Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Teacher's Perspective of Cedar Ridge Academy Therapeutic Private Boarding School

As certified teachers, we help as many students at Cedar Ridge Academy Therapeutic Private Boarding School succeed in their academics.  Science teacher, Chad, reflected on what he does everyday to achieve these goals. (For further reading, see Kimberly's and James' perspectives on school)

I’ve been teaching for almost ten years at Cedar Ridge Academy. I teach biology, earth systems, environmental science, and health – and I tutor Spanish and chemistry. I taught textbook-and syllabus-based classes until about a year ago, when we started doing online school. As could be expected some things are a lot different with the online classes. For example, with the old system the primary source of information was the textbook, whereas now it’s the online lecture and accompanying information - and the notes the students type as they listen to their lectures.

Even though it would appear that things are significantly different now, the things I do day-to-day haven’t really changed that much.  I still spend a majority of my time tutoring students one-on-one in the subjects that I teach. I always have a bunch of scratch paper and a pen in hand so I can visually illustrate concepts for the students as I help them understand those concepts.

I also spend a lot of time grading students’ assignments.  The online multiple-choice and true-false questions are automatically graded, and the grades based on those questions are automatically recorded in the system - but I go through and look at the short answer and essay questions, and after that I change the grades for the assignments as necessary. Overall, I spend less time entering grades on grade sheets than I did before.

Excitement after a hands-on activity!
As with the book and syllabus-based classes, I still try to find ways to help individual students learn. I sometimes refer them to the text-books we previously used so they can see the books’ illustrations – including charts and graphs. Recently a biology student was having a hard time understanding the structure of DNA and how it replicates, and the process through which it is used to produce proteins - so I gave him guidance while he did a hands-on activity from a biology text-book using little pieces of colored paper. A few days later I had him play an online game where he learned about blood-typing. This boy is a kinesthetic, or hands-on- learner , and these activities helped him to better understand the things he was learning in his online class.

Each week each student at Cedar Ridge has an opportunity to participate in a supplemental science instruction. I have one period for girls and two different periods for boys (since we have more boys at our school). We do a variety of things during these periods, including natural history walks around the Cedar Ridge campus where the students learn about local flora and fauna. Some of the students have been learning about plant identification and have been putting together a plant collection, and some other students have been learning to identify animal footprints and have been making plaster casts of footprints. Students have also been learning about electricity and have been using an electric model to figure out how to fix a problem with the light switches in one of the buildings on our campus. The joy on the face of the first student (one of the girls) to successfully make the model work correctly was priceless.
Students enjoy learning about and handling our resident snake, Cedro the Honduran milk snake – and the science room also generally has a collection of other creatures (currently a couple of spiders and a scorpion). 

Part of my duty at Cedar Ridge Academy is serving as a teacher/mentor for a group of students. We have mandatory weekly percentages the students are asked to meet in their classes, and I keep track of which of my students are successful in meeting those expectations, and which students need extra time to work on school during “mandatory after school study hour”. Student weekly expectations used to be based on the number of assignments completed, and now they are based on percentages of classes completed - but other than that the processes are about the same. 

Chad passes a beetle to a student to hold

I enjoy being a teacher at Cedar Ridge Academy. I enjoy getting to know my students, and I enjoy helping them learn about science and the other subjects I assist with; and I also enjoy modeling for my students the joy of learning and understanding things. I think the blended-learning model we use here at Cedar Ridge is a great way for students to learn and to prepare for the continued education and careers that lie ahead for them. 

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