Saturday, December 3, 2016

TOMMIE SAYLOR: Much of learning lies in the presentation

“Once you stop learning, you start dying.”
-- Albert Einstein

By Tommie Saylor
Kennedy High School Principal

In the field of education we spend a lot of time talking about two of the three aspects of good teaching, but we seem to place little emphasis on what I consider to be perhaps the most important part of the trilogy, at least from a student’s perspective. It’s called presentation. Let’s review the three.

The first part of the educational trilogy is the content.  Teachers learn their content in college, through years of practice and practical application while on the job (experience), and through seminars and conferences guided by State Standards and learning objectives. 

Content is often referred to curriculum and trust me when I tell you that after years of teachers having to maintain certifications and Highly Qualified status, teachers know their curriculums inside and out.

The second part of the educational trilogy is technique and/or teaching methodology.  This is where renowned educational researchers spend most of their time. 

Such people like Robert Marzano who talks about the science behind teaching, how our brains learn and the step-by-step approach where if you want “X” results, you need to utilize methods “A”, “B”, and “C”.  People like Madeline Hunter (my personal favorite) talk about the art of teaching; about processes that inspire and delight students into learning; and about how to draw students into the lesson, making them part of the lesson as opposed to just observers of the lesson. 

It’s also people like Richard DuFour, who talks about creating Learning Communities and advocates for professional collaboration and views teaching as a continuous process of teaching lessons, reviewing data and making adjustments based upon the data.  The second part of the educational trilogy is well researched, well implemented in today’s schools, is the subject of countless professional development seminars, and as stated above, almost every educator knows these names and processes inside and out.

Finally, the third part of the educational trilogy, the part that as previously stated may very well be the most important part, is the presentation. 

It is through the instructor’s presentation of the lesson that the teacher can demonstrate their passion for teaching, their love for learning, and able to build a rapport with their students. It is through the presentation that the instructor can become imaginative, witty, entertaining and create not just lessons, but learning experiences. 

Dave Burgess
The book “Teach Like A Pirate,” authored by Mr. Dave Burgess, a long time teacher from San Diego who taught mostly “at risk” students on the edge of dropping out, is a must read. 

In Mr. Burgess’s book he addresses the third part of the educational trilogy, proclaiming that the better entertainer you are, the more effective teacher you become. 

Mr. Burgess talks about using time honored marketing skills to “sell” your product and draw students to you. He talks about making your classroom a place where students want to go, as opposed to being a place where they have to go. 

Being a Social Studies teacher, Mr. Burgess talks about dressing up in a pin-striped suit when he covers prohibition and the days of “speak-easies”; dressing up in a “poodle skirt” as a young lady in the 1950s when he covers post war America; and taking the students on a nature walk when he teaches the “trail of tears”. 

Mr. Burgess advocates for using music in class when it will help to drive home a point; in showmanship almost to the point of silliness to create educational experiences; and not just presenting lessons that have to be endured.

“Don’t just create lessons, create an experience,” he said.

This falls in line with a quote that many educators may know, but seldom remember:

“They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.”

Mr. Burgess promotes making students feel the lesson, not just hear and see it. I know that many educators may believe that this is hard to do, that is takes a great deal of work and a great deal of creativity that they may not possess. But teaching not supposed to be easy, it’s supposed to be worth it, it’s supposed to be rewarding.

Students come to school because they have no choice.  Imagine what it would be like if school was not mandatory. If students could choose freely if they wanted to attend school or not, and had the freedom to pick what classes they attend. 

If this were the case, would you be teaching to an empty room? 

Perhaps we should consider making some changes that draw students to us, to the classroom, that makes students want to learn, and excited to be involved.

Helping students to find their greatness. Making Kennedy the school of choice. Excellence by design.

WEST MIDDLE SCHOOL band marches in Wyandotte parade

RANDALL ELEMENTARY SCHOOL students learn about the Earth

Third graders learned all about the Earth at Randall Elementary School. Mrs. Cahalan’s class did a two-week long unit about earth materials.

They learned there are four layers to the Earth. First layer is the crust, which is the thin layer we walk on. The second layer is the mantle, which is under the crust. The third layer is the outer core. And the fourth layer is the inner core.

“Mikey” from her class told us the core of the earth is between 8,000 and 9,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Mrs. Cahalan’s class celebrated all the information they learned by creating their own earth layers. 

KINYON ELEMENTARY SCHOOL youngsters visit Animal Shelter

Kinyon Elementary School kindergarteners visit the Taylor Animal Shelter. They are working on a special fundraiser to help care for these precious animals. Kindergarten cares!

KINYON ELEMENTARY SCHOOL pupils sort it all out!

The kindergarteners at Kinyon Elementary School are learning about sorting. It's a blast!

TAYLOR PARKS ELEMENTARY SCHOOL pupils learn about holiday, and its treats

Taylor Parks Elementary School teacher Mrs. Sloan and her students spent the recent day learning about Thanksgiving and its true meaning and traditions. What better way to end the lesson but with making a pumpkin pie (sort of)?  The students, along with aides Mrs. Francis and Mrs. Kern, made their pie entirely out of crispy cereal and marshmallows. It was good enough to eat.

TRUMAN HIGH SCHOOL: Mock trail teaches basic legal concepts

Mrs. Hale’s Business Law students at Truman High School recently conducted a simulated mock trial.

Holding a mock trial in the classroom is a hands-on teaching technique that allows students to demonstrate the process of a trial and courtroom procedures. It challenges students higher order thinking and communication skills.

They applied the tools learned throughout the trimester to research and facilitate a criminal trial. Students participated in the trial by taking on the roles of prosecuting attorneys, defense attorneys, defendant, witnesses, court reporter, media, bailiff, judge, and jury.

They practiced opening and closing statements, giving testimony, direct and cross examination of witnesses, and finally a jury deliberation.

As a result of the students’ hard work and collaboration they gained an insight into how the legal system deals with criminal disputes. The entire project allowed for students to justify what they learned throughout the trimester and collect a real life experience that they can carry with them.

The mock trial also exposed students to a variety of careers in law along with the fundamental law concepts such as authority and fairness. The students enjoyed the process and a few students look at it as a steppingstone in their future law careers.

TRUMAN HIGH SCHOOL principal honors for actions during accidents

The Board of Education recently honored Truman High School Principal Melissa Skopczynski. She was recognized for stopping to help students during two different bus accidents on the very same day.

In both cases, un-attentive drivers hit school buses , and Principal Skopczynski just happened to be passing by at the right time. She stopped her car, got on the buses, helped calm the kids and assisted the bus drivers as they waited for EMS and the police.

Thank you, Principal Skopczynski, for always putting the needs of our students first.

UNION LEADERS honored for dedication to the district

Taylor Federation of Teachers President Linda Moore, Vice President Terry Devlin and 26M Union President Kathie Fields were recently recognized by the Board of Education. They were recognized for all of their hard work as they helped the district organize the millage and bond elections efforts. They each worked tirelessly behind the scenes to design informational literature, organize groups of employees from the bargaining units to pass out flyers, and to distribute information at the polls. Many thanks to these district leaders from the Board of Education.


Mrs. Rybski's third-grade “scientists” learn about landforms during a recent lesson at Eureka Heights Elementary School.

Thursday, December 1, 2016


At McDowell Elementary School you can't keep the fun away from the third graders. They enjoyed a wonderful bowling trip. They all loved it!

MCDOWELL ELEMENTARY SCHOOL holds conferences, book fair

Teacher conferences and a book fair were in full swing recently at McDowell Elementary School. The staff is so thankful to all of its families that came to school this week to support the book fair and talk to teachers.

RANDALL ELEMENTARY SCHOOL pupils celebrate (the first) Thanksgiving

The Randall Elementary School students in Mrs. Celsi's class celebrated “The First Thanksgiving” together.

To begin, the students performed a play.  The students were all pilgrims, who traveled on the Mayflower and landed at Plymouth.  

The Pilgrim students had to survive the winter and build houses. Soon when spring came, some of the students transformed into Indians.  

They acted out how the Indians taught the Pilgrims how to plant and hunt food.  Pilgrim students then asked our Indian students to a big feast called “The First Thanksgiving.”

Before eating the class named one thing they were thankful for.  

The students ate turkey, mashed potatoes, bread, and cranberries. They had a great time and were able to share Thanksgiving with one another.   

The students said, “We laughed, we ate and wore hats!”

RANDALL ELEMENTARY SCHOOL gets Operation Warm visit

The Rotary Club of Taylor recently donated coats to Randall Elementary School. Some students were excited to receive warm coats from the Rotary Club for Operation Warm. Thank you Rotary Club for the new coats! 

WEST MIDDLE SCHOOL presentation turns scowls into smiles

On November 17, Mr. Richard Paul, with his amusing puppets, visited with all sixth-grade classes at West Middle School.

His program took place in the cafeteria/auditorium. Paul began by explaining to the students about his physical deformity. Paul was born with a shortened left arm and only two fingers on his left hand.

But once the students understood what made Paul unique, they all agreed that they would not make fun of him or hurt his feelings.  Paul also told the boys and girls that life is full of conflicts, but it is how we resolve those conflicts that matter.

Compromise, understanding, and good solutions can change a bad situation into a promise of better things to come. Even three sixth-grade teachers got into the act to drive Paul's positive message home.

West is very grateful to the Downriver Community Federal Credit Union for underwriting this program. Next time a conflict or disagreement arises, let's remember Mr. Richard Paul's message of compromise and understanding to turn scowls to smiles.