Thursday, March 26, 2015

Robin King - How are the Humanities integral to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM)?

Robin King is currently teaching in St. Paul Public Schools as a Specialist in Developmental Cognitive Disabilities. Previously she embarked on a 30-year journey through nursing; restaurant ownership; and teaching Multiple Language Learner students, working as a school district Equity Coach, school district Homelessness Liaison, Associate Director of Family Service Center, Behavior Intervention Specialist/Coach, and a Special Education Inclusion Consultant. Through all of this, making connections through narratives of person, culture and passion are the warp thread in the tapestry of Robin’s life. This is how she helps students who learn differently to connect to various content, to their communities, and to the world...just as she does.

My first thoughts ran to lofty heights of explanation. What I know is MY story, my daily lived life, my daily integration of the humanities into the lives of my students; the web of literacy, art, the history of our lives and cultures, how we engage in our culture and society and yes, science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

My students in grades 3-5 grace my every day with a plethora of strengths and disabilities. Our days learning together are challenged cognitively, linguistically, and physically by lack of vision or traditional voices, physical spasticity, encumbering equipment, time for personal cares and…well, the list goes on.

As I greet each day I reflect on the “painting” of my life. Whether in color or black and white, the layers of brush strokes, the shades of meaning are caught within. As I listen to the first sounds, I know who is calling, I know something about the path and I am in motion. So I thought, “How does this question apply to me as an educator?” The answer, “It is how I teach!” For me, it is weaving together a tapestry of our narratives of life with the tools to navigate our community and society, and knitting the threads of our unique differences into a flexible, colorful way of knowing through connections across disciplines.

As I greet each day I also reflect on the life "paintings" I create for my students. As I lay down the brush strokes, the textures, the highlights, and the shadows, I know I am creating a vision and space for them to engage and navigate the shades of meaning in life, and to tell their stories.

This is an awesome responsibility!

Stories happen as we explore iPads as tools for learning, to demonstrate in an accessible way our exploration of math, to record our acting out a word problem or developing “tools” to help us physically manipulate our technology in an independent way. Stories happen when we hear our voices recorded as we describe a learning process. Stories happen as we use technology to access worlds we have yet to experience through video, audio, and face-to-face across oceans and continents. Stories happen as a student without eyes finds a way to understand the abstract concept of color through a concrete musical app for drawing.

Stories happen as I integrate a culturally responsive and relevant, multiple-perspective, multi-sensory, cross-categorical approach to my instruction. Each student, each day is learning both formal and informal curricula in ways which respect, free, and inform their minds, strengthen their bodies, and expand their souls. It is my passionate, purposeful, responsibility to uphold the highest expectations of my students’ and my own capacity. Stories happen as I strive daily to provide the necessary conditions, create, and open the pathways where learning can most deeply and individually begin.

The learning continuum is simple, joyful, thoughtful, purposeful, ongoing, mutual, and lifelong for me as a teacher and for each of my students. Stories happen here.

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