Catalyst Community: Teaching Skills-Erica Sprague

The word “community” is defined as a group of people living in the same place or having a particular interest in common. Catalyst Midland has launched a series titled “Catalyst Community” focusing on different communities — sometimes geographic, sometimes a common interest. 

In this week’s Catalyst, we focus on the teaching that happens in a classroom that goes beyond facts and figures.  
Erica Sprague teaches at Beaverton Junior/Senior High School
Our teacher is Erica Sprague, a science teacher at the junior/senior high school in Beaverton. She’s in her 18th year in education. Erica is a teacher both inside and outside the classroom. She now also has a presence on social media (Facebook) to share home economics ideas. Her goal is to encourage us to practice some of the skills that may be diminishing in our fast moving society.

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If only we could collect badges in life, for all the things we tackle and encounter on a daily basis! Some days I feel like my job as a mom and teacher come with far more job requirements than I originally anticipated! I’m thinking back to my days as a girl scout when I could sew on a patch for camping, crafting or community service. What would my badge collection look like today? 

In my last article with Catalyst, I touched on the importance of learning home skills that tend to be brushed aside. I’m still working on that window washing badge! Today, I want to talk about the job requirement for teaching that was somewhat unexpected, but is becoming more important as time goes on-explicit teaching of social skills!

They say the more connected we become, the less “connected” we become. Technology has allowed us to reach more people, but at the cost of interpersonal connections. I see the lack of these connections in schools daily. Certainly, COVID isolated people even more as we relied on technology to go to work and school. Kids really struggle socially these days. Think back to how awkward your own junior high days were. Now multiply that by 100 and that’s how kids are feeling as they navigate through a typical school day. Social media and cell phones have isolated kids in strange ways and taken away their ability to create and sustain meaningful relationships. I would bet even some adults feel this way sometimes!

When kids have opportunities to be leaders amongst their peers, these social skills will blossom.
Back to my teaching job-I teach science. I LOVE teaching science. However, I can’t just teach science any more. I find myself working communication skills into more and more activities to foster group work and speaking practice. Did I take a class on teaching appropriate body language skills in college? Absolutely not, but here I am, finding ways to work it into lesson plans. Things like making eye contact, nodding and facing the person talking to you need to be explicitly taught in every class and at every grade level.

Kids need adults to be role models of what good communication looks like, but we are often glued to screens, too! Kids also need the support and modeling from their peers as well. Too often kids feel like an island in this sea of technology.  I am happy to see more peer leadership and mentoring roles pop up in schools at a time where social skill building is needed the most. When kids have opportunities to be leaders amongst their peers, these social skills will blossom. Team sports and clubs are awesome when it comes to some of these skills, but don’t write off the peer mentoring program if your student's school offers it! I see the need for these kinds of programs growing in the future and I am happy to be helping facilitate this kind of growth in my students (and of course, continuing to teach science, too!).