Day 1

Why do I want to be a teacher?


The goal of Those Who Can, Teach! is to engage high school students in the exploration of the teaching profession through a week-long action research project that examines the characteristics and best practices of excellent teaching.

Why do I want to become a teacher?

To achieve this, we will engage in the action research process, use mobile technologies, and collaborate with others to research the following four major themes:

  1. Why do I want to be a teacher?
  2. What are the characteristics of great teachers?
  3. What does great teaching look like?
  4. How do I become a teacher?

Today, we will:

  • review the action research process, describe what it’s used for, and how we do it
  • engage in reflective inquiry to identify the focus of our action research project
  • write a letter to our favorite teacher or mentor explaining why we want to become teachers and how he/she influenced our decision
  • create a video to present our letter to our favorite teacher/mentor

Icebreaker: Fact or Fiction?

While some of you may know each other because you attend the same school, we have students from other schools that you may not know. In this activity, we will get to know each other so we can start to collaborate on the projects we have planned this week. 

Student playing fact or fiction.

In this activity, each of you will have 1 index card. Take a few minutes to think about 3 things about yourself you want to share with the class. The trick is, to think of 2 things about yourself that are true (facts), and 1 thing that is not true (fiction), but sounds true.

For example, for the fictional (untrue) statement, you might write

I want to be a university professor when you actually want to be a kindergarten teacher.
My favorite food is a bacon cheeseburger when in reality you are a vegetarian and do not eat meat.

The facts and fiction statements can be about anything you want to share with us, your hobbies, your academic goals, your career goals, your current activities, your family…and more. Be creative!

Write each statement on the index card. When you are done, we will come together. When it is your turn to share, be careful to not give away clues with words or your body language about which statements are fact and which one is fiction. The rest of us will guess which statement is not true. 


Please click here to take a short survey or scan the QR code projected on the screen.


Introduction to Action Research

Action research helps teachers continually improve their teaching. Therefore, one of the hallmarks of effective teaching is the use of action research to continually improve teaching practice.

Action research is a process that helps a person find a way to do something better. By asking the right questions, an action researcher collects information about the topic that helps him/her make better decisions. In the action research process, a person reflects on a topic, question, or problem. 

Students engaging in an action research project.

Educational action research can be initiated by individual teachers, by a group of colleagues who share an interest in a common problem, or by the entire faculty in a school. For example, a teacher might realize that more students are not doing their homework on the weekend. He may decide to do action research to find out why and ways to improve the situation. His action research question may be: “How can I help my students be more motivated to do their homework?” 

Young people can also participate in action research. For example, a student in a school that is going to be re-modeled, might ask students, teachers, and parents, “When they remodel the school, what do you want to see added or built in?” Click here to see an example of a 17-year old student’s action research project in Austin, Texas.

A typical action research process includes the following steps: 

  1. Identify research questions
  2. Collect data
  3. Analyze data
  4. Report results

Before we can begin, we must first select a focus and clarify some theories and beliefs we hold about teaching. These steps will enable us to identify a research problem to address and develop a research question or questions. Sagor (2000) identifies these steps as:

The action research process begins with serious reflection directed toward identifying a topic or topics worthy of a busy teacher’s time. Considering the incredible demands on today’s classroom teachers, no activity is worth doing unless it promises to make the central part of a teacher’s work more successful and satisfying. Thus, selecting a focus, is vitally important. Selecting a focus begins with the teacher researcher or the team of action researchers asking:

What element(s) of our practice or what aspect of student learning do we wish to investigate? 

Clarifying Theories

The next step involves identifying the values, beliefs, and theoretical perspectives the researchers hold relating to their focus. For example, if teachers are concerned about increasing responsible classroom behavior, it will be helpful for them to begin by clarifying which approach—using punishments and rewards, allowing students to experience the natural consequences of their behaviors, or some other strategy—they feel will work best in helping students acquire responsible classroom behavior habits.

The figure below presents an abbreviated version of Sagor’s action research process.

The Action Research Process.

Activity 1: Selecting a Focus and Clarifying Theories

Have you given serious thought as to why you would like to be a teacher? Have you considered what teachers do and what their motivations are? As you begin this reflective process, ask yourself:

  1. What is it about the teaching profession that draws me to it?
  2. What values and beliefs do I hold about the teaching profession?
  3. Who were my favorite teachers and why?

Below is a video that provides an introduction to the action research process. As you watch the video, be thinking of some questions you might want to explore through your action research project.

Let’s review the goal, objectives, and four major themes that will be addressed this week to discuss and clarify the focus of the action research project we will embark on. Once we have clarified the focus, we will begin to address the first theme.

Activity 2: What’s My Story

Have you ever seen a piece of trash or a discarded object and wondered, How did it get here? or What’s it’s story? In this activity, you will look around the university campus to find an object that has been lost, thrown away, or abandoned. Photograph it from different angles. Then, write a story about it. Using iMovie or another productivity app of your choice, record a 1-minute video about the object. Include photos, video footage, text, and an appropriate music track to tell its story.

Example: What’s the story behind this abandoned John Deere tractor?

A Note About Using Copyrighted Material In Your Videos

If you are going to use music (or any form of copyrighted material), it is important to know what constitutes fair use. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines fair use like this: “Portions of copyrighted materials may be used without permission of the copyright owner provided the use is fair and reasonable, does not substantially impair the value of the materials, and does not curtail the profits reasonably expected by the owner.” When in doubt, the safest option is to use Royalty Free music and content. Here are three sites for obtaining free, royalty free music:

Activity 3: What’s Our Story? Why Did We Become Teachers?

Pay attention to the things you are naturally drawn to. They are often connected to your path, your passion, and your purpose in life. Have the courage to follow them. 
Ruben Chavez

In this activity, two camp mentors tell the story of how they became teachers and people who inspired them. 

Screen Shot 2018-06-03 at 8.17.46 PM

Activity 4: Write a Letter to Your Favorite Teacher 

If you could speak with your favorite teacher or mentor, what would you say? Think about it for a while, then write a reflective letter explaining why you too want to become a teacher. Tell that teacher how he or she influenced you.

Activity 5: Create a Video Letter

Using the camera on your tablet or smartphone, create a video of the reading of your letter to your favorite teacher.

Two students helping each other to create their video letter.

Parts of this video will be integrated into the final group project video. Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Record your videos in the landscape (horizontal) mode as shown below to maximize screen space.
  • Select a quiet place to record your video and be mindful of your surroundings. 
  • Rehearse the reading of your letter a couple of times to get a feel for how it sounds. Insert notes to remind you where to pause, take a breath, and make eye contact with the camera.
  • Speak directly into the camera as if you were speaking to one person – not a group. Keep it personal and one-to-one. 
  • Before you record your video, do a test recording to see how it looks and sounds. Again, be mindful of the staging (background, foreground, lighting, and positioning of yourself in the center of the screen) as well as audio quality. Try to eliminate background noises as much as possible.
  • For a better quality recording, consider having someone else shoot the video while you read your letter.

Wrapping Up & Next Steps – Begin with the End in Mind

Over the next 5 days, you will engage in an action research project that will culminate with the development of a 6-8-minute video. Working in groups, you will collect data about the characteristics and qualities of exceptional teachers and the art of excellent teaching through reflective activities, research, and interviews with students and teachers. Each day, you will develop a variety of multimedia products, including infographics, reflective videos, photos, audio, and video interviews, that will be incorporated into the final video project. The video will be organized around the 4 major themes of the program:

  1. Why do I want to be a teacher?
  2. What are the characteristics of great teachers?
  3. What does great teaching look like?
  4. How do I become a teacher?

As you develop each product, be thinking about how it (or parts of it) will fit into the final product. You will be using iMovie to create the video. 


Sagor, R. (2000). Guiding school improvement with action research. ASCD. Retrieved from¢.aspx