Last week during one of my many inspirational and motivational speeches, a student raised her hand and said,
“Mrs. Kyle, you should get a box and write soap on it…that way you can actually stand on it when you’re talking.”
So I did.
It was a great idea.
That kid is going places.
I’ll need to tell the whole story, but first some background:
I team teach a STEM program at our middle school. There are three of us…a science teacher (that’s me), a math teacher and CTE teacher. We are doing something that hasn’t really been done. We have no model to follow. Most STEM classes are electives, not an integrated course that addresses Next Generation Science Standards, Common Core Math Standards and a Career and Technical Education Framework. Those are teaching buzzwords for what we’ve taken on…which equates to a whole lot of crazy.
But I believe in the work we’re doing. It’s the right direction to take in education. Math and Science shouldn’t be taught in separate courses. It makes so much sense to integrate and provide authentic connections for our students.
We’ve designed the entire program. We meet every day at planning and lunch and before school and after school. It’s a good thing we like each other. That’s a lot of teamwork. I mean I can pretty much get along with everyone. I’m just likable like that…(haha).
My teammates are awesome teachers. They are real and down to earth and hilarious. We laugh. A lot. In fact, our whole school pretty much rocks. I love my job. That was actually part of my soap box speech…loving your job.
Hold on, I’m getting ahead of myself.
I am easily distracted. That’s probably annoying. So I guess I’m not always so likable. Maybe just like 98% of the time 💁🏻(OMG…I just learned how to insert emojis and I would like to apologize now for how obnoxious I’m about to be)!
So we teach a STEM program and our mission is huge, but part of it is to provide our students with a community connection and career readiness. They may only be in 7th and 8th grade, but they can start thinking about their futures now. It just may inspire them to work hard and take advantage of more opportunities in High School.
Here’s the thing. We graduate far too many uninspired and unprepared kids from our K-12 schools. These are the same kids, who in kindergarten believed they could change the world. The same kids who once imagined that they could be and do ANYTHING. Their imaginations ran wild and the joy on their faces about going to school was anything but uninspired.
So what happened?
We somehow squash their love for learning. I hate that. I do know that when you are told over and over and over again everything you are not good at…it sinks in and school feels overwhelming and frustrating far more often than it feels positive and rewarding.
This obviously doesn’t apply to all kids. There are plenty who have everything lined up just right. They find their niche and succeed just fine.
I’m talking about the ones who are disenchanted with learning. I want them to come to me at 12 and 13 years old and know not only their weaknesses, but their strengths as well. And I want them still to believe that they CAN do anything, if they are willing to work at it.
I’m talking about the ones who’ve struggled with math for 7 or 8 years already. The kids who’s math goals are to practice math facts. Seriously? Give them a calculator and teach them how to manage their money. Give them a ruler and teach them how to design a scale model. Give them some tools and teach them how to measure and build things. I bet those real connections will help more kids see the value of persevering when it gets tough.
They all need a future job. We need to stop putting every kid in the same box. They all need work force skills and beyond high school education or job training.
Regardless of their history in traditional school, they are capable of being successful.
We need to stop telling kids that they suck at math and reading and writing and we need to start helping them rekindle the passion and enthusiasm for learning that they once had way back in kindergarten.
We are failing these kids.
I think we can do better.
And now the story behind the soap box:
We had just returned from a field trip with our 8th graders. They had the opportunity to attend Manufacturing Day at our local community college. Part of attending the manufacturing and technical education center was to show them that learning doesn’t always look the same. These college students were learning by doing.
Our 8th graders toured the training center and listened to college students talk about their various programs. We observed hands-on learning at the college level. Students bent over a mechatronics training bench or a CNC mill or lathe. They held composites such as carbon fiber, kevlar and fiberglass. They listened to a student tell them about CAD programs and 3-D printing.
Once back at school and in the classroom, we had the kids write down the various programs they got a glimpse of and then we had them research careers related to those programs.
Next they took a STEM Type Quiz. The quiz results shared their STEM type and then a list of possible careers. Some of the kids were less enthusiastic, but they were ALL talking about their futures. We even had funny moments, like the one who said, “One of my possible careers is a Gynecologist” and the boy next to her said, “What’s that?”. She just said, “It’s a doctor for girls”. His eyes got big and that was pretty much a good enough answer for him.
Most of them found a STEM type that totally fit. I mean the quiz was pretty darn accurate.
I got so stinking excited that I climbed up on my figurative soap box and let loose.
I told them that if only more kids thought about their futures earlier, we’d have more kids entering high school with the answer to WHY we have to learn “this stuff”. I told them, “You all have to get a job one day because every single one of you will need to support yourself and provide for your needs and wants. Wouldn’t you much rather have a job you enjoy most of the time than one you hate. If you consider now what you might be interested in, then you can start asking questions and learning about the requirements for that career.” That maybe more kids would focus in school and not wait until their senior year to realize that they should have gotten it together sooner. Or maybe they had paid attention or tried harder in that particular class that at the time they didn’t know would be so important. Maybe more kids would understand that the difference between success is not intelligence, but hard work.
And then I told them that looking at their faces inspired ME. That their whole future is ahead of them and their faces represent possibility and all the things that are good in our world. And listening to them talk about their future careers whether seriously or not, made my day.
These kids once believed they could change the world. The faces staring back at me represent kids who can still grow up and change the world.
I then got off my soap box…
Until next time 😘
(oh and I controlled myself with the emojis…you’re welcome).