Mary-Elizabeth-Quan’ Blog

Mary-Elizabeth-Quan is a STAR member of the Discovery Educator Network

Back to School

There is a certain sense of wonder a teacher feels walking into an empty classroom. No paper on the walls. No color other than the shades of beige layered upon one another.

Standing in the middle of the room, the whispers of past conversations float in the musty air. That room has been the “home base” for students of all backgrounds and walks of life. It has been the room where students fell in love with subjects and ideas that would carry them into their futures. It has been the room where students have been disappointed and terrified to fail. It has seen tragedy and heartache; joy and love. Every classroom has a voice.

This year, my classroom speaks in bright colors. Blues and yellows and pinks, bordered in black and white animal prints and polka-dots. They match the feeling that I want to have beginning this new adventure in Middle School.

Changing My Perspective

Over the summer, I attended a Day of Discovery in San Diego. All I can say about that was WOW! My eyes were opened to the new possibilities for my classroom. It flat out changed the way I looked at teaching.

Every year, the students have to write an “Early Man” report. Every year I read pages and pages about the evolutionary process that I know were either written by parents or copied from the internet. At the end of the whole project, I know the students have not gained any new understanding or insight into the world of prehistoric humans. I was tired of the same old process. I was tired of hearing the groaning and moaning when I even mentioned the project to the students. This year, things would change.

With a little ingenuity, a little risk and a whole lot of 21st century skills, my students were introduced to college professors from throughout Southern California. They engaged in discourse with one another and college grad students who were focused on the same topic. They collaborated in person and on the internet. The excitement and interest in the topic was palpable as students developed questions, gathered data and reported their findings.

The results were 6 different slide presentations that delved far deeper into the subject of prehistoric hominid species than any of my former projects combined. The project redefined my ideas of depth and complexity. Although I still keep my students grounded in our everyday academic rigor, we are looking forward to future projects in which we get to stretch our abilities and ripple the waters of 21st century learning.