Go ahead, do the Great American Teach In
Firefighters, dog trainers, cake decorators, wrestlers, basketball coaches and more will fill classrooms this week for the annual Great American Teach-In. I'll be there, will you?
Parents and community members will be the classrooms on Wednesday in Pasco County and Thursday in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties to share their work, hobbies and life experiences with students. They'll talk about what they do and also how school got them there and the components of their success. It's a good way to show kids where education can take you, but it's also a good way for parents to appreciate what teachers do.
The first time I did it eight years ago, I came home with even greater respect for teachers, if that's possible. First of all, it's hard to talk about anything for more than five minutes, so you need to be prepared. An easy out is to give them your story and then take questions. But be prepared for questions that have NOTHING to do with what you talked about.
I remember telling some third graders about how I had to argue with a police detective to get my hands on a public record and finally had to threaten to call the paper's lawyer to get the report I wanted. A hand shot up. Oh great, I thought, he wants to know about the importance of fighting for the public's right to know.
"I saw a police officer on my way to school today."
Another hand shoots up.
"A policeman gave my dad a speeding ticket."
Another hand goes up.
"My dad says my mom drives too fast."
Ah, the respect I earned for journalists that day! Warm feeling indeed.
I have since learned the best way to keep it on the rails is to ask open ended questions (What do you think a reporter does? Why is an editor important?) and get the kids to answer them instead of me babbling on about my job. One year I thought I was clever by bringing a box of St. Pete Times Gasparilla beads and tossing them to kids when they got an answer right. I then had to talk over the din of kids clinking the necklaces arounds and playing with them. Note to self: Don't give out tchotchkes until you are done talking.
Here are some tips from education sources on a successful teach-in:
•Consider wearing attire appropriate to the occupation, hobby or other topic you plan to discuss.
• Keep the students’ average attention spans in mind: 10-15 minutes for elementary grades and 20-30 minutes for secondary grades.
• When you arrive at the school, check in at the office to pick up your name tag. Someone will greet you and accompany or direct you to your
• If you plan to bring printed or audiovisual materials, check with the teacher or school Teach-In coordinator in advance.
--Sharon Kennedy Wynne
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PHOTO: Mark Wegner, a major league umpire, shows how to call a strike to Connor Globenfelt, left, and Riley Cook in Brandon.
[Times files 2009 by Atoyia Deans]