Externships allow educators to ‘practice what they preach’

Linked Learning teachers gain first-hand knowledge to bring back to the classroom

Thirty HISD teachers shadowed healthcare professionals, construction crews and business professionals last week in order to better connect industry standards with classroom content and learning strategies.

“I think it’s an excellent opportunity to give teachers,” said Memorial Hermann Chief Nursing Officer Melody Dickerson. ”Most individuals only have that experience having been a patient or a customer of our services. They’re going to get a behind-the-scenes approach to what’s going on.”

As part of a professional development plan under HISD’s Linked Learning approach, educators gained first-hand knowledge of various careers by visiting a hospital, construction site, water education center, and other companies to explore how they can align their academic practices with workplace experience. Teachers saw how ideas that are already being taught in the classroom are implemented in workers’ daily routines. The hope is that teachers can do the opposite — bring lessons from the workplace into the curriculum.

“‘Why is this important? I’m never going to use this in everyday life.’ These are the things I hear all the time,” said Chardai Grays, an algebra teacher at Reagan High School. “We have to show how this works with everyday life, because that’s how we get buy-in from students. We can incorporate this into the TEKS and make this more relevant for the students.”

At Memorial Hermann Hospital, externs helped measure progress for patients in rehabilitation, learned how to use and interpret imaging equipment and data, and saw the inner workings of the hospital pharmacy. At Woodrow Wilson Montessori’s solar classroom, representatives from Balfour Beatty and Mobile Grid explained to teachers the production and use of the sun’s energy to power the sustainable workspace.

Externships in other school districts with Linked Learning approaches have been proven to expand teachers’ industry-based knowledge, allow for examples to explain the value of what students are learning, and spark ideas for projects and discussion. The teacher externships also benefit the businesses and companies that collaborate with schools on this effort.

“At the end of the day, there’s a nursing shortage. It’s growing leaps and bounds every day, and we just can’t get enough good nurses and others in the healthcare field,” Dickerson said. “What we’re hoping is by hosting those individuals at our hospital, they’ll be able to take that information back … be able to share that vision and excitement with their students and get them interested in pursuing the healthcare field.”

Linked Learning is funded, in part, through a nearly $30 million federal Race to the Top grant. For more information about Linked Learning, visit houstonisd.org/linkedlearning.

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