By Amanda Rogers January 23rd, 2014 6:00 PM
Very often in teaching, my colleagues and I find that we are attached to our routines, keeping the train on its tracks, moving full steam ahead.
However, it doesn’t have to be that way. By stepping outside of the routine and seeking out educational partnerships, we can give students authentic experiences with people outside of the educational world and see an enriched learning environment in the classroom.
In my experience, there are two kinds of partnerships that teachers can seek out to enhance their classrooms and inspire their students; partnerships that provide a service and partnerships that provide a product. Partnerships that provide a service can include activties like therapeutic yoga classes, musical performances by local artists, and science programs with mobile laboratories. Product-oriented partnerships can bring school supplies, modern technology, and healthier local food to schools.
This past summer, when I was researching what kind of service partnership I wanted to bring to Langley Elementary, I knew I wanted it to be mental health oriented. In an age where we are constantly measuring student achievement via test taking, I wanted my students to be able to feel successful before the pencil ever marked their tests. I wanted them to feel confident in controlling their emotions, reflecting on their lives, and using their minds and bodies in a way that the regular education classroom was not teaching them. This is where the non-profit organization YoKid came in.
YoKid is a non-profit that provides instruction in yoga for kids and teens in the DMV area. It was created to help kids and teens confront the complex challenges of living in an urban environment by increasing their self-awareness, concentration levels, and physical activity through yoga.
Fast forward to this October, when YoKid was part of my school’s schedule. Along with ten other students at Langley, I lay on my yoga mat and marveled at how engaged my students were. I could see immediately how beneficial this partnership was going to be for my student’s wellbeing and the overall building environment. The yoga instructor was professional, motivational, and gave the students exposure to an activity that some of them had never even heard of. As Richard Karpel, the President and CEO of Yoga Alliance recently said, “It’s hardly surprising, then, that yoga-in-school programs like the Washington, D.C.-based YoKid.org are widely praised by both teachers and parents.” (Karpel, Richard. “Exercise or Religion? Yoga is for Everyone.” USA Today 20 May 2013)
When it comes to service-related partnerships, I have the most experience with Donors Choose. DonorsChoose.org is an online charity that connects classrooms to the general public who want to help students in need. Public school teachers post classroom project requests on the web site, and individuals can give any amount to the project that they choose to support. When a project reaches its funding goal, Donors Choose ships the materials to the school.
As an art teacher, I am always scrounging for supplies for my students to use. Donors Choose helped my classroom in immeasurable ways, providing my students with simple supplies such as markers, crayons, and paper to more complex materials like clay and digital cameras. Donors Choose is a wonderful partnership for all teachers in need of supplies, no matter what the subject. A well-stocked classroom directly links to student achievement and student engagement.
So, consider stepping outside of your well-oiled routine to provide your students with a partnership related to your teaching field. Whether it is a hands-on experience like a science assembly or a motivational speech from a local athlete turned professional, find what inspires your students and partner with that cause.
Follow Amanda Rogers on Twitter: @NEcityart
Amanda Rogers teaches visual arts at Langley Elementary School in Washington, D.C.