I recently applied for acceptance into the 2022 Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute. While I will be retired from the classroom, I hope to continue serving in education in some capacity. I don't know that the people in charge of the institute would choose me over a regular, continuing classroom teacher, but it was worth a try to tweak my application with some new information. One of the questions for the application reads, "Please describe AT LEAST three ways you believe your students will benefit from your Teacher Institute experience." My answer follows:
1. Students will benefit from my own discovery and understanding of primary sources at Colonial Williamsburg. I can bring these into classes for students to consider and study.
2. I seek to curate ideas for lessons that go beyond the printed page. As an educator, I thrive on keeping students engaged by creating nontraditional projects.
3. The more we learn about our history, the more we understand about the present. The more we apply our knowledge, the easier it is to make wiser decisions.
4. American history and civic understanding is greatly lacking in schools in my area. While focusing on standardized tests in Reading and Mathematics, administrators and legislators have allowed Science and History to be shoved to the back of the line. Many teachers, lacking a distinct script and textbook, have ignored it. They find worksheets and art projects on the internet, rather than seeking knowledge for themselves and creating their own methods for engaging students with rich content; I prefer creating my own materials and relevant lessons, curating ideas from a variety of sources and tying it all to other areas of the curricula. My lessons connect with students' current and future lives, and I make many of them available publically.
5. Students who have experience lively and motivated presentations are apt to learn more information. This presenter's attitude is contagious.
6. Upon completion of the Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute, I will more accurately include actual sites, real characters, and relevant events in my cognitively rigorous methods.
7. My experience will allow me to quickly integrate materials and lessons from Colonial Williamsburg into my presentations.
8. I want to create an archaeology unit for the beginning of the school year, but I also want it to be deeply memorable for my students. I have tried to do this but have seriously lacked the resources to make the lesson more than a flat experience. In short, it was a waste of time. The idea is still a good one, but the Colonial Williamsburg experience promises to help me revive it and make it worth our while.
9. I need to do a better job of presenting the story of the first enslaved people. I feel confident with most of the African American experience, including the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement, but I need more background in the 17th and 18th centuries.
10. I have started to learn more about the Native Americans who lived in and around the colonies, but I will appreciate any help in this area to make my lessons better.
11. I would love to set up some type of "trader faire" project that will include some of the historic trades and crafts I will witness at Colonial Williamsburg.
12. I seek a better understanding of the geography of the area that played host to so many Revolutionary activities.
13. I love to tell stories. The details of early American history add seasoning to the stories. Participants are captivated by the tales. The greater my own understanding, the more I keep them interested.
14. I strive to be that "different" teacher, a rebel educator, the maverick who doesn't play by the rules of tradition. Yes, I am that elementary teacher who puts in the extra effort to make meaningful connections with my students and the things they are learning. I've had enough of two-dimensional history and science. Striving to be unique does not stop in my elementary classroom, but promises to bleed into my professional development presentations and volunteering, as well.
15. My students will anticipate my involvement with Colonial Williamsburg as much as I will. I included them in the original application process, and I shared the writing process with them so they could see that adults have writing responsibilities, and that serious applicants take their responses seriously. I plan to wear out this year's class, talking about the upcoming teacher institute, until they anticipate it with as much excitement as I do.