Throwing Caution to the Wind: Community Members in the Classroom

Sometimes you just have to dive in head first, no matter what hesitations or worries you might have. Sometimes people ask me how I accomplish so much or learn so much. I would say that it comes from one simple thing: I’m not afraid of trying new things, failing, and then learning from those mistakes. If I have an idea that I think would be awesome for my students, I try it. It benefits no one to sit and hem and haw over whether something might flop or be great. You’ll never know unless you try.

Based on that mentality, I’ve tried out something this year that is going really well (for the most part–there are always mistakes) this year: inviting as many community members as possible into my classroom.

One of the goals that our building admin has set for every teacher is that they have one community member visit their classroom sometime during the school year. So far, because of diving in head first, I’ve had 12 community members visit my classroom and will actually have 3 more visiting in the next two weeks!

Let’s see who and what I’ve had happen in my classroom, and how diving in headfirst has helped!

  • Local businessman in charge of a local community action project
    • I had students writing persuasive essays about local social justice issues. Students couldn’t find the info online they needed, so we got on my iPhone on speaker and called the local Chamber of Commerce who put us in touch with someone who came into school the next day and was interviewed by my students.
  • Local entreprenuer
    • Students were beginning an entreprenuer project. I contacted a list serve of which I’m a part from my edtech company. A local entreprenuer came in and talked about basic design principles which helped my students make awesome advertisments for their products!
  • Owner of a PR firm
    • As part of the same list serve email, the owner of a local PR firm skyped with all my classes to talk about how to craft their advertising messages for the projects. He even coordinated with a nationally-published education blog for their work to be published online!
  • Graphic designer
    • From the same PR firm as above, she helped students with their logos. She even gave specific mentoring feedback to groups throughout their projects!
  • Local business professionals
    • When my students presented their final entreprenuership and advertising projects, I got 8 separate business professionals ranging from advertisers to local newspaper employees to Rotary club members to come and be guest judges. It was very powerful!
  • PBS Documentarian and social justice musician
    • We will have an assembly for all 8th graders in our whole town to hear and learn from this couple. We are currently studying documentaries in all 8th grade classes, and they are coming this next week to present to all the 8th graders!
  • Journalist who helped cover the Steven Avery trial
    • As I wrote about in another post, we are examing the film-making techniques of “Making a Murderer.” I actually got in touch with a journalist who covered the trial! He agreed to come to class. We’re so excited!

I could go on and on about how awesome it has been for my students to have these guests. And, I’ll just keep on diving head first and making random phone calls and sending random emails and random tweets as much as I can to get even more people to come in and help my students learn.

Like I said, although there have definitely been some things that I’d like to change in the future (and I’ve been learning from guest to guest), I won’t stop throwing caution to the wind.

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Author: karinhogen

I teach middle school language arts and run an Edtech company, DocentEDU, on the side. Every day is an adventure in my classroom with technology!

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