received instructions that told him that he was the dealer and that he should give himself half the deck to start the game.

This scenario certainly produced a wide range of responses from students. Some were bemused and entertained, while others were practically ready to throw their cards across the room. It is important to mention here that I took the time to carefully prepare students for the unpredictability and novelty of these scenarios before we began. Moreover, I explained to them that they would be engaging in activities that might seem unusual and mildly confusing, and that they should remain calm.

This scenario recreated the weakness of no judicial or executive branches – specifically that under the Articles of Confederation, rules were not enforced and there were no consistent repercussions for crimes and transgressions.

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Story 2: Showing Students You Care

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This Facebook post that I shared with my friends, family, and colleagues, illustrates how teaching, mentorship, and human connection can be so profoundly powerful. While this student and I have a long way to go and many more barriers to remove in the classroom, we are on the right path together. He knows that I am invested in him and that I care about his future.

Story 3: Taking 120 Students on a Field Trip!

About three weeks ago, I took students on a field trip for the very first time. Mrs. E and I brought the students to the newly-renovated Yorktown Victory Center, where students experienced a “4-d” video of the Battle of Yorktown, examined historical artifacts, tried on colonial clothes, went on a tour of colonial houses and farms, and participated in a variety of battlefield maneuvers, including marching and charging. It was a blast!

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A Nice Recognition

About a month ago, my Social Studies methods professor here at the W&M School of Education informed me that I had been nominated by the Curriculum & Instruction faculty for the Lady Margaret Thatcher Award, which is “awarded annually at the commencement ceremony to a graduate student who embodies the traits of scholarship, character, and service within the School of Education and College community.” While I may not win the award, I am honored to be a nominee and to receive recognition from the faculty here at the SOE.

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