Jenna Zucha is a high school language arts teacher at Clear Creek Independent School District in Texas.
Jenna has been teaching high school language arts and composition for 11 years. She advocates for literacy in both her professional and personal life, and she enjoys sharing her reading and writing life with her students and community. Jenna believes there is true power in mentorship and she strives to teach and inspire the young people in her life by creating spaces for them to take academic risks, showing vulnerability through writing, and building relationships by sharing her stories and inviting them to share theirs.
Jenna on Powerful Learning:
What’s one strategy you use to incorporate Powerful Learning?
“Students returning to school after the holiday break will be surprised to find all desks pushed away, leaving an open floor. Students are then instructed to leave belongings on the outside perimeter and form a circle in the middle of the room. I present a jar filled with little strips of paper; each strip of paper has a question written on it. This could easily be modified for small groups, too! One student begins the discussion by pulling the first question and reading it to the group. When the group feels they have exhausted that question, the jar is passed, and a new question is pulled. Examples of questions include ‘Is it always important to tell the truth?’ ‘What do you think is the most valuable skill needed for entering the workforce?’ and ‘What is small talk?’ With Burke’s ‘Unending Conversation’ metaphor in mind, my rationale for this opening activity is to set the tone for what the students can expect for this next quarter. I want students to start focusing on the skill of sharing ideas in order for them to see how effective communication of ideas through conversation and question generating is one of the most sought-after skills for the 21st-century job market.”
How can teachers be agents of change in their classrooms and communities?
“Teachers can be agents of change by sharing. No longer do we need to feel isolated as educators. When we open our classrooms and share the amazing things we are doing with our community, students feel empowered and the teachers can learn and grow within a larger and more supportive context.”
What book has influenced your thinking on powerful teaching and learning?
“Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell was the best book I read all year. In the wake of Sandra Bland’s death, Talking to Strangers is a timely synthesis, offering a wide range of research that is propelled by Gladwell’s plea to society to spend more time with the perceptions and beliefs we might have about ourselves and the way we interact with each other. From to the widely popular TV show, ‘Friends; to the suicide of the poet Sylvia Plath, Gladwell takes an honest look at the assumptions we make about each other, why we might have a difficult time reading the intentions of others, and how we can get better at understanding ourselves and the people we interact with every day. If you enjoyed his book Outliers you will definitely enjoy this book!”
Ask Jenna about:
“Reach out to me if you are interested in using student blogging in your classrooms! I have a great list of tools to get started and samples of students work at zucha.edublogs.org/student-blog-challenge-2017.
I also have some ideas on how to incorporate Flipgrid and Thinglink into high school composition/ writing workshop courses.”
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