Teachers bring visitors to class to enhance student education, introduce new perspectives
Senior Anna Baranski sat patiently waiting for the K-9s to enter the classroom. When the dogs and police officers arrived, the room went silent. Baranski stared nervously at one of the dogs, who had been trained to follow police officers’ instructions and opened her notebook ready to take notes.
Since visitors have recently been allowed back on campus, visitors have been coming to school for the past few weeks to talk to students about concepts they are learning in the classroom. Upper school Spanish and science teachers Marcela Garcini and Amy Henderson, respectively, have each welcomed visitors to present in their classrooms. Henderson brought two police officers and two dogs from the K-9 unit for her psychology classes, and Garcini brought the Director of Welcoming Communities in Immigrant Affairs Cristina Da Silva to her immigration in America class.
“In AP Psychology we are in our learning and cognition unit [where we]discuss operant, latent and classical conditioning,” Henderson said. “[Students learned] how[the officers] teach and train the dogs using operant conditioning and then how they use classical conditioning to make them have a certain response to the same stimuli. It was a great real life example of the principles and conditioning in action.”
Baranski, a student in AP Psychology, decided to take the course because she participated in a WORX internship with a psychologist during the summer and became interested in the field. She wanted to learn from the officers about how conditioning animals could be applied to life.
“I enjoy[ed] having the police officers come in and talk to us because it gives students a break from the traditional classroom lecture and shows students how what we learn can be used in the real world,” Baranski said. “We hadn’t learned about conditioning behaviors before they came, so the officer talking about conditioning helped us get a glance of what we were about to learn in class.”
Similarly, in Garcini’s immigration class, Da Silva talked about her story as an immigrant coming to the United States. She believed it was important for students to know how Dallas offers resources and opportunities to incoming immigrant residents.
“I shared how the City of Dallas is working to become a welcoming city for immigrants,” Da Silva said. “Immigrants make up 24 percent of Dallas residents. Dallas collaborates with community partners to promote immigrant inclusion in civic engagement, economic development, education, public health and safety.”
Garcini brought Da Silva not only because she wanted students to be educated on the subject of immigration, but also because she thought it was important for the students to have an outside perspective of someone who immigrated to the United States.
“[I] brought her because it’s nice to understand all the glances and all the things that are happening,” Garcini said. “I think she shared with the students ‘the impact when she became a US citizen,’ and she was very emotional. I think people don’t realize how important it is to be an American citizen and all the things you go through when immigrating.”
Similar to Baranski, junior Cole DeFeo thought that Da Silva’s presentation was thoughtful and beneficial to the course as it helped him not only understand the diversity of Dallas, but to possibly participate in the cause to help immigrants.
“Before her presentation, I did not know that our city had an institution dedicated to immigrant support, so that had changed my perspective on how society sees immigration,” DeFeo said. “[It] opened my eyes to the problems immigrants face on a more personal level, and I learned that I can participate in this growing awareness movement through city-sponsored charities and volunteering groups.”
Some teachers also believe that school visitors are important to a student’s education and have already started planning for visitors to come in November. Henderson has planned for the K-9 unit to come again, but this time for her forensics science class.
“I can’t wait to bring the K-9 unit again for [my] forensics class [where] they will talk about search methods,” Henderson said. “[They] will hide keys and have the dog find them with the scent, [talk about] drug sniffing, and crimes they have solved with and without the help of the dog.”
Teachers bring visitors to the classroom to help students see a different perspective, especially from an expert. They also believe it’s beneficial because students learn new material that they can apply in other subjects.
“I think these types of presentations allow for an outside opinion from a certified expert on the topic to guide our thinking and enhance the learning material with credible, specialized information,” DeFeo said. “These types of presentations should be a core concept of classes and should be encouraged by teachers and students because it engages the class with an extended perspective on the topic through the mind of a certified specialist.”