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2019 Summer Think

Workshop Spotlight | July 29, 2019

By Rachel Jun, MƒA Master Teacher

I love the summer. Not only for the turning off of the alarm clocks and binge-watching all the shows I’ve missed during the school year, but because there’s just something special about it that allows me to be more creative. That is also probably the reason why I do almost all of my curriculum planning in the summer in preparation for the next academic year. To help the process along and get inspired, I purposely sign up for as many summer professional learning opportunities as I can. In previous years, I’ve been to the AMNH, the Intrepid, Columbia University Lamont-Doherty, and the Cooper Hewitt Museum to name a few. And for the last three consecutive years, I’ve attended the MƒA Summer Think - a three-day conference led by teachers, for teachers. Every year when I talk to teachers about the reason they attend a conference the second week into summer vacation, they all have a similar purpose: a want to grow and be energized through collaborating with others who feel the same. This year, I had the opportunity to go behind the scenes and PLAN, in addition to participate, and it was an unforgettable and humbling experience.

When designing the Summer Think, the planning committee brainstormed how we can make this year’s conference as rejuvenating as possible for teachers because after all, summer is the best time to recharge and refresh. That’s why this year’s theme was “Teach, Play, Learn: The Power of Sustainable Teaching.” This year’s conference lent ways for teachers to explore old and new ideas on pedagogy and content, so that when we all go back to school in September, we can ignite curiosity in our students without burning ourselves out. More than eighty teachers attended and actively engaged in the extended workshops we call Deep Dives each morning, as well as hour long single sessions in the afternoons. The positive energy of the MƒA community was overwhelming, and I was incredibly proud of all who invested their time to teach, play, and learn together. 

There were four Deep Dives to choose from: 

  • “Where the @&#$ Are My Keys?”
  • “Developing Mathematics Through Models: A Journey of Three Models Across K-12” 
  • “Design Your Teaching Life”
  • “Facilitation as Leadership”

A bit different from previous years, the Deep Dives were facilitated by MƒA teachers, as well as external facilitators with whom we have close relationships with as a community. We purposefully designed these teams to ensure that these inspiring facilitators could pass the baton to MƒA community members. The Deep Dive I attended, "Where the @&#$ are my keys?," was facilitated by MƒA Master Teacher Stephanie Kadison with Dr. Disan Davis and Dr. Jeanne Garbarino from the RockEdu Science Outreach Team at Rockefeller University. We learned so much during the allotted time, but a few things that stood out to me were about the six types of memory and which part of the brain they are processed in, how we can combat chronic stress, and how we can get our students to effectively learn and internalize information better. We learned all of this and more while we played memory games, simulated neurons, and collaborated on figuring out ways to improve our students’ abilities to remember. I won’t lie - it was a ton of fun.

Single sessions this year were grouped into the following subthemes: 

  • “Who are the students and the teachers in the classroom?”
  • “How do you reach your students?”
  • “What do we teach and why?”

When the workshop descriptions for the conference were finalized, I remember wanting to register for every session! I almost felt cheated that I had to choose only one of five for each subtheme. Luckily, I was able to get a taste of every session that ran during the Closing Circles discussion and I felt like I was actually there experiencing the very same things others experienced, from sidewalk math to circuitry to inclusivity of the classroom. It wasn’t just me that appreciated the interconnectedness of the entire conference. Everything just clicked, and it seemed like everyone at the Summer Think felt the same - rejuvenated - the ultimate goal for this year. I knew that for certain when all of the teachers in attendance shared the one word that described how they felt about the experience, most were synonyms of the verb, “to refresh.”

Rachel Jun began her teaching career as a New York City Teaching Fellow in 2010 and is currently a 2018 MƒA Master Teacher II. She teaches Modern Chemistry and AP Chemistry at Columbia Secondary School. When she is not found in the classroom, she is often found listening to Kpop, painting, taking photographs of her four cats, and exploring New York City’s array of foods. This allows her to connect more deeply with some of her students who share the same interests.