How We Learn: Student TeachersJuly 25, 2018
WHERE: Robert E. Lee High School, Springfield, VA
WHO: Lauren Jensen (NY '15), her 10th-graders, and former students Michelle Melfi and Maria Krisch
WHAT THEY'RE DOING: Leading a lesson on how to take a journalistic approach to writing profiles. The lesson is part of a larger unit in which students examine profiles in magazines like The New Yorker, InStyle, Sports Illustrated and Rolling Stone, in addition to reading student-authored samples from Lauren's previous classes as "mentor texts."
WHY: Once a year, Lauren invites former students to prepare this lesson and share their own experience with the assignment. "I deeply value students' learning experiences and reflection," says Lauren. "This enriches my teaching. They bring insight to the assignment and offer a perspective on profile writing in a way I can't as the teacher assigning the writing." The first year, Lauren asked the editors of the school newspaper to deliver the lesson; students brought a ton of questions to the class and engaged with the "student teachers" even more deeply than she had hoped.
This year marked the first time Lauren had taught the unit since leaving Glen Cove High School in New York, where she won her Milken Award in 2015. Without a stable of former students at her current school, Lauren asked Michelle and Maria, students from Glen Cove who had just finished their sophomore years in college, to travel down to Virginia for the class. "Michelle and Maria totally blew me away," she says. "They were articulate and brilliant. They appealed to my current students with their sense of humor and clear understanding of the writing." As an added benefit, the two former students offered to read the class's drafts and field questions about college. "My students started emailing them within a few days for assistance and advice," says Lauren. "Clearly their visit was a win!"
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