Talking with Ted

Sophomores discuss ideas for a more enriching learning environment with Ted Dintersmith

By F. Branson
December 18, 2019

Through a student-centered project in Ms. Blankenship's English 10 class, students had the opportunity to share their ideas for a healthier and more enriching learning experience for current and future students. Students worked in pairs or groups to produce a presentation that would not only be presented in front of their peers, but would also be recorded for a segment featured on Ted Dintersmith's Innovation Playlist

Dintersmith, a 1970 graduate of James Madison High School, has traveled the country talking with students about the high school experience. He shares a passion regarding the need for change in the way students are engaged in school. The work in Blankenship's classes focused on the same type of research Dintersmith has done: reducing the excess of unnecessary work done in classes, understanding how academic pressure relates to mental health and adapting assessments to accommodate testing anxiety. 

The day of the class presentations, Dintersmith's film crew interviewed teachers, administrators and students about the work being done at James Madison to make school, and the process of learning, more relevant for students. In his interview, Mr. Hood, principal, explained that a continual focus for the faculty at Madison is for students to understand how they can use what they learn in school and apply it to any environment outside the school setting. 

Lainey, one of Blankenship's students, reflected on the process she and her classmates were asked to go through to complete their project, sharing that it was the first time of her high school career that she was passionate about the work she was doing in one of her core subject classes. Part of that passion came from the fact that she got to choose her topic (mental wellness) and the other part was because she was going to be able to share her product with her peers and inform them on the importance of mental wellness. 

In addition to featuring the project in Blankenship's class, our senior internship program will also be featured on Dintersmith's Innovation Playlist. The three-week internship, WINGS, occurs at the end of the senior year and can be in lieu of final exams, for qualified seniors. This will be the third year for the WINGS program and former participants will share their perspective with Dintersmith on the impact their internship made on them and how they were able to learn more about their career interest through the experience.