Tuesday, December 15, 2015

December to Remember

Entrepreneurship students take a Google Expedition to NASA Space Center and later to the Moon.

Virtual and Real Trips Away From the Classroom 

Business Students were fortunate to experience some new technology this past month with a visit from Google. Students tested the New Google Cardboard Device for the purpose of trying their first Google Expedition. An Expedition is akin to a virtual field trip. Business Students piloted the technology and then evaluated its applications both inside and outside of the classroom. 

Students travelled to The Congo, The Coral Reefs of The Florida Keys, NASA, and The Burj Kalifa Hotel to name a few. Students were impressed with Google's latest gadget and see the utility of the product as it is further developed.  

A smaller contingent of VEI Students travelled to Carlson High School to meet with their VEI Class. Students exchanged ideas and best practices. Carlson's insight as a more experienced VEI program proved very useful to THS Business Students.  They also planned for the February VEI Trade Show in Holland, MI and an April 2016 Trip to New York City.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Want students to grow? Then leave the classroom.

“Learning is something students do, NOT something done to students.” Alfie Kohn 
Leaving the classroom is messy. But that is where the world is. Travelling with a group of high school students can be chaos. It is baptism by fire. Buses are late, phones die, plans change, the interpersonal drama…. But the mess is worth it.
As teachers, we do not leave the classroom and go into the world so we can be in charge and to dictate to students where they need to be at what time. I am not saying that it is wrong to keep an itinerary and to have structure, but the best learning, whether it is inside or outside of the classroom is when we discover something on our own; an insight about ourselves, an insight about the world, our purpose. When we are given an opportunity  and we see it and take action, that is growth.
We recently travelled to NYC with 35 students. It was messy. There was chaos. The trip started with logistical problems. Students did not understand that when I said, “Follow me,” they would be expected to keep up. There was stress. And all the while in the back-drop was this great unrelenting City. Student faces said, “Just tell me what to do. Tell me how to go about being in New York, step by step.” 
I am pleased to say that by the end of our trip a great deal of our students got it. Where on Day 1 they stuck close to the chaperones by Day 3 they could no longer be held back. Growth. Risk. Living. The best quote from the trip came in the form of a tweet: 
“When you have to use a planner to go to the bathroom at school, but you can take the subway in New York by yourself.  ALL ME."
Thank you #THSNYC15 for having the courage to take risks and grow.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Times They Are a Changin'

Come gather ‘round people wherever you roam
Admit that the waters around you have grown
And accept it that soon you’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’

Bob Dylan - Times They Are A Changing

I teach in a place with little professional discourse. For whatever reason, right now, our staff is silent in staff meetings. By and large, we don’t speak up. I’m pretty certain that we aren’t the only school across the country like this. The reasons may be an entire Blog topic for another time.

That’s why it was refreshing to sit in on our first meeting in a long time, where more than a handful of people spoke up this past week. The issue was one that divided staff members. Lines were drawn, sides taken. Compared to the larger issue of teachers speaking up, the topic of the meeting is irrelevant.

It’s an understatement to say that the world is changing faster than ever. We now live in a time when it is hard to imagine the changes coming in the next five years. This is true in all careers; especially education. 

School, the classroom, public education, is going to look different in the near future. The sooner we as educators  accept that notion, the sooner we can get along with the difficult conversations ahead. 

And, in my opinion, some of these conversations are long overdue. There is plenty of credible research to support the notion that creating  school environments that are "unschool-like" are having a profound impact on student learning. Ideas like PBL, The Maker Movement, 20 Percent Time, Student Choice, Inquiry Based Learning…these are the changes, in my opinion, that will have the most positive effect on student achievement.

And the alternatives to those changes are grim. Standardized curriculum and standardized testing are forces that create a culture in schools that is contrary to that credible research. A culture where the strengths of a few are championed over the strengths of others. A culture that squashes creativity. A culture that places a teacher’s pacing guide ahead of a depth of learning and inquiry.

Teachers, students, families, all have a stake in what the future of public education is going to look like. Sitting on the side line with our mouths shut feeling powerless, or tired, or whatever, is not going to get those stakeholders, especially teachers, a voice at the table. 

Right now, the folks with the least at stake, politicians and large corporations are the ones whose voices are the loudest about education reform. And theirs are the voices that are pushing for the changes most beneficial to their own interests and most damaging to students. That just seems backwards to me. And the time to speak up, draw lines and take sides is long overdue.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

#THSNYC15: Our Best Trip Yet

#THSNYC15 students and chaperones with Wired Magazine's Katie McNally

The 2015 Trenton Marketing NYC Trip marked the fourth year THS Business and Theater students have traveled to New York City. It was another remarkable trip.

Students followed our busiest 3 Day Itinerary yet and did so with an exceptional attitude.  Highlights of the trip included  Broadway Workshops, a visit with Wired Magazine Event Coordinator Katie McNally, and a stop to see Matilda on Broadway. And of course, students enjoyed shopping at Macy’s, in Chinatown and in Times Square.
2009 THS Graduate Katie McNally speaks with THS students.

Our first day included a tour of Madison Square Garden and Grand Central Station. Participants then chose between two Broadway Workshops: Meet the Actor or a Broadway Improv Workshop. The day ended with a stop at Top of the Rock for a scenic view of the city.

Sean Montgomery speaks with THS students before starring as Miss Agatha Trunchbull in our Saturday matinee.

Meet the Actor attendees were treated to a Broadway Talk with Matilda understudy Sean Montgomery, who stepped in to play Ms. Agatha Trunchbull in our Saturday matinee show. The Improv Group was a performance based session which saw students and chaperones roll their sleeves up and participate in a number of Improvisational exercises.

Day 2 was a journey to Lower Manhattan to see 2009 THS Graduate Katie McNally at Wired Magazine. Wired (Conde Naste) is located at One World Trade Center. Ms. McNally spoke with students about the day to day operations at Wired, marketing at Wired Magazine and her unique journey to Wired New York. Attendees finished up the day Downtown with a stop at the 9/11 Memorial and the newly opened 9/11 Museum.

The last day saw students tour the historic Macy’s Department store in Midtown. Macy’s New York is the largest retail store in the world and is considered to be a cutting edge marketer. This year’s tour took place amidst Flower Week, Macy’s second biggest annual promotional event. Saturday wrapped up with a matinee of 4 Time Tony Award winning Matilda The Musical.

Macy's Tour Director John Wiltberger discusses the importance of store brands with THS students.

THS Marketing would like to thank all of those who attended #THSNYC15 as well as their parents and the Trenton Public School's administration and school board. A special thanks to the students and staff from Gibraltar Carlson who also made this trip possible.