When Addie Williams goes on trips and outdoor adventures, she brings back more than just memories. Learn how this incredible TpT’er uses her love of traveling and The Great Outdoors to add richness and authenticity to her teaching lessons and TpT resources.
The Joys of Traveling and Teaching
I am a teacher. BUT… I am also a traveler, hiker, snowboarder, and photographer. And it’s these hobbies that have really shaped the kind of teacher I’ve become. They’re my first loves and they marry so well with my teaching!
If you’re anything like me, you find it impossible to turn off your teacher brain! I’m constantly thinking about how I can show my students real-life examples of what I teach. And as a teacher of multiple subjects (science, social studies, and ELA), I can almost ALWAYS find something on my adventures to relate back to my students. So my camera has now become one of my most important teaching tools!
My husband and I love the outdoors of our hometown Vancouver, Canada and we also love hitting the open road to discover all that the world has to offer. Luckily, my husband is used to being dragged to some pretty out-of-the-way locations so that I can “just grab a photo” for my class. He also knows that when I yell, “Stop! I need to take a picture,” that I mean business.
Glaciers, Volcanoes, Mountains, and More
In my earth science classes, it’s important to show real examples of the glaciers, volcanoes, rivers, and mountains we study. Local examples mean so much more than generic textbook pictures. I love nothing more than when a student sends me a photo or tweets me a question about the local geology of where they are on vacation. Or when they send me a photo of a place I’ve shown them in class and they’re excited about seeing for themselves. That’s the lightbulb moment I live for!
To Cities Far Beyond
My social studies students are often regaled with stories of places I’ve visited in Europe, North America, and Asia. Showing them photos and sharing my experiences with them makes it all the more real. I want to inspire my students to explore beyond the boundaries of our city. I know that my photos and stories have made history and travel look more accessible to them. If I can do it, so can they.
Signs, Signs, Everywhere a Sign
Finally, my ELA students always get a kick out of “grammar fails” I show them on local signs and businesses. Last year’s students even started to take photos themselves and bring them in to show me! I’ve also shown them Shakespeare’s home, the area where Of Mice and Men was set, and photos of Buchanwald from Elie Wiesel’s Night to make real connections to the literature we read in class.
Photo Ops Are Everywhere!
Regardless of what you teach, you can almost always find real life examples of your subject area in your travels! Most of us are equipped with a phone with a pretty handy little camera in it – don’t be afraid to use it. Here are a few tips:
“Excuse me, may I…?” It’s amazing how helpful people can be when you ask. I’ve had the chance to photograph documents in museums and rare fossils in a ranger station just by explaining that I’m a teacher and wish to share ideas and images with my students. People will often go out of their way to help, make suggestions as to where you can get the best picture, or pull something out of a drawer to show you that isn’t on display for the general public.
It’s okay to look silly! I’ve taken some funny (uh, I mean… embarrassing) pictures over the years and I’m not afraid to show them to my students. Dress up in costume at a historical site, get someone to take a picture of you eating an unusual food, show your students how steep a trail is and how hard you worked to get to the top – even if you look terrible. The more human I look to my students, the more I can connect with them.
Use them or you’ll lose them! In an earth science class, I can use a photo of a mountain region on an assessment and ask students to label all of the glacial features they see. Or I give small groups of students a photo and ask them to tell the “geological story.” In a social studies class, I use my photos to bring history to life. Your stories and experience at a historic site mean so much more than a picture in a textbook. I use my photos to teach about the five themes of geography, about climate zones, about the rich cultures of other countries and my own experience of traveling there. I use “grammar fail” photos as starters in my ELA class. I have the “fail” projected as students walk into class and I ask them to make the corrections. The possibilities truly are endless!
Share and share alike! In the summer, my coworkers take off for vacations all over the globe. Maybe yours do, too. Ask them to take some photos for you while they’re away – maybe it’s the glaciers on an Alaskan cruise, the historic sites of Europe, the biodiversity of the jungle on a Caribbean cruise, or the national parks of your local area. Likewise, share the photos you take with other teachers at your school. Do you have some the biology or history teacher would love? Teachers at my school adore getting photos from me and they’re eager to share with me, too.
Let the Real You Shine Through
I hope you had a chance to get out with your camera and have some fun this summer! Whether you’re traveling near or far, show your students the “real life” version of you and “real-life” examples of what you teach.
Here are a few of my resources that use photos from my travels!
Addie has been an educator for over 20 years and loves being in the classroom with her high school students. She’s taught a huge variety of courses over the years and has enjoyed the challenges that come with learning new subjects and ideas. She and her husband live in Vancouver, Canada and are the proud parents to an Australian shepherd. “She keeps us busy and active in the forest trails around our home.” Addie discovered TpT in 2009, and after a few months “lurking”, took the plunge and signed up as a Seller. “What an awesome adventure it’s been!” she says. You can learn more about Addie, get great teaching ideas, and see more photos of her amazing travels by visiting her blog.