Think about that first time that your students saw you outside of the school setting. Maybe you’re shopping for groceries, out for lunch, or on a walk.
My middle school students usually exhibited mild shock that I existed anywhere other than within the school campus; I’m pretty sure they assumed I emerged from my supply closet every morning, Mr. Rogers-style after a night of reading ancient world history textbooks and subsisting on stale chicken nuggets from the after school program. Little did they know or wonder about my hobbies, interests, and adventures that took place as an adult beyond the classroom.
Now that may sound silly, but I have to admit that I was guilty of thinking of my colleagues as somewhat static characters as well. How much did I really know about the Biology teacher who shared lunch duty with me? What did I really know about the Art teacher who worked way up on the mysterious fourth floor?
The truth is, schools are jam-packed with dynamic, fascinating, brilliant people, with unique stories and experiences–and they’re right down the hall or up the stairs (or on a Zoom call). And I’m not just talking about teachers; schools represent a whole ecosystem of administrators, support staff, counselors, maintenance techs, bus drivers, food service workers, and IT support. These are all folks who can lend their expertise and experience to your PBL class in the form of a resident expert, engaged audience member, or thoughtful critic.
I’d say every school probably has a few folks who prefer to remain enigmatic characters, but they can still offer their professional expertise as a resource. And overall, most people are excited and honored to have the opportunity to share their passions with a wider audience.
Take time to recognize and elevate people for what they know and love, and they will usually respond in kind.
Developing partnerships for project-based learning often requires time, effort, and know-how. So as you continue to make connections in your community and beyond, don’t forget to tap into the many talented and thoughtful individuals with whom you work.