I realized before starting this that there would be a learning curve and dissonance; however, I thought it would be in regards to content and software and not my role as a teacher. I had no idea that, essentially, I would be questioning who I am. In some ways, I feel like a first year teacher again, but with better management skills.
The other thing I’ve come to realize, is that unless you’re experiencing this, you don’t understand. I’ve tried to explain to colleagues and friends the significance of blogging, the purpose of what I’m doing, the momentous shift occurring in education, and the excitement of having people all over the world responding to my posts. Often they look at me like I have three heads.
At times, I feel like I have a double-life. I’m like Batman, but without the cool gadgets or car. Essentially, the people I work with have no knowledge of the momentous changes occurring in my thinking, my classroom, or what I’m passionate about.
That is the darkness, now the dawn.
Wednesday afternoon, while my CE class was researching the LRA & Invisible Children, one of my students walks up to me. She has a gleam in her eye. This girl is a fire-starter, a world changer. She says to me:
“I know it’s important that we research all this stuff, but can we DO something?”
“Sure, what would you like to do?”
She proceeds to tell me, as fast as the words can spill out of her mouth, about Schools for Schools, on the Invisible Children’s website. Can we be part of it?
As she’s talking, I bring up the webpage, and type in all of our information. Done. We’re signed up. I flip my screen around and show her our school page.
“That’s it? We’re really signed up?” Yep. She turns around excitedly and tells everyone in the classroom, “We’re part of Schools for Schools!”
The class comes alive. They ask, “Can we do Change for Change?” Sure. Essentially, this involves placing jars at local businesses in the community and our school to collect change. Two students rush to the office to put in an announcement.
Within moments, most of them have posted it to their status in facebook. One of my students creates a facebook page for it. Emails begin flying across the internet. Another student asks if we can have it put on our school web page. Using technology, is as natural to them as breathing.
Unbeknownst to me, a number of students sent texts to people who they consider important to this campaign. I didn’t find out until the next day. The student who confessed, looked at me sheepishly and said, “Sorry, Mrs. Wright.” Because she knows she broke the rules.
To be honest, I wasn’t angry; I was sad. I began to see, and wonder, for the first time, why a legitimate communication tool is banned from our classroom, especially since texting is such a natural form of communication for our students.
I understand that kids can use it to cheat, and that often they text instead of paying attention. However, why, in this case, would this not be considered a legitimate teaching tool in the classroom? But to allow it breaks school, and most likely division policy. Consequently, how can I possibly sanction the use of this tool in my classroom, even though I see the validity of it?
All of this happened during the last twenty minutes of class. Wow.
The next day, the excitement still hadn’t diminished. Students got right to work. Tables were shoved to the side. Students lay splayed across the floor. To be honest, I was glad the administration didn’t pop in for a visit. My room looked like it had exploded. Some researched. Others worked on logistics.
One student created labels for the jars that will be placed in businesses around the city. Another student contacted the media. Some of us brainstormed. We’ve decided to hold a roast beef dinner & auction, and a fundraiser, starting on Tuesday, that will result in one of the teachers being hit in the face with a pie.
They’ve set their goal: $10,000 in less than 50 days. I know they can do it. It’s one of the reason I work with teenagers. Adults would still be forming a committee. Teenagers get right to it. It doesn’t occur to them that $10,000 dollars is a lot of money; they’re ambitious and they want to change the world.
Even with this small success, I don’t for a minute think that my struggles are over. In fact, I’m guessing I haven’t experienced most of it yet.
Some may think it is admirable to be leading my students through this. However, in reality, I haven’t done much in this whole thing, except to let them do what they want and support where I need to. This is a huge change for one who usually runs the show. At times, I feel pretty useless. I’ve even wondered if I’m really doing my job. Can I honestly teach like this and still get paid?
But I’m also beginning to wonder if good teaching might be simply lighting the fire and then getting out of the way.
These kids are alive. They’re on fire and making a difference. What if teaching were to become real life? Imagine that.