Implementing Hybrid Learning Is To Be Open To New Things With Jameelah Wright
"Be willing to step all the way out of your comfort zone to do something different."
Title/School: Head Teacher, Three Stages Learning Center
Years of Experience: 16 years
Primary LEGO Education Solution used: People and StoryStarter
Social media accounts/blogs/websites: Twitter: @myurbanflower, Instagram: @jimmiefromtheblock
What would you say is your philosophy as an educator?
Because I work with tiny humans, a major part of my philosophy as an educator is about building partnerships with parents/families as well as building a classroom community that is trustworthy and nurturing.
What is the greatest benefit of a hands on approach to learning?
Hands on learning is more than beneficial to my young students; it is essential to their learning because of where they are developmentally. Hands on learning allows them to explore new concepts and it helps to engage their brains. Blocks and other manipulatives help to make abstract concepts more concrete for them. Also, at the early childhood level, we focus on developing students’ fine motor skills, so hands on play and learning helps to strengthen the small muscles in their hands.
What is your favorite thing about being a teacher?
I feel like this is the most difficult question! But I love that I get to play for a living. That’s the best part of teaching pre-kindergarten. I get to play, and I get to teach kids how to play. I would say that some part of knowing how to play is innate for humans, but there are so many social and emotional skills that tiny humans need in order to play in meaningful ways.
What is one of your proudest moments in the classroom?
My proudest classroom moment was before I officially became a teacher. In undergrad, I tutored in reading over the summers through an America Reads program. I remember one day, when I walked into the youth center where I was working, one of my students saw me from down the hall, she was with her friends, and she pointed at me and yelled “There’s my teacher!” and she ran and hugged me. I was overcome with pride and emotion. And to this day, whenever any of my young students claim me as their teacher, I feel worthy. Because to me, it’s still a badge of honor to be a teacher.
What advice would you give teachers about implementing a hybrid learning strategy?
My advice to teachers regarding implementing hybrid/virtual/remote learning is to be open to new things. Be willing to step all the way out of your comfort zone to do something different. Be daring and risky.
My other piece of advice to teachers is to make self-care a priority. I will admit that planning for this new way of teaching and learning in the hybrid/virtual/remote format is a bit more cognitively taxing than planning for regular in-school face-to-face instruction. Teachers are tired! And it is not selfish to take care of yourself. We cannot teach and guide our students if we are burnt out.
Failure is often a key aspect of the learning process. What's the most important lesson you've learned through failing?
My first year at Rutgers, I failed a couple of classes. I eventually realized that I was not learning and absorbing the material by osmosis. My P-12 learning experience was mostly an easy one; I didn’t have to exert much effort or be intentional about anything. One day I sat myself down and asked what I wanted my life to be. I decided that I could either go hard or go home. After that I became very intentional about my learning. I sat in the front row, made sure the professors knew my name, took notes, scheduled study time, etc. And it paid off.
From that experience, I learned that being reflective and intentional are very important. I try to instill reflection and intention in my students. When I see one of my students going off the rails, I don’t flip out. I ask them “What kind of life choices are you making right now, good ones or bad ones?” They’re only 3, 4, and 5, but they get it!
What are some of your favorite activities/hobbies to do at home?
My hobbies include reading and collecting. Some things I collect are: stamps, rubber ducks, Pez dispensers (I have almost 200!), and Barbies.
So many to choose! For favorite movie, it’s a definite tie between Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure and House Party.
For favorite book, it’s anything by Toni Morrison, or the Flavia de Luce series about a pre-teen girl/chemist/detective who solves murder mysteries.
First musical album you ever owned?
When I was in the 5th grade, my dad bought me a tape of En Vogue’s debut album Born to Sing. I loved it!
Were you a LEGO Fan as a kid? What’s your LEGO Story?
Yes! I have a brother who is only a year younger than me, so I don’t know if they were his LEGO bricks or our LEGO bricks, but we definitely played together. I remember we had the Duplo people with no arms and legs! Just a head and upper torso, but that did not inhibit our imagination in any way. And we loved when we could get our mom to build with us, if only for a few minutes. It was meaningful to us if we could get her to sit with us, and I try to keep that in mind when I’m in the classroom. When I make my rounds in the classroom, I always pause for a few minutes to hang out at the LEGO table. If my students invite me to join in, I happily accept.