On February 1, 2012, I retired for the second time. I taught and served as a department administrator for 28 ½ years retiring in 1993. During these years I taught in five different schools in five very different communities. Upon my first retirement, I joined an educational project that allowed me to stay right in the middle of where my interests lay. Over the next 18 years, I was a library clerk, researcher, trainer, consultant, and the state coordinator for Thinkfinity in Illinois.
In my blogs, I would like to meander through some of the experiences that resulted in me being the teacher, trainer, administrator, and consultant that I am today. Every two weeks, I will present you with an experience that I had and what I learned from it. I encourage you to share your experiences so that we all can improve our abilities to meet the needs of students. One of the things that resonates with me is the number of resources that are now available through Thinkfinity that would have enhanced my ability to meet the needs of students and bridge the gap between the electives and academics. In each of my blogs I will identify resources available through Thinkfinity that might be utilized.
Today’s blog is about how I learned that my students know a lot more than I thought or measure and how this changed my teaching mode. As a career and technical education specialist, I have recognized the value of application learning since my first coursework at Purdue. However, I didn’t realize that what I was teaching had already been learned by many of my students using different methods and/or terminology.
For many years, I taught cooperative education and consumer education. In both of these programs students were required to learn about the job-getting process: from developing a resume; to filling out an application blank; to preparing for an interview; to interviewing; and finishing with follow-up. One year in summer school, I had a Summer Cooperative Education Class of 28 students. Many of these students were not students who liked school or academic learning. Several had had problems with the law and most were behind in credits towards graduation.
We started the job-getting unit with the development of a resume. As always, I started with introducing my students to a very simple software program that they could use to develop their resumes. I then moved on to introducing them to the development of a Job or Career Objective for their resume. I used the same presentation, handouts, practice sheets that I had used in the past. The next day, I found that only two of the students had written usable Job or Career Objectives.
To say the least, I was frustrated. I had never had this experience before. I replayed my presentation in my head and couldn’t see anything lacking. At the end of the session, I was in the faculty work room and told two of the Language Arts Teachers of my experience and frustration. One of the teachers said that she had never written a resume and didn’t know what a Job or Career Objective was. I explained what a Job or Career Objective to her in the same manner that I had used with the students. Her reaction was that it sounded as if I was asking them to write thesis statements about themselves.
Was the Problem Terminology?
This was my light bulb moment! I had never thought about the Job or Career Objective as anything but an objective. Furthermore I had never thought about a thesis statement being used anywhere else but as the basis when writing a term paper. Barb gave me some ideas for using the “thesis statement” as the basis for reopening the discussion the next day. She even shared a handout that she used with freshmen and sophomores on writing thesis statements.
The next day, I used Barb’s handout and asked the students to go back to their original objective statement. Was it a thesis statement about him or her? What did they need to do to make this statement usable in a resume? It took them less than 30 minutes to redo their statements to be usable in the resume. One of the most common reactions was – “I didn’t know that you used a thesis statement for any other purpose outside of writing a term paper.” My response was I didn’t either and I had been doing it for years!!
This made me much more conscious about what I was teaching in relation to what the academic teachers taught. From that point on I tried to share with academic teachers what I was doing and through discussion, identifying the differences in the terminology that I was using, to introduce concepts with what they were using. As I became more conscious of this need, my use of academic terminology increased. Several of the academic teachers began to ask our Career and Technical Education staff about their terminology and in some cases this led to teaming together on learning activities.
Some Thinkfinity Resources
9 - 12 | Worksheet
This student reproducible, from a ReadWriteThink lesson, provides a chart listing several possible components that students may choose to include in a resume.
This student reproducible, from a ReadWriteThink lesson, provides tips for students to use when writing a resume.
9 - 13 | Worksheet
This resource from the Purdue University Online Writing Lab (OWL), is part of a large collection of handouts and exercises on grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
6 - 8 | Worksheet
This student reproducible, from a ReadWriteThink lesson, provides students with information about writing position statements, along with an example.
6 - 13 | Collection
This page, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Writing Center, provides extensive material for writers. Included are resources on the writing process.
Your Thoughts and Questions
- If you are an elementary teacher, do you draw parallels between the terminology used to teach language arts, math, science, social studies, art, etc.?
- Do you share your unit terminology with other teachers?
- Do you team teach lessons, units, curriculum with other teachers? When planning, does the difference in terminology become a discussion topic?
- Do you want or need more information on this topic?
Is the Language the Same?
Debbie Potts began her career in January 1965 as a Home Economics Teacher in a brand new suburban school. Over the next 28 years, she taught in a total of 5 very different high schools that varied from a small rural community with approximately 125 students’ grades 7-12 to a large suburban high school with just over 5,000 students’ grades 10-12. During that time, she taught both in her major area of home economics and in her chemistry minor. In addition, she was a department chairperson in the extremely large high school and the department coordinator for all of the career and technical education in the second largest school where she taught. In 1993 she took early retirement and for the next 18 years, she worked for a project that is funded through the State Board of Education through a state university. During this time she worked with both Marco Polo and Thinkfinity. She retired on February 1, 2012.