March 18, 2021

Past Meets Present: A Magnet School Story

My Early Days in a Magnet School

A couple months ago while back in my home state of Minnesota, I drove past the three-story brick school I student taught at in the late 90s on NE Broadway and University in Minneapolis. There it stood, Sheridan Global Arts Magnet School, only now, it’s a dual immersion school in a neighborhood that seemed a lot more hipster than it once was. Of course, you can’t drive past a place that was so formative to your thinking without doing some reflection.

Looking back, I was pretty much a disaster when I student taught – the comic-like raised eyebrows and deer-in-the-headlights look on my face in my school badge picture, said it all. I had a ton of content knowledge, but little pedagogical skill. And really, I had zero knowledge of my students and their varied backgrounds, though they certainly helped me fill in that lack of knowledge fast with their wonderfully varied and unique personalities. The school was like a mini UN. I had kids who were Black, Hmong, Russian, Chinese, Sudanese, and Eritrean. It was an awesome and vibrant mix. I still remember many of their names and their expressions – a wonderful group of kids who brought me along with them on their journey because clearly I had no idea what I was doing. They were smart, generous, and filled with spirit.

I was lucky enough to be put on a team of three seventh grade ELA/social studies teachers who in retrospect were some of the most committed educators I’ve ever met. I remember sitting at a funky local coffee shop crafting units with the team, making sense of what was then new standards (we didn’t have standards prior to that) and puzzling through how to weave together the arts, the standards, and honoring the cultures and experiences of the students.

Paul Teske, Hard at PL Work

Paul in his natural habitat: Professional Learning out in the field

The school year began with my host teacher, Jeff Sommers, taking me with him on family visits to the students’ homes. Julie Landsman, iconic writer in residence, taught me the simple value of poetry as a powerful tool for elevating and validating the voices and lives of the students, and how writing WITH your students matters. And Jehanne Beaton embodied a passion for social justice and equity in her teaching that I marveled at, and it made me want to be like her. Who wouldn’t? The discussions and ethos of the conversations set my point of view of what teaching is all about. It’s about community and relationships… and learning, too. But the foundation is people and making connections.

The Magnet Schools Partnership

It is with these thoughts in mind that many years later, I excitedly announce Teaching Channel’s partnership with Magnet Schools of America. While my days at Sheridan are a distant memory, the tradition and commitment of Magnet Schools lives on in a big way across the U.S.! Teaching Channel celebrates your commitment to your students and the communities you serve. Well done.

So just what is this collaboration all about? As you may know, Teaching Channel has a history of opening classroom doors, allowing teachers to see into each others classrooms to easily grasp new and fresh classroom instructional practices. To help Magnet Schools of America educators connect more with each other, Tch is now providing a private Magnet School network within Teaching Channel, in which schools and communities of teachers can share their own classroom videos in private spaces.

This access is accompanied with the Magnet School of America Action Pack that contains curated, relevant playlists inside of learning plans that provide an inquiry-based approach to professional learning. One of these learning plans was authored by Dr. Elam and focuses on equity. We also have a nice set of other learning plans related to PBL and STEM that are sourced in our research-based content with the support of foundations. The learning plans are perfect to guide PLCs or augment coaching and mentoring cycles that guide teachers into applying their newfound knowledge. And of course those within the Magnet School network can author their own learning plans to customize the progression of their professional learning.

Want More Information?

The Teaching Channel and Magnet Schools of America partnership will continue to grow to meet the needs of the Magnet School community. Find out more about the new opportunities to pesonalize your Magent School professional learning journey. Get started today!


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