100% of Breakthrough students engage in academically rigorous coursework.
With my final weekend before starting training (at an unheard of 9 am... yikes!), I took the chance to wander around Washington D.C. for a few days--armed with a map, a metro pass, and a backpack.I found myself, unsurprising for an American history lover, in the National Archives early Saturday afternoon. They have a pretty nifty new facility in their learning center, and luckily, they have some excellent resources from a few of the center's programs available online. From an academic perspective, there's no skill more important in history courses than the ability to work with and understand primary source documents. From the Breakthrough perspective, there are probably very few skills that are more difficult to keep interesting and convey effectively.
Luckily, the Archives have some innovative and exciting ways to teach *with* primary sources. You can find some of these lessons at http://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/. It's a really neat approach, and, at least for my history class last summer, far more effective than simply teaching *about* primary sources. Giving the students a reason to care about the sources, and ensuring that the materials they're working with have a place in a larger story both go a long way towards a successful primary source lesson.
That's also the broader approach that I'm looking to apply to all of my lesson plans--ensuring some level of consistency and continuity that will allow my students to follow developments -- mathematical and historical -- in a natural progression. I hope this helps to make things a little more engaging and accessible than concepts would be if they were presented in a vacuum. Keeping a sense of where everything belongs in a bigger picture means that I can adjust the individual methods and minutiae of any given lesson to adapt to the needs of a specific student or class.
It all comes back to one of the most important things that I took away from Breakthrough last summer. It's in our teacher handbook, in the Collaborative's core principles, and came to serve as my internal mantra many times a day: every student can learn every concept. It's our job to figure out the best way to enable our students to learn the concepts they need to know. Thinking "this student can't learn this concept" is the first step towards not trying hard enough to make SURE that our students learn everything we want them to learn.
Today was my first day of orientation, the beginning of a new, dynamic community. What a great, but long, long day! Not only was it full of activities and various teaching workshops, the fact that by the end of the day, I had made some new, great friends, makes the day seem even longer and fuller.
Tomorrow: off to the staff retreat!