With more and more educators complaining about educational requirements that “promote teaching to the test,” one Illinois school district is among those stepping back to teach more than just math, science and English.
With more and more educators complaining about educational requirements that “promote teaching to the test,” Knoxville District 202 is among those stepping back to teach more than just math, science and English.
Last year, John Tate, a business teacher at Knoxville High School, came up with the idea for character building workshops.
“We want our kids to try and improve themselves whenever they have the opportunity to make themselves better citizens,” he said. “The pillars of character are one thing that we want to address, not that the students were lacking in character, we just want them to be the best student and person that they can be.”
Tate and several other teachers developed a four-part series of character building workshops. The first, Aug. 31, was on respect. On Wednesday, the theme was teamwork. Days devoted to acceptance and responsibility are on tap for February and April, respectively.
Each day taken for the workshop was already set to be an early dismissal day for students. In other words, days teachers struggled to get much accomplished in just 25-minute classes. Still, Tate is appreciative the administration was so willing and supportive to allow class time to be used for something that will not produce quantitative and measurable results, unlike test scores.
“We’re educating human beings,” Principal Mike Kemmer said. “To have a good life they need to be balanced, have some base -- that’s character. There’s more than academics in developing quality young people.”
The teamwork workshop featured multiple activities, including watching the movie “Flight 93” to see how teamwork factored into the passengers retaking the plane as well as the ground team trying to provide instructions and aid to the passengers. Students also participated in a collection for care packages to military personnel and wrote letters to service members later in the day.
But teachers stressed teamwork takes place in experiences typical to the average student.
“We’re involved in teamwork every day,” Teresa McKeague, a Knoxville High teacher, told her class Wednesday. “Teamwork means you’re willing to cooperate and work for a team goal.”
Among the activities designed to illustrate this point was a balloon march. Students lined the gym with balloon wedged between themselves and the student in front of them. Then, as one unbroken chain, they had to move forward without any balloons hitting the floor and without using their hands to hold them. Classes achieved various degrees of success, with one class making it all the way down.
Knoxville student Morgan Gerstenberger, who was called the MVP of the care package collection drive, called the balloon exercise “interesting,” saying her group “tried and tried and couldn’t get it.” She thought students were taking the workshop seriously.
“I think most of us are actually putting good effort in,” she said.
Senior Cody Greene said the activities were good because they allowed students to work with groups of people and contribute equally.
“I think they’re fun. They help you get to know each other and work well with each other,” he said.
Greene and Tate said the workshops have been met with some of the negativity one might expect from students when trying something new.
“Some don’t take it very seriously,” Greene said, adding, “Some people take it too seriously. I think for the most part, (students) are getting something out of it.”
Tate agreed that “by and large they’re willing to go along with it. If it strikes a nerve with a few kids, then we’ve made progress.”
Contact The Register-Mail writer Matt Hutton at firstname.lastname@example.org.