Our K-1 theme this year is curiosity and excitement in learning. This made me think back on my career in education. As many of you know teaching is my second career after having spent thirty-five years in corporate America. When my corporate career ended I decided to pursue a career in education. After receiving my certification I embarked on seeking employment in my new chosen field of elementary education. I spent one year substitute teaching while putting in applications for teaching jobs.
Generally when you fill out an application in education you are asked your preference for the grade level you would like to teach. Mine looked like this:
1st Choice – 3rd Grade
2nd Choice – 2nd Grade
3rd Choice – 4th Grade
4th Choice – 5th Grade
5th Choice – Kindergarten
At that time the thought of teaching a class of 5-6 year olds how to read and write was the least appealing grade level to me.
Well, as things turned out, I began to get substitute jobs for kindergarten. Word quickly went out that there was someone willing to sub in kindergarten. Evidently, it’s not the most popular grade level to sub in. But the more I did it, the more I enjoyed it and I eventually fell in love with teaching this grade. The very level that I had made up my mind would be my least favorite choice became what I wanted to teach.
I pledged to myself to make this first step in education an experience that would keep them wanting to come back every day for more. I wanted the students to be excited about learning. Children come with natural curiosity that makes it easy for five and six years to absorb anything and everything that comes before them. My job is to fuel that fire in ways that excites them about school and the possibilities that school opens for them.
Project Based Learning (PBL) is just the ticket to engage children in the challenges for solving complex questions and problems. For Project Based learning to be successful the teacher must design the project to scaffold and align to core standards for each grade level and to student developmental level.
An example of this process was our first PBL exercise this year.
Our K-1 students were asked to create two totally new political parties that would align with their values of what was important to them. Politics and the political process is a subject that most five to seven year olds probably don’t know much about. That meant that my challenge was to give them some insight into the political process of our country and explain it in a way that they could understand. This is also where the teacher must depart from the traditional role of direct instruction and enter into the role of facilitator. This is not always easy to do, but when done successfully, it allows the children to discover, on their own, a higher level of thinking and collaboration with themselves and their peers.
I will leave you with the challenge of looking deeper into Project Based Learning by talking with your child’s teacher about PBL or checking out some resources online to further your understanding.
Project Based Learning Resources for Parents
Parents Guide to Project Based Learning
PBL, Common Core and NextGen Standards