Celebrating Great Teaching

For the past school year, National Public Radio has broadcast a wonderful series of stories about what it means for a teacher to be great and how they get that way. Every piece has inspired us, from a round table of educators who've thought long and hard about teaching to a story about a teacher who believes math equals love. To mark the end of this school year, we figured we'd pass on some of our favorites. Click here to savor these broadcasts.


According to the Pell Institute, only 11 percent of first-generation, low-income college students receive a degree within six years. (The degree attainment rate for students who are neither low-income nor first-generation is 54 percent.) WKCD's own interviews with first-generation students underscore the reasons, from poor academic preparation to balancing full-time employment with full course loads. Faced with a torrent of assumptions about who they are or are not, first-generation students tend to keep these burdens to themselves, ashamed of their circumstances or asking for help. Suddenly, however, their struggles—especially at some of our nation's "elite" private institutions—are making headlines, as students step forward and reporters seek out their stories.
We're often asked if we have a "summer bucket list" for teens that we could share. We've searched the Internet for suggestions posted by young people nationwide, ages 13 - 15, to create a list for teens by teens. We invite you to share this list with students or kids you know and use it as a spring(summer) board to come up with your own ideas—perhaps ideas more suited to your own circumstances. (We're also aware that many of the ideas listed here are female-centric; it seems that most of the teens who put their summer bucket list online were, you guessed it, female.)

For six years, WKCD has compiled and updated a directory of summer programs for high school students, programs that can be life changing. Our lists include summer abroad programs that combine service, learning, and exploration; national pre-collegiate programs on college campuses; summer camps focused on leadership development, social justice, the environment, media and arts, and more. While it may be too late for many of the programs in our directory, some are still accepting applications. Check them out! Summer Journeys '15: Opportunities to Serve, Learn, and Explore Abroad | Summer Journeys '15: Pre-Collegiate Programs on College Campuses | Summer Journeys '15: Summer Camps with an Edge

For the past five months, winning teams in our student action research program have been hard at work turning their plans into action. Most anticipate finishing their projects this summer or early fall. While we wait for the final results, we thought we'd share a few early "products": the spring edition of the Root Knowledge Journal, the work of Chicago students seeking to make critical social inquiry part of the regular curriculum; a survey designed by youth in East Chicago, Indiana to elicit student voice in improving their city; local news coverage of a project by teens in Edenton, North Carolina to combat the invasive Hydrilla plant in the local river.



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What makes teens tick? This research brief by WKCD, part of our howyouthlearn.org, summarizes how adolescent learning is shaped by growth and change in young people’s identity and autonomy, social roles and responsibilities, belief systems and values, and relationships with family and peers. An explosion of new research underscores that adolescence is so much more than a process grounded in biology, in which a child develops from a primitive to a civilized state. We have also learned—and are still learning—how adults can make a difference in adolescent development, including helping teenagers develop emotional intelligence and resilience.

At the a recent conference, WKCD happened to overhear a group of young community organizers talking about what a cool dude Einstein was and how they were lots of great quotes from the legendary mathematician. One of the youth said, "Hey, I'd like to see them." It got us thinking . . . Here, set to music, are some of our favorites Einstein quotes. "It's not that I'm so smart, it's that I stay with problems longer." "Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts." "Setting an example is not the main means of influencing others; it is the only means."

Rarely do those living in refugee camps get to tell firsthand their stories of hardship. Least heard are the perspectives of children, for whom a refugee camp may be the only home they know. Several years ago, WKCD sponsored two young American media makers who traveled to Bangladesh to capture the lives of youth in a Burmese refugee camp. There they helped eleven Rohingya children share their world through their own photographs and words. Most of the children, ages 10 - 14, had never seen a camera or tape recorder before. In no time, though, they organized themselves into teams, mastered the equipment, and gathered eloquent testimony to the hardship and hope that mark daily life as refugees who are unable to return home.
Two years ago, when a group of high school students in Carlsbad, California began work on a documentary film about childhood immunization, they never thought they would find themselves in the eye of a storm. The story of their award-winning “Invisible Threat” offers a cautionary tale about why vaccinations matter and how controversy can trump science. Unwittingly, they found themselves at the heart of a local storm about the trumpeted but unproven links between immunization and childhood autism. Undaunted, they pursued their investigation of the role of childhood immunizations in public health, even bringing their powerful video to members of the U.S. Congress.
This collection of short videos, assembled by WKCD, shines a light on how character and grit contribute to student success. Experts in the field—Angela Duckworth and Paul Tough—share their research and experiences. Two New York City school princpals talk about teaching character skills and grit in the classroom. High school students talk about persistence, part of WKCD's "Just Listen" series, and an Indiana University basketball player, speaking after his last game as a senior, describes and thanks all of the people who helped him believe in himself, on and off the basketball court. Discussion questions follow each video.
What does teaching look like when it truly centers on the student's learning needs? What practices, structures, and tools do schools that embrace student-centered learning turn to every day? From our research, eight core elements come to the fore: strong relationships with students; personalization and choice in curricular and instructional tasks; appropriate challenge levels for each learner; supporting students' social and emotional growth; anytime, anywhere, and real-world learning; technology that is integral to teaching and learning; clear, timely assessment and support; and fostering autonomy and lifelong learning. Learn more.
Student and Youth Voice: Asking, Listening, and Taking Action
When WKCD embraced student voice as part of our guiding principles in 2001, the idea that youth should be welcomed as crucial investors in improving their schools and communities had few advocates. The research on the power of student engagement was commensurately sparse. To us, however, it made gut sense to privilege student and youth voice and vision. So for thirteen years WKCD has supported youth as collaborators: in our books and other publications (e.g., our “Fires” series); in survey projects nationwide; in more than 75 grants to student research groups across the globe; and in the feature stories we produce for this website. Here is an inventory of all we've created with youth as partners.
Growth Mindset and Why It Matters
Few ideas about learning have made their way as quickly into the lexicon of educators as growth mindset. WKCD has assembled five short videos that provide a lively introduction to growth mindset and why it matters, for students as well as teachers. At the end of each video we offer suggestions for activities and assignments, for use by teachers (as part of a professional development workshop) and by students (as part of their classroom learning). We encourage you to browse through the presentation and pick those videos that work for your situation and audience—and to amend the suggested activities.



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special collections

Student/Youth Voice

College Matters

Global Youth Voices

Great American Dreaming

Just Listen!

Mentors That Matter

Service Learning

Students as Allies in School

Student Research for Action

Voices from the Middle Grades

Youth in Policy: Civics2

Youth on the Trail 2012


popular wkcd
publications [pdf

A Guide to Creating Teen-
Adult Public Forums

Cultural Conversations through Creative Writing

Documenting Immigration Stories

First Ask, Then Listen: How Your
Students Can Help You Teach
Them Better

Making Writing Essential to
Teen Lives

Profiles of Politically Active Youth

Queer Youth Advice for Educators

SAT Bronx

The Schools We Need: Creating
Small High Schools That Work
for Us



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Fires in the Mind

Fires in the Bathroom

Fires in the Middle School Bathroom