The EAST classroom is very different from the traditional one where teachers dole out information and students attempt to memorize it. In EAST, students design and self-direct their own projects. EAST teacher-facilitators must complete special training in facilitating this form of project-based learning. We thought it might be interesting to follow the progress of some EAST newbies throughout their first year of facilitating an EAST classroom. Our two volunteers, Josh Worthy of Sonora Elementary School in Springdale, Arkansas (front row, far left, kneeling) and Paula Nixon of Bald Knob (Arkansas) High School (front row, third from right), will each report in once a month or so, giving us a peek behind the scenes. Wish them luck!
I have taught junior high Social Studies for the past 6 years in Rogers, Arkansas. Over the summer, I have left my comfort zone to move to Springdale to facilitate an EAST program at Sonora Elementary. Sonora is a brand new school for the 2011-2012 school year and EAST will be a new addition for the elementary level in the district.
And so begins the journey of an EAST facilitator! So many questions; so little time. I’m sure many new EAST facilitators have, like I do, new ideas and plans just surging through their heads. How are we going to recruit and select our kids? What are we going to pull together for EAST Night Out? What exactly is EAST again? After an eventful and productive Phase I week of facilitator training in Little Rock, things are starting to become more clear and I’m finally starting to realize that these anxieties will eventually cease. The EAST process will happen. Growth will happen. To tell you the truth, I’m fully expecting to actually grow with the students.
My biggest anxiety is making sure that I give the kids room to take ownership in their work and service. I’m a hands-on type of guy; I want to “show” and “do” and “solve” how all of this SHOULD work. My anxiety: learning to sit on my hands and let the kids show, do, and solve. It’s a long voyage towards a new philosophy of teaching… and sometimes I feel like I left my passport somewhere between Little Rock and Springdale.
It has been a humorous road in recent weeks at home, and my wife is feeling the pain of being my EAST guinea pig. One Saturday afternoon we were having some trouble with our washer and dryer. “Josh, I think the dryer is broken. It won’t turn on.” I replied “Well, what have you tried to do to fix it? Have you used Google to find any answers?” in my best Melissa Gallegos (EAST Director of Professional Development) voice. Unfortunately, I received an odd look and was pointed in the direction to go fix the dryer. Maybe I should warm up slowly toward the EAST philosophy at home.
I’m truly excited about the new school year. I’m looking forward to meeting our new students and getting started on our first projects. I’m looking forward to getting to know the local businesses and groups in this more rural region of town. I can’t wait to point the kids in a new direction, with a unique teaching philosophy, and the amazing resources that have been given to this facility. Will it all happen in a matter of weeks and will my preconceived vision of this amazing EAST program at Sonora Elementary take off like a rocket? I guess we’ll see in a short time. You’ve got to start somewhere, right? Time to hit the ground running!
Sonora Elementary School