Guest post: On A Mission to Stop Bullying with the Canastota Apprentice

Today it is my pleasure to feature a guest post from educator Patricia Ragan (@PatriciaRagan1) and her newly deemed “2012 Apprentice,” junior Isaac Smith as contributors to @TeachTec. Patricia is a career and technical education teacher at Canastota High School in Canastota, New York and Isasc is in his junior year. Patty and I met this summer at the Partners in Learning 2012 US Forum, you can find out more about her project and the work of 100 amazing educators from the Forum here.

A new year of opportunity has begun at Canastota High School and I am ready to embark on “season four” of The Canastota Apprentice.

The Canastota Apprentice is an experiential learning program that is modeled after the show The Apprentice with Donald Trump. Student teams are assigned tasks weekly and are judged by teachers, administrators and local business leaders. Only one student wins the title of The Canastota Apprentice and that student is afforded the unique prospect to work with me on development of the next season. I am proud to say that this program has received a great deal of attention including a nod from The Donald himself with the sage advice “work hard!”

clip_image002One of the most popular tasks was to develop an anti-bullying campaign. The teams were charged with the task to develop a video and message aimed to stopping bullying in our school. This year, teams Alpha and Incredibles designed engaging videos showing what “not to do” and how to react to bullying in a kind manner. The final task culminated in the ultimate two contestants, Isaac Smith and Audrey Soper, designing an anti-bullying organization with membership. Isaac was deemed the winner with the development of his powerful organization “Fight the Good Fight.”


Miss Ragan working with Isaac Smith

As week three unfolds, I am working with my current Apprentice Isaac, a junior at CHS, to write this guest blog for post. Isaac defied the odds last year as he won task after task weekly to ultimately become my apprentice. Isaac and I have become a team of teacher and student aiming to make a difference in the high school.                                                                                                      

Isaac and Audrey presenting their program

clip_image004Our newest challenge comes from our Vice Principal and Principal to continue to develop an anti-bullying program, created by students for students. It is my opinion that when cohorts present a concept to the student body, it gives the idea validity.

The Canastota Apprentice candidates observed this phenomenon last year as they presented an anti-bullying program to grades 7-12. My business students teamed up with FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America) and the Digital Photography class to create a presentation with substance from our community. The program resonated with students as members of our student body delivered it to classes.

Isaac wrote the following regarding The Canastota Apprentice and our efforts:

“As a finalist for The Canastota Apprentice, I had a task to create an anti-bullying organization and reach out to the students of Canastota High School. The Fight the Good Fight Movement was my invention and the concept was to stop bullying from ever happening by going to the source. My plan was to show a documentary about the United States Bullying Epidemic, thereby showing the damage that the bullies were doing. The Documentary “Bully” was recently changed from a R rating to PG-13 rating to allow the young population to see the things they don’t see after the harsh words leave their lips.clip_image006

I had a meeting with Vice Principal, Mr. William LaClair, in which we discussed several things to take all of the great ideas we had last year and expand on them. On Wednesday, September 19, 2012 there will be a presentation on bullying and later on in the school year we will be having the guest speaker, Layman Hicks, come and talk to the students of Canastota High School. Another item discussed in the meeting is getting grades 4-6 involved to prevent bullying early on in our school.

This week, the high school students will be signing a pledge to not bully and the pledges will be posted on the bulletin boards around the school with a banner in the front lobby.”

Isaac Smith, 2012 Canastota Apprentice

Isaac has earned the title of leader through his actions. I am impressed at his commitment to the program and to work with leaders outside of our school to spread his positive message.

In July, I had the amazing opportunity to present The Canastota Apprentice at The Microsoft Partners in Learning US Forum. It was an eye-opening experience as I was positioned in the role of the presenter, and now I was judged. It was the precise role-reversal for me as the educator to feel the energy and desire to present successfully.

I was mindful of the difficult nature of a competitive event and reflected in awe at what my students accomplish as they compete in my classroom yearly. I decided to write students a personal business letter detailing how each participant was “with me” at the Microsoft Partners in Learning US Forum as I spoke of their accomplishments.

When students are given a challenge, they are more than willing to rise to it and go above and beyond their comfort zone. I look forward to “Season Four” of The Canastota Apprentice and to the opportunities that lie ahead for my classroom.

Patricia Ragan  @PatriciaRagan1
Business Teacher, Canastota High School, Canastota, New York

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