Amazing Kids! Magazine

Teachers’ Perspectives on Education

By Akshaj Mehta, Sci-Tech Kids Editor

 

Interview with Ashley Silas, NP3 Eighth-Grade Social Studies Teacher and Advisor for Student Government

Amazing Kids (AK): Please tell me a little about yourself and what inspired you to be a teacher.

Ashley Silas (AS): I am in my ninth year of teaching middle school. I have worked at NP3 for all nine years and have taught seventh- and eighth-grade social studies, AVID, and student government. I have always loved school and learning; however, it didn’t always come easily to me. I was educated in Sacramento and graduated from UC Davis and Sac State. While at Davis I majored in Political Science, and my goal was to be a lobbyist and work in policy. After working at the State Capitol for a year, I realized the ONLY way to really affect change was to teach the next generation of leaders. After graduation from undergrad, I decided to get my Single Subject Credential in Social Studies, which would allow me to combine my passion for government with my passion for teaching.

AK: How has teaching (making lesson plans) changed since you started teaching?

AS: Students now have access to so much more through media and technology than they did when I first started. As a result, my lessons have to keep their attention and be chunked into shorter time periods in order to keep their attention and have them engaged. I have always done a lot of simulations and engaging lessons, but I also have learned how to make the day more efficient. Being more experienced allows me to take risks in my practice because I have gotten a grasp of management. I think this results in the kids having a fun time in class and really taking ownership in their learning.

AK: What is your take on incorporating technology (online resources) in classrooms?

AS: Technology has to be incorporated in the classroom because students need to be comfortable using technology far earlier than they needed to in the past. Additionally, online resources have become more fun and meaningful. It’s more than just games online; students can now make websites, podcasts, Vlogs, and complete web quests to demonstrate their learning. Technology is a cool way to switch up the daily paper and pencil practices (that still have a place in education) that are happening in a classroom, but I also can trust the effectiveness of online sources. By being able to rely on the effectiveness of online resources, I know they will be useful tools for my students.

AK: How has the education system changed since the day you started?

AS: We have so much research now that proves what practices in a classroom work. In order to stay relevant, we have to continue to learn and grow as teachers. I think teachers now are held much more accountable by their students because they are used to having really great teachers! What has also changed is access. By having access to information so readily available, students have become much more civically aware. As a history teacher, that has allowed me to facilitate really cool conversations and discussions that are relevant and important to my kids.

AK: Lastly, of the years that you’ve been a teacher, which do you think was your most successful. Why?

AS: It’s too difficult to reference one year as my “most successful” because each one of my years has been successful for different reasons. As teachers we have to overcome obstacles, setbacks, challenging students and/or parents, budget cuts; but in the end, we persevere. Any time I have had a victory, whether big or small, that to me has made that year worth it and deems it a success.

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Interview with Luis Larin, Seventh-Grade Social Studies Teacher and Spanish Teacher

AK: Please tell me a little about yourself and what inspired you to be a teacher.

Luis Larin (LL): I have been teaching now for seven years and for five here at my present middle school social studies position. I have taught at the elementary and high school level as well as in another country. All in all, it’s been a great start to a career.

Thinking back to my childhood, I never thought I would be a teacher and never even considered it. When I really started seeing what it means to be a teacher, I was in college and started volunteering in a second-grade classroom. It was crazy to see that many of the kids were interested in what I was teaching. I instantly felt comfortable. Since then I worked at making sure I always had that experience.

AK: How has teaching (making lesson plans) changed since you started teaching?

LL: Lesson plans are the best now. As a student teacher and later first-year teacher, I thought that my plans needed these specific ideas, and if I skipped a step, I had failed. Now I see them as a chance to try something new. When I talk to my partner teacher (teaches the same level and subject), I feel we are mad scientists. We think of an idea, see what we can do with it, and then try to take it a step further. Over the past three years, I’ve had the most fun teaching. I’ve felt a desire to just change each and every year, and hopefully it has been for the better.

AK: What is your take on incorporating technology (online resources) in classrooms?

LL: Technology is where we are headed. As in any other field in the world today, technology is becoming more and more important. Every year a new resource is added or is created for teachers or students. One of the greatest parts of teaching right now is helping students access the sources but also the technology. In the future, that’s what you will need in order to compete with the rest of the world.

Recently we tried our hand at a virtual field trip, and a year ago, I didn’t even attempt this idea. I think we still need to work on some of the ideas that we’ve implemented, but it has been a breath of fresh air seeing every year different with new ideas.

AK: How has the education system changed since the day you started?

LL: Every teacher alive will probably say the education system has changed, and this is great. New standards, new curriculum, new people lead to a constantly changing environment. It is great to see that we are constantly working towards change.

In the past seven years, I have seen the drastic change of smaller schools, meaning a lot more charter schools, and this does a great job of addressing the needs of a smaller group size. There has been the move and widespread use of technology being seen as a tool rather than one more thing to supervise. One of the largest changes has been the shift from homework and one-time assessments. The idea that learning is a long-term process is a great change. Especially at the younger ages, I think it helps us see that we can still help students achieve greatness.

AK: Lastly, of the years that you’ve been a teacher, which do you think was your most successful. Why?

LL: It may sound scripted, but my hope is that my best will be next year. This is not because I am not proud of what I have done so far, but rather because of the fact that I want to get better at what I do. Just like we ask students to get better, who am I to stop growing as a teacher? I say next year because I learned so much this year, and my hope is that next year I will continue to grow and be better at what I am doing. Next year I will probably say the same, and the following. I want every year to be an improvement on the last year. If it wasn’t or I stop trying, I might as well retire.

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