Here is one response for the Monticello Teacher Institute that I did not revise in my application submission. The question asks for what I can contribute to the group of attendees at the institute if selected myself.
The question asks, MTI has a collaborative, hands-on environment where participants work closely with their peers. How do you hope to contribute to the group's experience?
I happily got to focus on my personal strengths in this response which follows:
I cringe when people say that we don’t need to reinvent the wheel. We can still move forward on our old rubber wheels, but I like to imagine that there is something better – more durable and more efficient – waiting for our discovery and invention. The same must be true of education. If we want our education system to remain stagnant, then we should just accept the status quo. We can continue to read the chapter and answer the questions at the end. We can watch students fill in the same tired worksheets, but I like to imagine there is something better.
I challenge my peers to think outside of their teacher edition. I urge them to deviate from the easy script. I am never satisfied with leaving lessons as the status quo. My natural position in a group of collaborating teachers is to find applications and connections that no one else has considered and then make the best of them. I want educators to bring events to life for their students, surrounding them with the learning, and motivate them to seek more and more on their own.
That is where, when called upon to do so, I encourage teachers to think differently – to declare their independence! There are too many educators who are running on flat tires, still assigning the same old word searches and not challenging their students to think for themselves. In American history, they read biographies, but they fail to break our founders out of the two-dimensional textbook. I would rather find ways to invite Thomas Jefferson and his contemporaries into my classroom. I want my students to meet them and share conversations with them.
We can bring art and drama into a history classroom. We can allow students the leeway to blaze their own trails and harvest gems of wisdom along the way. We measure, we experiment, and we analyze. We find humor, we cry, and we genuinely wonder at the tremendous sacrifices that laid a foundation for the freedoms we still enjoy. It is difficult to get that level of connectivity and authenticity by looking at the illustrations in a text.
It is really hard for many educators to drive in the ruts. We have too often accepted the shackles of the status quo. Without leadership from administrators and set-in-stone pacing guides, some do not feel comfortable with finding their own pathways to success, creating their own materials, and making uncommon connections. That is where Thomas Jefferson and I are similar: both of us step a little outside of the lines to encourage and inspire others to be bold. If the teachers the Monticello Teachers Institute are willing to reinvent things, they can bring Monticello into their schools in new and exciting ways.