The end of the week found me at Mainland Regional HS with my fellow educators of NJCTY to have a forum on 21st Century Learning. We talked about the necessary skills that would have to be learned and taught, known as the 4C's. Collaboration, Communication, Creative Problem Solving, and Critical Thinking. Classroom Close-up came to film us, so stay tuned to see NJCTY in action on tv! Our goal is to promote positive communication for quality education throughout the state by having these forums in a different county, covering a different subject, every month. We invite everyone, teachers, administration, local policy makers, parents, students and anyone else who is willing to engage in positive dialogue. We often bring in an expert to do a talk and then we put the audience to work, having them work as a group to visualize a problem and solution, draw it out, and then talk about it. We also have them formulate questions, concerns, or suggestions about the topic which we then bring back to and give to the appropriate task force, office, or policy maker. We have had an incredible amount of positive feedback and often times people that come to us looking concerned or angry often leave us with a deeper understanding of the issue. The most revolutionary thing we do is get a cross section of people working in groups a set of tables and let them talk. People are most often surprised at the student's point of view.
After leaving the shore, the next day I was on a train up to NYC to visit my fellow STOY from NY Katie Ferguson at the Celebration for Teaching and Learning. I didn't know much about it before I went, but what an amazing experience! I encourage anyone who can go next year to do so. It was great to hang out with Katie, who was being honored as NYSTOY. If you see any footage of the celebration where they talk about her experience with StoryCorps where her former student interviews her, and then the camera pans to see her tear up in the audience, yep, that is me sitting next to her. I saw some powerhouse speakers, learned some new tips for when I return to my classroom, and I will be back next year. She was a rock star and everyone wanted to meet her, and my friend was kind enough to introduce me. It was nice to be able to connect and compare what we had been doing since we last saw each other in Dallas.
After arriving home very late, (or was it very early?) I was off to Trenton the next morning to the NJEA Delegate Assembly to receive my TOY ring and give a little speech. What girl doesn't love a little bling? I have been getting pretty good at this speech thing, evidently my enthusiasm is very motivational. So I was going to tell a story from a few weeks before where I had a teachable moment and used this great metaphor of how teaching was like conducting an orchestra. I was tired and so I wrote the story down, but looking at it threw me off. Truth be told, I was a little nervous too, but I managed to recover and graciously accept my new ring.