Thursday, March 31, 2016

Student teachers aren't supposed to take risks

Did I get your attention with the title? I'm excited to share the story of one of our student teachers and a risk she took this spring!

Student teaching can be a scary time. It’s a time when student teachers want to showcase their strengths, display confidence, and demonstrate that they are ready for the challenge of being a leader in their own classroom. 

A few weeks ago, our Family and Consumer Science teacher along with her student teacher, Ms. Pursley, met with me about an idea that Ms. Pursley wanted to explore. 

Ms. Pursley was going to be teaching in the next two weeks, and she wanted to hold their class debate on twitter even though she was a novice twitter user and had never participated in a twitter chat. While she had a lot to learn about the process, she felt like twitter would be a perfect platform for giving her students an authentic audience while introducing them to a way to use social media for educational purposes rather than purely social reasons.

At our first meeting, I asked her the topic of the debate (Genetically Modified Organisms, or GMOs), her goal for using twitter, and what she had in mind for the format. After a good discussion about her vision for the debate, she left with a “to-do” list. She was going to create a graphic (on to use to “advertise” the chat, create a twitter account to use for the chat and other professional endeavors, tweet experts in the food industry inviting them to join the chat, sign up for Storify, and write the questions for the debate.

Ms. Pursley came back to see me the next week to review where she was at in the process and to get clarification on the format of the online debate/chat. I offered to come to the class the day before the chat and teach her students how to participate in the online debate. Since she had four periods that would be participating, I offered to come to her second period class (First Period was an Interior Design class that would not be participating) and model for her how to teach the students about participating. Third period we would co-teach, and 5th and 6th periods she would do it on her own. 

We taught the students that the twitter chat would be a public discussion. We explained that it was different from Snapchat that they used for personal communication. We wanted them to know that this would be a professional debate and that they needed to be professional in their responses, especially if they disagreed with a person’s stance in the debate. We explained how to use as well as the debate hashtag. Then we practiced. We asked general questions, asking students to respond to the question and each other. We projected the conversation on the screen, and we would read some tweets aloud and comment on others, praising students for their insight and participation. 
Here are the warm-up questions we asked on Thursday: 
Q1: What surprises did you find in your GMO research? 
Q2: Does your family have conversations about the quality of food? What would you say if they did, what do you say if they do? 
Q3: Should High Schoolers read food labels? Why or Why not? 
Q4: What are you looking forward to most about tomorrow’s twitter debate?
During third period I made feedback notes for Ms. Pursley, and during 4th period I shared my feedback with her. I made suggestions and asked her to video herself in her afternoon class and watch the playback. She was being observed the next day by her University supervisor, and I wanted her to be wildly successful during that observation.
Here are the questions for the debate: 
Q1: Are GMO foods safe and healthy for consumers?
Q2:Do GMO foods use less pesticides? 
Q3: Should GMO foods be labelled? 
Q4: Do GMO foods affect the environment? 
Q5: Should companies be allowed to patent their seeds, require farmers not 2 reuse seed, but purchase the seed every year?
I was able to participate in several periods of the debate on Friday, and I saw that it went extremely well. 

The class even had participants from the twitterverse to give input.

It was so cool to see the quiet or reluctant students “speak up” in the debate. The students were well-prepared for their questions, and they were able to provide links to the research to support their positions. 

During the debate, one of her students reached out to national farming organizations, asking them to give their input. 
This sort of request could not have occurred if the debate had only been held in class with teachers and students as the audience. 

Ms. Pursley shared with me that she got terrific feedback from her University supervisor, saying that her review had been the best one she had gotten. 

I’m so proud of Ms. Pursley for taking a risk and learning something new because she thought it was what would be best for her students. We all have something to learn from her.

Update:The learning never stops! During Spring Break, Ms. Pursley got this tweet from Kavin Senapathy, which she plans to share with her students after Spring Break.


  1. I love this! You are such a wonderful leader, Jennifer; how exciting for your school's student teacher! And way to take tech up the SAMR ladder! Redefinition on that debate, no doubt!

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting, Michelle! I'm so proud of Ms. Pursley for trying to redefine the lesson and not just use technology for research and note-taking. She also commented that it was the most engaged her students had been.

  2. I love this! Student teachers have so much to offer and are not afraid to take risks with technology! Thanks to Dr. Ray and Montevallo's Edu dept! Great job Samantha!

    1. You're right, Leslee - student teachers have a lot to offer! We are blessed to have you and Samantha at HHS, and I look forward to seeing what your next steps are and how you transform your classrooms!

  3. The point is to find what works for you. What is your passion and interest that can tie into what your students are learning? Ultimately, we teach who we are. That’s the most powerful finding.