Last week I spoke with a group of high school students at my alma mater – Pleasant Hill High School in Oregon. I dropped by the Publications class (which tackles both the school newspaper and the yearbook) to chat about what I’ve been up to lately.
I feel a strong connection to the classroom that I entered. I was on the Newspaper staff my junior and senior year in that room, and took A.P. History there as well. Some of my best memories from high school took place in that classroom, largely because of the teacher, Timothy Meinzen, who is one of the most dedicated teachers that I know. We also had a solid group of students in both those classes that made for fun and interesting days.
Meinzen asked me to come in and chat with the Publications class about sketchnoting and graphic recording. That class is full of creative students, some of whom might want to enter creative fields after high school. A few are already sharing their art on deviantART, a site I hadn’t heard about until that class visit. Meinzen wanted those students to at least know about the field of graphic recording to see an example of a creative career.
I was excited to share my experiences with sketchnoting and graphic recording, but I also wanted to share a bit of the story of how I came to this field. So I decided to frame my chat around the journey that I’ve been on since I graduated from high school 10 years ago.
I had two primary goals in sharing that journey. The first, and most important, was to get the students excited about their own journey and starting to think about what their first path after high school might look like. I also wanted to SHOW them what sketchnoting is all about rather than trying to TELL them. To that end I illustrated the slides that I used as a reference during our chat.
I’ve shared those slides here. During the class visit I built up to each full slide element by element, which I found to be a great anchor for what I wanted to say. The students seemed to enjoy that visual component of what I was sharing.
When I was initially outlining that 10-year journey for myself, it didn’t take long for me to realize that the question of “What next?” would make for a great connecting thread throughout the chat.
Each “What next?” in this version of the past ten years of my life preceded a significant shift in where I decided to put my time and energy. I feel like I still ask myself that question a lot, but instead of it representing the search for what I want to do with my life, it now represents growth within the field that I have chosen to pursue, the field that I now know will keep my interest for more than a few years.
The “What next?” questions that I now ask myself are more along the lines of “What project do I want to take on next to dig deeper into this field?”; “What skill do I want to pick up next to expand what I’m able to create?”; or “What people do I want to collaborate with to build interesting and useful things?” Those are exciting questions to consider and then act on.
That trip to school last week was the first time that I entered a high school since I stopped substitute teaching a year ago. I was surprised to find how refreshing it was to be back in that environment. It made me realize that I miss being in high school classrooms on a regular basis.
The timing of that realization is perfect, because I’ve been looking for a way to incorporate more in-person work into what I do. I enjoy doing a certain amount of work remotely, but the balance is tipped too far in that direction right now. I think the high school/middle school setting is the right place to try to balance that out. I feel comfortable in that environment and I like interacting with students of that age.
I see two ways of entering that space and bringing my sketchnoting experience to the table in a useful way.
The first is through guest teaching. I’ve got lots of teacher friends, and some have already suggested having me come in and do a lesson on sketchnoting. I’m excited to start doing that and testing out instruction techniques.
The second way is through teacher training. Once I’ve done enough lessons in a variety of classrooms I’ll have a good feel for what works best in those settings, and might be in a position to help other teachers incorporate sketchnoting into their classrooms.
I’m not going to rush into anything, but I like the idea of where that combination could go. I’ll likely be returning to Meinzen’s classroom later this school year (this time during the A.P. History class) to do a lesson on sketchnoting. That will give me the chance to test out some ideas and see how it feels to actually teach again.
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