User Generated Education

Education as it should be – passion-based.

Starting Off the School Year: It’s About the Learners

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I always start off the school year focusing on connections – my connections to the students, their connections to me and the other in the class. Too many classes, all grade levels, begin the school year with getting down to academic business – starting to cover content, discussing expectations regarding academic requirements, giving tests, and other academic information provided by the teacher to the students in a mostly one-way communication.  The human or social element is often disregarded.

I want students to learn about one another in a personal way.  I want to learn about my students so my instructional strategies can be more personalized and tailored to their needs and interests.  Beginning class with a focus on connections rather than content gives learners the following messages:

  • You are the focus of the class not me.
  • You are important as a learner in this class.
  • You will be expected to engage in the learning activities during class time.  You will be an active learner.
  • You will be expected to do collaborative learning during the class time.
  • I, as the class facilitator, will be just that – a facilitator.  I will introduce the learning activities, but you will be responsible for the actual learning.
  • I will get to know you as a learner and try to help you find learning activities that are of interest to you. (From my post: Beginning the School Year: It’s About Connections Not Content)

Two things that I believe needs to occur at the beginning of the schools year:

  1. Get to know the learners – as individuals with unique backgrounds, interests, strengths, weaknesses.
  2. Establish a learning community where all learners are seen as having value in our classroom.

This past week was the first week of school and the first week that I am teaching these students in a 9th Grade Freshman Seminar. After the first day introductions with fun games such as Warp Speed and Jenga Q & A (descriptions of these can be found at https://usergeneratededucation.wordpress.com/2018/08/12/beginning-the-school-year-with-connections-2018/ . The rest of the week was spent on the learners working on the activities from the following Hyperdoc.



By far, the most valuable activity for me is the Student Interest Survey as it provides me with so much information about each student in such an easy format. With 25 students in the class, it would have taken me months to learn all I did using the following Google Form.

The results of the survey, which follow, provide me with so much valuable information. I discovered their passions, aspirations, dreams, and even some fears. For example, I found out their career aspirations: pathologist, mechanical engineer, police officer, orthopedic doctor, electrical engineer, doctor. veterinarian, architect, actress, civil engineer, professional racer for anything with a motor, teacher, interior designer, photographer, nurse, writer, artist, dancer, music producer, singer psychologist, forensic scientist, neurosurgeon. This information will assist me in planning activities based on their interests.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

August 17, 2019 at 10:41 pm

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