The 2014 Promising Practices event took place at RIC on Saturday November 1, the day after Halloween. We were all very tired and it was raining, and honestly I wasn't really looking forward to it, but I think after it was over it was definitely worth it. We all took two workshops and then attended the keynote address given by Dr. Christopher Emdin. My workshops were very different from each other, and were interesting, although one more than the other.
The first workshop I attended was titled “Hands on Learning” presented by a teacher from Mount Pleasant High School. I may have enjoyed it more, and gotten more out of it if I hadn’t been confused about what the point of it was the whole time. Although, I admit that I probably should’ve read the description of it before I went, because I probably wouldn’t have chosen it as my first workshop choice. In this workshop we learned about water pressure, ocean currents, and other density driven Earth processes. We used pressure blocks to show how pressure affects ocean currents.
This workshop was meant to show different learning processes and teaching styles, but I didn’t get any of that out of it. The teacher passed out a handout and wanted us to fill them out, and I thought we were going to have a discussion about the teaching styles but instead it was a flashback to high school science, which I didn’t even enjoy while I was in high school. This might be a little bit harsh to say but I think my first workshop was a waste of time and I could’ve gone to one much more interesting and relevant to the things we learn and talk about in class. It was really boring and it wasn’t a good start to the event.
My next event was better. I really enjoyed it and I learned a lot. My next one was called “Teaching while Brown”. This workshop was presented by two “students of color, turned STEM teachers” and their experiences in the classroom. The presenters were David Upegui a science teacher at Central Falls High school and Jonathan Acosta a teacher at Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy Middle school. They were also related, an uncle and a nephew. They talked about their experiences and struggles in working to make a successful classroom in a struggling area. They were great presenters and had a very engaging presentation that was very culturally relevant also relevant to our class discussions.
They began by asking us about our favorite teachers, what made them so good as a teacher, and the impact they had on us. The point of this was to show that the physical appearance of the teacher didn't usually make a difference to us. They talked about their classrooms and the success of their students. They both had extremely successful students, who you could just tell that they were proud of.
They talked about some of the struggles they went through. Many people didn't believe in their students and it felt hopeless. One of them told a story about how another teacher said something to him like "We need more white kids in this school." when they got test scores back. He talked about how discouraging it was how one teacher didn't believe in his students when he believed in them so much. He also told us about starting up and coaching a wrestling club at his school and how it brought him closer to the students so he could connect more with them on a personal level.
After lunch, the last part of the day was the keynote address by Dr. Christopher Emdin. He was a great speaker, who was very lively and he really grabbed our attention and made us listen attentively. He talked a lot about making students interested in learning and how we can do that in our classrooms. One of the ways that he explained this was by rapping. He talked about how some students may have trouble with memorizing facts, but they may be able to remember it by rapping, or putting it to a beat and we, as future educators need to respect the knowledge the student have no matter what the form they present it. He talked a lot about the idea of #HipHopEd He talked about the segregation in schools and how it affects the education that some students get.
Overall I got a lot from this event. It exceeded my exception, which honestly weren't very high. Although it got off to a rocky start with my first workshop, the second two definitely made up for it. I might even go again next year, when it is no longer a class requirement. I just feel like there is so much to learn and people like Dr. Chris Emdin have a lot to say that we can benefit from.