Our guest blogger is Casey Ikeda (on the right working with English teacher Jacob). Casey, a Seattle native, is in his second year teaching at LEADPrep. Although he went to school in San Francisco, his huge extended family tugged on his heart strings and brought him back to the city he loves! Like many Seattle natives he is big into coffee, hiking, Patagonia jackets, and ultimate frisbee.
What do you like about teaching?
I remember when I realized that flipped learning would really work in a classroom. It totally blew my mind! As soon as you say it out loud, you realize it makes complete sense to learn from a video lecture at home, then come into class where there is an expert who can guide me when I am struggling. Success is realistic for this type of learning because we are living in an age when the technology is available. I love teaching – wrapping project-based learning around flipped learning and watching the students make such huge strides!
The school I went to when I was younger was a little bit alternative as many of the things we did were project-based, but this was before technology was integrated, now the possibilities are endless. The available technology, combined with the multiage class, has really amazed me. There is room for important critical thinking and time to work through problems. Small group discussion was a big back bone of my education. Now as an educator myself, I see this synergy as the core to processing and enhancing learning and believe in its importance.
What do you like about teaching at a micro-school?
One of the things I love best about teaching in a micro-school is the opportunity to really get to know the students. To watch them grow and meet challenges and change during the year. To have them start out timid and insecure and then get up on a stage and do a rock concert! To know that they are making huge strides – and that my coaching behind the scenes helps them take the lead in their learning.
Project-based learning gives the students the ability to learn to collaborate and work together, as well as mentor each other. Usually you only see this type of dynamic in sports, but here at LEADPrep we see mentorship between students of different ages right here in the classroom. And those mentorship moments go both ways – both younger to older, and older to younger.
What have been some standout project-based highlights for you?
One of my favorite projects here at LEADPrep would have to be a smash up we did between English and History. There were essentially two projects: learning persuasive writing in English class and exploring World War ll in History. We used a debate format which was really effective. So many great interactions and learning opportunities – synergy that developed using evidence to prove points, collaboration in groups, students working to see both sides, and practice articulating both one’s own point and what the other side would say, as well as practice creating strong persuasion in a respectful debate. It was awesome to watch the students work on this project.
Another favorite project we did here at LEADPrep was based on the idea of how do you create a positive change in your community. It sounds simplistic – but you have to start out by defining who you are: student, younger brother, son, next door neighbor. Then defining who is the community – school, neighborhood, geographic area. Finally each student had to determine what positive change they could create.
The amazingly wide range of student advocacy really impressed me. Students planned projects from pet adoption of hard-to-place animals to nature trail maintenance to greeting cards for gender diverse people who are coming out. This project really made students think about who they are in their community! They learned “I have the ability to make change.” It is exciting to see how these young people can be the catalyst for change.
What do you like best about teaching at LEADPrep?
Well, obviously the students. But to be honest, one of my favorite things about LEADPrep is the other teachers. It’s a shared experience – when a kid has a bad day, so do we. Sometimes it’s hard because we don’t always have all the answers, but we really care about the students so we consistently try to work together to find all the answers we can. I am so privileged to be working within a community of teachers that all feel the same way about education, other people who know the students really well, and are collaborating to make learning work for each student.