A Week in Santa Cruz

It’s already Thursday and I am just sitting down to write about the conversations I’ve been having with teachers and classrooms full of students since Monday. It’s been really interesting talking to and, most times, having back and forth conversations with these classes. I’ve been told how some classes can be more attentive or rambunctious based on class “personality”, the time of day, or the general malaise that seems to cloud kids natural curiosity throughout high school. But, who am I to complain about those few classes? I remember being the same way to some degree at their age, which was only 4 years ago for me!

A few things that really stood out to me and may end up being my primary takeaways from this week are the dedication teachers show for their students despite the classroom responses they sometimes get and the bureaucratic challenges they constantly struggle with. Many of these students are learning really cool things, some of which I didn’t get the chance to learn through my own “comprehensive” traditional curriculum and only picked up through college coursework. For example, Ms. Laura Taylor’s students are working on the physical structure of the earth from the lithosphere to the core.l If I knew what those words were prior to my first geology class it was because I heard them on a National Geographic special, not because they were part of my primary education curriculum. Another great example is Mr. Jason Tovani teaching a class on paleontology, one of the coolest things there is to study!

I learned that it can be both difficult and time consuming to put together even a simple, interactive set of lesson plans for a class. All teachers have done this at least once for the classes they teach and usually as they’re teaching them for the first time. I can only imagine the work it takes to accomplish this and to balance their personal lives or raising children of their own. This makes the work teachers do all the more impressive.

Finally, I’m enjoying my time here more than I thought I would, even coming in with an expectation to enjoy the experience. I’ve always been interested in education and this has confirmed that, at least to the extent I’ve been delivering lectures to students here, I enjoy being in a classroom with kids. It’s the classes that are curious and have a stream of questions that are the most enjoyable and lead to my being able to cover different topics while they are learn some interesting, relevant things to environmental science/geology. Even the classes that are less responsive (or unresponsive) are made up for by the classes that may only have one or two students that drive the conversation forward and always in different directions. I think this is why many people become educators and will certainly be why I plan to remain involved in education throughout my life.
On a separate, and unrelated note, being able to talk to kids, some of whom are interested in what I’m doing, gets me excited about sharing what I’ve done and reminds me that I really do like my “job” doing geologic research and that I’m on the right path. That in itself can be directly attributed to the efforts and enthusiasm of a number of teachers I had throughout my own education and for that, I am incredibly thankful.


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