Saturday, June 16, 2007

Half Full or Half Empty?

Waking up this morning - my glass was half empty. Comments from teachers about the ability of their students - particularly in writing are weighing heavily on my mind. Concerns about the fact that a district I am working with has a problem with writing yet many of the teachers continue to point fingers at each other and the kids make me wonder if anyone can change that culture, let alone me.

And so my post this morning was going to be venting that and trying to work out why some folks take such a negative view of student abilities. But I decided to open my Bloglines and read first. And now my glass is half full.

The Fischbowl shared some freshman projects from Learning and Laptops. Since links in blogs are meant to be clicked - I checked them out and soon became immersed in what these amazing teachers and students were doing. One teacher chose an essential question to examine for the course of the year: "What does literature say about human beings?" The students used this question as a lens for all reading that year and created collaborative projects in which the students not only had to answer the question, but to use modern examples to prove/disprove their answer. (I know I am not doing credit to the description of the project - please read the blog posting to get the full picture.)

Viewing the student work began to fill my glass. One requirement of the project was to produce a final multi-media project that was "creative, captivating, and thorough" - and these projects were amazing! Adding to very powerful voices throughout the pieces, the students selected visuals (and in some cases music) to capture what it was they were trying to say. In addition to summarizing and showing that they had read and understand the literature pieces, the connections the students made are original and very telling about the world our students live in now. A world very different from the world many of us grew up in.

I haven't watched all the presentations yet - but I plan to. I feel re-energized. I feel hopeful. I feel like I can use this teacher and her class as an example in my district of what we can accomplish when we tap into the potential that our kids have, rather than focusing on how we might think they don't quite measure up.

"What's amazing about human nature which is shown through literature time and again, is that through all the bad in life, we somehow manage to find the good." (Tana, Jessica, Elyse in "Experiences" from the project.)

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