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Lessons From Space (Camp)

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Allison Hunt is a 2013 Hope Street Group National Teacher Fellow from Kentucky and the 2013 Kentucky High School Teacher of the Year. Hunt teaches Advanced Placement Human Geography at DuPont Manual High School in Jefferson County.

This summer I had the opportunity to attend the International Space Academy for Educators. Many things were memorable at Space Camp, but what really struck me is how, for a mission in space to be successful, each and every person involved with the mission had to do their job well. It took those flying the spacecraft, the scientists on board, the engineers on the ground, mission control's actions, and countless other individuals to experience success.

Schools are similar. It takes parents, students, administrators, and teachers each performing their jobs well in order to experience success. We often just focus on one or two of those pieces, but if one person does not do his or her job, or doesn't do it well, then we risk failure.

Teachers need to consistently plan and teach engaging, effective lessons. We need to know the strengths and weaknesses of each student as a learner. Study after study continues to confirm that teachers are the single biggest factor in student achievement gains. However, just as the Commander is the most pivotal role in space missions, the job is dependent upon others and cannot be done alone.

Administrators should not be simply disciplinarians, but instead must be the instructional leaders of the school. In addition to the critical role of shaping the culture of the school, administrators also must set high expectations for the level of instruction that occurs in every classroom. Because teachers and students are the most visible pieces of the school environment, often our education conversations exclusively focus on them, but we need to focus on more than that. On space missions, if the Commander and Pilot do their job well, but the Flight Director provides the wrong instructions, there will be problems. If administrators are not properly leading their school then students and teachers are less likely to experience success.

Instead of parents and schools being adversaries, we must recognize that it is essential that we (parents and teachers) come together to build the best plan to educate the individual child. Parents provide a more intimate view of the child and know the child's previous experiences. In order to be as effective as possible, I need that information. Parents are, after all, a child's first teacher.

As I teach in my geography classroom, there are different scales. My current scale is my classroom and the students within my single classroom, while your scale may be your child or perhaps a few dozen classrooms and hundreds of students. Regardless of whether you are a fellow teacher, a parent, or an administrator, our work is at the root the same. You are a teacher too--a teacher who can truly make a difference in the learning that takes place. We cannot forget that we all need each other in order to have a successful mission.

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