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NFA West Students Hear from Big Picture Learning Speaker
NFA West students had a visit and presentation from Brandon Witcher, School Design Coach for Big Picture Learning.
Mr. Witcher told students the story of his life path so far. As a Big Picture Learning school, many students from NFA West were able to relate to his path.
Mr. Witcher discussed his early life and living situation to sometimes be unpredictable, living with his mother and then his grandmother at different times. He would lose himself in stories and literature to escape his surroundings. Eventually, Mr. Witcher began using his creativity, imagination, and energy to write stories of his own. Writing his own stories began to shape his life.
At 18, he wanted to go to vocational school because of a love of cooking. He received resistance from his Mom and ended up going to a Creative Arts High School. There, he found a passion for music and the arts. There, he had the opportunity to experiment with several instruments and to travel with performance groups. At that time, Mr. Witcher thought he wanted to be a musician and be around those artist-minded people.
Mr. Witcher then performed discussed his experience singing opera and performed an amazing song for the students. From there reactions, you could tell students were extremely impressed and surprised at the outstanding performance.
Throughout Mr. Witcher’s discussion, he discussed a lot of ups and downs and posed the question, “What has happened that people in society let us quit on things?!” He expressed thanks that although he and his mother may not have seen eye to eye on things, she never allowed her son to quit.
In college, Mr. Witcher talked about joining a fraternity, an experience that was about both the community and having fun through activities like, forums, blood drives, and distribution of safety messages.
A strong focus was placed on academics in college. “Choosing a major was painstaking because it has such huge implications for the rest of your life. Choosing to be an English major was best decision for who I was. It was interesting to me and a subject I really wanted to know more about in deep and profound way. When finally making the decision of what to major it, I forgot about what it would lead to for a second.”
Mr. Witcher discussed the idea that he “needed to be an expert at school.” At the beginning of college, he sat down and made a plan for each semester all the way to graduation. “Sometimes this meant, I was educating the educators because I needed to do my research and be my own best advocate.” Mr. Wticher role played with students to highlight examples of advocating for himself in his way.
Through role playing, he showed students how to appropriately approach adults and talk to supervisors if necessary. “I wanted to have a conversation about my education, so I became an expert in school and knew what I needed to do to get myself where I wanted to be. It's not that these people [college academic advisors] don't care about you, but you know yourself the best and you know your interests and abilities better than anyone else.”
After college, Mr. Witcher returned home and began teaching high school to help uplift the community he still calls home. As a teacher, he “helped students accomplish a lot of amazing things kids, but eventually, I felt like I wasn't growing and wasn't creative anymore, so I needed a change. I needed to reset and find my passions again.”
Mr. Witcher did a “hard stop and cut off all of his hair to symbolize a new chapter.” He decided he wanted to own his own business that would teach teachers about Big Picture Learning and about inspiring students. “I’m still figuring it out. You don't have to have all the answers. Don't be afraid to fail while you're trying to figure out what you want to do.”
Ms. Stukes, School Counselor at NFA West pointed out that Mr. Witcher’s presentation felt like an exhibition. Students are required to present on a different topic four different times throughout the year using an exhibition style that uses props, media, stories, etc. to best present their topic. “If you want to say a poem, say a poem. If you want to sing, sing. If you want to stand on a chair, stand on a chair. Exhibition presentations should be just like Mr. Witcher’s. They should be dynamic and you should tie your presentation to artifacts as a way to explain your life.”
Mr. Witcher spoke with small groups throughout the day in a town-hall style set up to gather feedback from students experiencing the Big Picture Learning style and to encourage students to take control of their education. Through these small forums, Witcher’s demonstrated Big Picture Learning themes of: advisory, community, family, showing each other love.
At the end of the day, students were asked to use one word to describe their day. Students used words like: Hungry, Wonderful, Tired, Fun, Gucci/great, Stressful, Better, Fun-filled, Eventful, Easy, Good, Existential, Fine, Boring, Okay, Productive, Surprised.
Are you and your students doing something great? Please contact your Communication Strategist. We’d love to attend or post your pictures and recap to highlight the amazing accomplishments throughout our district! Grades PreK-5 Angela Wise (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Grades 6-12 Cassie Sklarz (email@example.com).
TEACHERS: Are you and your students doing something great? Please contact your Communication Strategist. We’d love to attend or post your pictures and recap to highlight the amazing accomplishments throughout our district! Grades PreK-5 Amanda McDowell (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Grades 6-12 Cassie Sklarz (email@example.com).