We introduced the Teaching Challenge Initiative this year to support teachers and to help encourage thinking about education in a new way. We asked teachers to think outside of the box and improve teaching, and received a number of entries from both PS119 (New York) and Netley Primary (London).
One of the PS119 winners, Louis Ianniello, focused on visual literacy. We asked Louis what he thought about the competition, and the opportunities that this it had created:
What inspired you to participate?
The idea of sharing innovative practices with schools in our district or throughout the city is always an exciting prospect. This collaboration provides much-needed opportunities for teachers to exchange ideas and strategies, address mutual concerns, and arrive at new realizations about the nature of their work. However, the idea of sharing teaching practices with educators from another country was an avenue that just had to be explored. Continually, we hear of the challenge of having children to compete globally. Given this reality, it would have been more difficult not to participate. The exchange was refreshing, novel, and unique, but at the same time, quite familiar. Teachers are teachers, and regardless of locale, share many of the same concerns. Having the time to share a representative view of teaching practices was a privilege. This type of opportunity should be offered more frequently and to a greater number of teachers.
The particular lesson that my co-teacher and I instructed was centered on visual literacy – skills that children can use to interpret photographs, illustrations, or any type of graphic imagery. While this type of lesson has been used by many teachers, this lesson exercised an innovation in its elaboration. The image analysis did not end the lesson, rather, it opened up conversation between individual students and among groups of students. This workshop helped teachers utilize primary sources, photo analysis worksheets, and common classroom art supplies to create a multidisciplinary, fun, and interactive thematic unit on a “secret” location of New York City. Children were able to use quadrant frames, participate in the creation of a visual timeline, debate each other, and exercise teamwork as the product of the day. Lessons were aligned with New York State Social Studies and Common Core Standards, while necessarily reaching outside the box of the New York City Scope and Sequence. The students were fully engaged and active throughout the lesson, especially when it culminated with the accuracy of their visual timeline. Teachers take away quite a bit from this lesson in terms of innovation:
- Students turning and talking became groups turning and talking
- Questioning is exercised through debate and DOK Level 4 associations
- Management is self-directed; students quickly realize that cooperation is the key to success
- Small group teamwork turns into whole group discussion with a common purpose
- Multiple entry points allow for students of different abilities and strengths to participate
The end result is a lesson that purposefully allows for students to work on individual and small group tasks and then take those lessons to the class to accomplish a single goal, similar to corporate work strategies. They learn that teamwork is the key to their success.
How has your teaching changed as a result?
I believe my practices/approaches to teaching have not changed so much as they have been validated and appreciated through the associations made with the teachers from Netley. We had an honest conversation about teaching practices and educational environments in general.
As per innovative practices, we first established that innovation is not invention. Understanding that innovation is taking existing technologies, strategies, relationships, etc. and expounding on them to make them more reliable, efficient, and most importantly, effective. We also acknowledged that innovation takes place on a daily basis – almost continually. Teachers need to be trained on how to recognize their own innovations and then be given time to share their original ideas with other pedagogues. This is the only way teaching will evolve to become more reliable, efficient, and effective.
As per educational environments in general, the 119x teachers were mightily impressed with the staff and students’ approach to the educational day. All school members participate in a wake-up activity that sends everyone to their classroom with a smile. The grounds are a vision, surrounded by Zen-garden type structures which offer students the opportunity to relax in a truly serene setting. Character building is cleverly disguised as a music class and helps to reinforce manners, politeness, and respect for one another. The school building was adorned with masterful artwork, designed with deliberate thought and purposeful intent. Their novel take on the arts is what I termed the “pay it forward through art” approach in which students research their art projects for a majority of the year, and then produce the art- which remains on display for the entire next year. Graduating classes leave a legacy of beauty and grace in their wake for the school to enjoy.
Netley shared their concerns for improving parent relations. We shared our successes with parents through frequent contact and casual get-togethers that help to break the wall down between parent and teacher. We agreed that improving the quality of parent relationships is always a challenge, simply because we have a continuum of new parents each year. Having proven practices that facilitate the parent-teacher connection is key to addressing that annual challenge. My co-teacher and I shared our “Coffee and Cake Sessions” idea with the Netley teachers. We had tremendous success with parents just having casual, dare I say normal, conversation over a cup of coffee. Once parents and teachers realize that we are both here for the same reason- to ensure the safety, nurturing, and education of their child- the tension lifts and real conversations can occur. When that anxiety is removed, parents can (and have) become a rich resource of ideas, assistance, and in many cases, guidance, that can help even the most seasoned of educators.
What do you think is the future of business-education collaboration and how it could evolve?
To accurately answer this, we must distill education down to its core and ask the question – why do we teach? Hopefully, the answer comes back that we are training and preparing children to become respectful, responsible citizens who maximize their potential and in some way, contribute to the greater good. While that sounds poetic, we have to understand what is required in order for that to happen. Students need to understand what is really needed to succeed in local and global communities. Business, in its infinite forms, is an integral part of that journey.
The business-education collaboration is not only necessary with today’s students, but should be required. We teach students most subjects through high school, with a great emphasis on reading, writing, and visual literacy, as well as numeracy. However, there is very little in the way of financial literacy. Some schools participate in stock market games, while others have school stores, but few if any, show children how business influences the world every minute of every day. Students need to be exposed to the inner workings of real businesses and how they impact the community, be it local or global. This can only be accomplished through the business-education collaboration. This collaboration, though, cannot exist in isolation. Teachers need to be brought on board to partner with businesses because teachers provide the educational foundation and environments of respect that are vital for the sustenance and proliferation of successful businesses. Perhaps the sponsors of schools can follow students through to their high school career and guide them into college through internships and modeling of business practices and ventures. It should be noted that internships should be started at a much younger age and should occasionally be a substitute for a portion of the school day. These ideas are just that – ideas. But we have to remember that if we stay on this current path, we are limited and we are not offering our students the real-world experience that most people agree is vital.
I truly believe our foundation is strong – but to grow, we need to change. This exchange opportunity offered a first step into what may become a new future for teachers, students, and parents.
We’re happy that we’ve been able to help make these changes happen and thank these hard-working teachers for educating these youths. At Next Jump, we’re committed to helping others and we hope that many other businesses will also be inspired and collaborate with educational institutions around the world.