Saturday, October 3, 2015

Greatness


Greatness

All of the fifth graders had been researching the city St Augustine, Fl, as the first city in the United States.  Throughout the week,  they crafted scripts for a green screen video on Friday.  The research process was student led.

One student, "T," was unable to start with us Tuesday as he had run out of medications for his severe (really severe) ADHD.  On these days, T can't function.  His body writhes.  He has a wicked stutter which becomes even more aggravated.  His brain spins at lightning speed, as do his body movements.  He told me right away on Tuesday that he had no meds, though it's pretty easy to deduce as soon as he walks in.  Tuesday was out for concentrated research for him.  Wednesday came, and he was out sick.  Thursday came and the new meds had worked, all too well.  No research was really done that day either, due to the equal and opposite lethargy.  So, for our green screen/research project, T was not involved with a group that would be filming a script.  He had done some limited research during class independently, but it was spotty at best.

You might imagine the life this one has had.  There has been no privilege.  When he came to our school 13 months ago, he was fearful.  He had not ever been properly diagnosed or treated.  Everyday was spent trying to harness the power.  Last year's teacher was a blessing, uncovering needs, providing a steady, constant, peaceful presence for him to help him acclimate to a healthy, loving, learning environment.  His has not been an easy road, but there have been great gains.

As Friday came around, his state was more even keel.  T saw classmates recording and wanted to record something as well.  He and I went in the hall and he showed his science knowledge about refraction through an experiment.  He was charming.  His vocabulary was precise, and he was proud of his work.  I was proud of his work.  But it was just the beginning.  

As we went back in the classroom, group filming began.  T immediately saw the miracle of green screening and was in delight and awe.  I heard him say to his facilitator that he wanted to film a news video.  I told him he could record on anything academic, and he chose to repeat the experiment done in the hallway, but this time, with the class as the audience.  He did "takes" and "retakes" easily upon my requests due to technical difficulties.  He used humor in his presentation and worked without a script.  The whole room watched gleefully and celebrated his work.  Classmates came up to him afterward and told him, genuinely, what a good job he did.  Obviously he was proud.  I asked him to pick out a background for his video, showing him pictures of traditional science labs.  He chose one that looked more like a Frankenstein lab, which made the entire thing way more awesome than the boring lab I envisioned.  It was a moment of joy, and we were all in T's happy place. 

T's work was complete.  Or so I thought.
In the words of my dad, "That's what you get for thinking." 

A group of students who had been the last to complete their script were bogged down (read: unmotivated) and debating over who would (have to) read on camera.  They asked me to decide, as none of them wanted to read or be filmed.  I suggested that, possibly, T could do it.  He and all four students agreed that would be a great idea.  They showed him the script and walked through it with him.  He had some difficulty with words, and his peers were helpful, assisting him with pronunciation.  After a few minutes, he told his group to "wait just a second."  T came to me and said, "I...need.....p.p.p...post it notes.........please."  I provided (#youCanHaveAllThePostItsYouWant) and off he went back to the group.

Then it happened.  

T began writing on the post it notes, attaching them to the computer screen, and assigning parts to the group, telling them when they would come in.  He gave over lines that he could have had for himself.  He encouraged others saying, with a smile, "You have two lines.  You have two lines.  You have two lines.  Now, get going!"  He directed all of these three reluctant readers/performers, guiding them through the script they had created.  They were happy to follow.

The four of them gathered together and read their script in front of the green screen, as if they'd never said they'd really rather not.  T led the charge, his delight and love of the process glowingly evident throughout the filming.   In the Hollywood version, the coach takes pity on the kid and lets him make the last play of the game.  Everybody claps, cheers, and lifts the kid on their shoulders.  But, in this version, the coach puts the kid in, and realizes that the kid should have been the quarterback for the whole season.  He was in his wheelhouse, spinning away, performing and directing his peers into doing something that the teacher could not possibly have inspired.  We were, and continue to be, in the presence of this child's genuine greatness.  

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

I wanna be the interwebz when I grow up

I wanna be the interwebz when I grow up.  Not the seedy part. Nor the sole sponsor and founder of cyberbullying.  After all, #kindnessmatters.  No, I want to be the giver of helpful information, to have others flock to me because they want to learn something new, specifically in education.  Seekers may not even know what they don't know, but I would see what they've searched before and decipher their needs internally, spewing out a specially designed list of options and opportunities.  They'd look at my lit screen and say, "Oh! That's how they do that!"  My desires are not to be an adviser, making judgment calls or looking down my network nose, but offering choices and disseminating what might be confusing before my user even knows it themselves.

Fame and fortune are not on the to do list of my desires.  I truly wouldn't give a gig if no one ever knew my name, just as long as they'd know how to find me when they needed me.  Peck a few keys on a keyboard and, boom, questions asked and answered, and you can get back to the things that don't just virtually matter.  But for real.

As long as I'm here, I'd also spin a cyberweb of clever lines and funny phrases to make people laugh, make them think.  If the interwebz didn't have a playground, who would want to visit?   Remember, robots aren't known for their frivolity.  Who'd really want to spend much time alone with them?  (Reader: Insert Spock mental picture here.)  When I grow up to be the interwebz, I'll make people lightly giggle or even guffaw a minimum of 3 times a day, except in the fall when the time changes and the days are shorter and I become the sad internet.  Then it's every web for himself.  #semicolonedu #thestruggleisreal   

Finally, my business motto would be "No Educator is an Island."  My users would zoom around on my information highway, waving "hey" to the other drivers in their personal, yet global villages.  I would create frequent pit stops and host the most road weary warriors to make connections with each other over goodness knows what or who, let them vent, and send them out to win again.

I wanna be the interwebz when I grow up  I just want to be able to make an impact, of crater magnitude.  For the greater good.

Friday, February 27, 2015

7:35 a.m.

Hit the ground running. 7:35 a.m. And here they come! Greet with a high five, a hug, or a handshake. Child’s choice. This is their space. This is their education. My job is to create a challenging learning environment where students feel safe enough to ask questions, make mistakes and have their victories celebrated corporately. At any given time in my classroom, students may be found in corners with laptops, typing thoughts about their guided readers for others in the room to view and comment on. Some students will be engrossed in a self-selected book, while others will be gathered around me, reviewing and revising their work. Students choose their own cubby, choose their own seat, choose their own reading groups, and goals. The classroom is a working microcosm, fueled by ten and eleven year olds who are figuring out how the world works and how to be an integral, successful part of it. Students must have choice. They must know that their education, and direction of their lives are up to them at every possible turn. As they are given the reigns, children can, and must, take ownership of their impact on others and themselves. Learners are invited to take charge of the designed lessons and ask peers guiding questions. Those listening respond respectfully to one another in turn, only realizing the teacher as secondary support. But she’s watching, stressing, tweaking the whole time. What concepts are they grasping? What are the misconceptions? What needs to happen next in the journey? We are always searching. The classroom experience should look seamless but has blood, sweat and tears in its preparation. There are new technologies, revised state standards, classroom management, and email. Lots of email. But amid the chaos, there are little faces wanting to be loved, respected, and authentically engaged. How do teachers do it? And why? Connectivity to colleagues at school, and across the country sharpens us and keeps us going. We rely on each other, much like our students do with their peers. We energize one another, begging, stealing and borrowing great ideas. Love of children and learning propels us. The job of teaching stretches and stresses us, as the career of education draws us in and compels us to push harder. A framed print in my classroom says, “There are lives I can imagine without children but none of them have the same laughter & noise.” I teach so that such laughter and noise will always be a part of me. And at 7:35 a.m. next week, if I’m lucky, I’ll get to do it all over again.

Monday, July 21, 2014

 Data.  Assessment.  Rigor.  Grit.  The key words circle around instruction like buzzards, weave in and out of classrooms, and hang heavy on even little ones who have only recently stopped taking naps and drinking from sippy cups.  Educators have a heaviness that constricts daily as standards and students are pushed to breaking points.  The voices compare our districts to Finland, to China, to Singapore and declare we are sub-par in the race to the top.  Run.  Faster.  Push harder.  Defeat sets in quickly to even the most dedicated.

What’s a teacher to do?  Where is the life?  How can air be breathed into instruction that has lost its voice?  As an educator who has felt the vice tightening, I struggle to fight for the creativity that makes me human, to swim in the deep.  I long for ways to implement the necessary standards while reaching all students, especially the disconnected ones.  This year, I found a voice that speaks to these needs and breathes life into my profession.   Discovery Education. 

I became a DEN star through Discovery Education just this year after a conference that highlighted their efforts in connecting passionate educators, and providing creative methods to deliver and display information for teachers and students alike.  Soon after becoming a DEN star, I applied for and was accepted to the Summer Institute.  I anticipated a week filled with amazing courses solely about Discovery Education’s resources, and the usual pushing of wares that happens at conferences.  But that didn't happen.  I didn't expect to learn how to film a Green Screen production, or write a grant, or hula hoop for the first time, but I did.  The people of the DEN made the conference.  

They shared with me, brought me alongside them, and made me a part of the community.  My Professional Learning Network has grown deeply.  The people of the DEN (educators world-wide) will answer any question I have, and if they don’t know the answer, they will find someone who does.  Rounds and rounds of applause, shout outs and standing ovations go to Discovery Education for creating this strong community of passionate, creative, connected educators without feeling the need to push an agenda.  You bring dignity to our profession.