By Corinne Wnek
“Teacher Feature” is a regular column that offers readers a look into today’s classrooms so they can see some of the innovative teaching that is going on by talented educators right here in our communities.
Walking into the classroom, I was greeted with, “Would you like to see a slide of Washington’s actual dentures? It’s pretty cool.” “Um, sure, I guess”, I replied. Anyone who thinks that studying History is boring never had a teacher like the one at Rahway’s Eighth Grade Academy, Ed Dailey. A veteran of twelve years in the district, Mr. Dailey has one goal for the students in his classes: challenge yourself to be better than you are.
“I was fortunate to have really good teachers in school”, he says, “and my favorite was actually a Language Arts teacher. I was largely uninspired as a student, but this teacher had a transformative effect on me and taught me how to connect that class with History and current events. I learned about life.”
But isn’t History, well, a little dull and difficult to make interesting to today’s students? “Some students think of History that way, yes”, he acknowledges. “But I explain to my classes that we have to know about our rights and how our government works because we are all a part of a bigger picture. Students need to know that they are living history and, in fact, the past is very much alive today.”
To illustrate his point, Mr. Dailey describes a recent learning project he and his students completed. “We took a current event, gun violence, and then related it to the second amendment which is the right to bear arms. Now this was written in 1790, but is still relevant today in 2013”, he states.
“This led to a debate on gun control which most students seemed to favor. As a follow up, and to connect History to English, my students wrote a persuasive essay on this subject. Our learning on the subject was threefold: research, oral discussion and written opinions, all designed to reinforce learning.”
Mr. Dailey also uses modern technology to teach a lesson. “Once before I assigned a project that had the students thinking about what George Washington might tweet on his way to his inauguration. They had to be historically accurate in every way. This is the kind of hook that makes kids like History.”
When he isn’t holding a History book in his hands, Mr. Dailey holds a guitar and plays in a real rock band. “I tour around the tri-state area and it’s a lot of fun” says this father of twins.
“My message to students is pretty simple”, he says. “Keep trying to improve yourself and don’t be afraid of hard work because success is measured in small steps”.
A great message from a great teacher.
Corinne Wnek believes that teachers, and the administrators and boards of education which support their work, deserve a big, red apple for doing an outstanding job in shaping our most important commodity, the lives of our children.
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