Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Through Students Ears

During our district open house last evening some former students who had graduated in June came by for a visit and to see how things were going. I was flattered by the fact that they took time to seek me out and say hello. Little did I know that after three short months apart they would return and teach me a valuable lesson.

One of these students had brought in a project he had been working for the past two months and he wanted me to see it. Using Legos he had begun to construct a scale model replica of the Titanic and had brought in the front portion of this project to share his passion, and show me his progress. As he excitedly explained what he was doing and how he had overcome some challenges in construction I couldn’t help but stand in awe as he explained this undertaking. Without diagrams, blueprints, instructions or anything of the like, he had put together an amazing masterpiece from nothing more than a picture and thousands of small building blocks.

I questioned him about certain aspects of his task and then began to point out how and why this project amazed me. Keep in mind that before me was student who had difficulty with standardized testing, was frustrated by traditional instruction methods, and exemplified annoyance as grades he received were not a reflection of his effort. With these thoughts in mind I stated to him how much I wish there had been a Regents Exam that would have reflected how intelligent and capable he was as a learner. I explained that he possessed such an amazing thought process that few understood and that traditional testing formats could never measure. His parents replied, “We’ve never heard someone talk about him like that before”. And that’s when it struck me. When we talk what do students hear?

I fear I’m not alone in admitting that too often I think about what to say rather than what a student needs to hear. Think for a moment about some of the more common statements that are probably said too often during a school day. Are our words building up or tearing down? Do we criticize or critique, compliment or condemn? In other words, what are students hearing? Standing in front of me was a graduate and his parents who had never heard someone celebrate the diversity of intelligence that he possessed. It took a post-graduation trip to his school for him to hear what he should have been hearing for a long time.

We need to be spending less time thinking about what we want to say, and more time thinking about what students need to hear.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Relationship Reflection

The following commentary is a result of my thinking and reflection about the post “We Need to Talk About This” by Beth Still. As I reflected upon the topic she put forth and began to contemplate both my online relationships, and the relationships I have with those I work with, I came to a couple realizations. These realizations are not directly related to her topic, but are a result of my thoughts regarding the differences between digital and real world relationships.

The first realization is that Social Media Cultivates a Bond amongst those who collaborate and connect with one another. Much like the brotherhood of firefighters, and the camaraderie of those who have participated in military service, people connected through Social Media share an unspoken special kinship one to another. While they may be conducting themselves in different roles they have become connected for a purpose. The outcomes they desire to achieve allow them to share visions, focus and passion with one another. They look out for one another, share with one another, and when one person shares a success everyone feels the joy of it.

The second realization is that Social Media Causes a Benefit. Those who use Social Media and those with personal relationships, such as a colleague, have probably recognized a distinct difference in how they benefit one from another. The colleague who works alongside is more easily driven to be disingenuous. Not because they don’t care, but because of what they care about. Status in the workplace, possible promotions, and reputations with others all can be a driving force that encourages a colleague to look out for their own interests, not the interests of others. People who voluntarily connect through the use of online relationships do so because they want to, not because they have to. The effort that is put forth to connect in a digital world is put forth willingly. Therefore, the communication tends to be more sincere and genuine because of the desired outcomes. They participate in dialogue and discussion to grow from each other and learn with each other, not caring about who gets the credit, but knowing that everyone involved will benefit in some way.

There are many other differing aspects of an online relationship and real life relationship, but these two realizations were the first to come to mind. Regardless of what people may see as advantages and disadvantages of either form of relationship the fact remains that technology continues to change relationships in many ways, and will continue to do so as time goes on.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Project 49

The Hinsdale Central School Sr. class started the 2010-2011 school year questioning school spirit, participation, and what they felt was a negative reputation forming around many classes. They purposed that they would work to change as many of these things as they could, and wanted to leave behind something tangible that would encourage students who followed them to take Pride in who they were, and where they came from. The class brainstormed ideas and Project 49 was born.

Students decided they wanted to paint a mural of the school in Room #49. This is the room that is dedicated to Study Halls throughout the day and is frequently visited by all members of the student body. The desire was to keep it a secret and reveal the mural during an assembly that would focus on having pride about yourself and your school. At the completion of the painting the Sr. class inscribed their names in bricks that make up the school, laying the foundation for the classes that would come behind.

Day 1 -

Day 2 -

Day 3-

Day 4 -

As Project 49 gained momentum it turned into a project that extended beyond just the current Sr. class painting a mural. The assembly enabled the current seniors to take turns reflecting about their school career as they shared "Proud Moments" about academic, athletic and community involvement. These moments were opportunities or them to share about something that made them proud to be part of the Hinsdale family. After these Proud Moments Sr. class member Troy Hillman challenged the students to be proud of where they come from and put forth their best in whatever they do in life. He told then that in order to make a change they first need to be the change.

A band was brought in to perform at the assembly. It consisted of three members of the 2010 graduating class and a current senior. They performed "Chain of Pride", a song written by the Civics/Government class that tells the story of the challenges faced by an incoming student and how he was encouraged to always do his best and help those who come behind.

As I begin to walk these halls for the first time in my life, I feel scared and out of place it just didn't seem right.

Then a Senior took my arm and looked me in the eyes, He told me not to be afraid and gave me some advice.

Reach out to those around you and forget what others think, If you try to stand alone all you is sink

Let me share my father's words to me when I was in your shoes, "Others will always see your best when you take Pride in what you do"

I told him I was grateful for those words he spoke to me, When I said I felt I owed him, he just answered quielty

You don't owe me anything I've been there too, Someone once helped me out the way I'm helping you. You relly wanna pay me back? Here's what you can do, dont let the Chain of Pride end with you.

Everything soon became easy I guess I had nothing to fear, No matter where I stop to look Somone was always near,

I wathced so many leave this place they left their mark behind, As this happened year to year these thoughts came to mind,

You don't owe me anything I've been there too, Someone once helped me out the way I'm helping you. You relly wanna pay me back? Here's what you can do, dont let the Chain of Pride end with you.

As I walk across this stage dresseed in my cap and gown, Been thinking bout the past few years ready to leave this town,

Saying goodbye to all my friends Won'dring what to pass along, Bobcat Pride comes to my mind and the lyrics in this song.

As the band performed the song the following slide show of the painting project was played on the big screen revealing Project 49 to all those in attendance.

The assembly was also the time that the additional aspects of this project were shared. Room #49 not only has a mural, but would also be receiving additional updates on a yearly basis. A Chain of Pride will be painted with a new link being added every June. This will be a time when the outgoing Sr.'s and the incoming Sr.'s (current Jr.'s) will together add a link to chain and the new Sr. class will inscribe their names pledging to not the let the chain end with them.

What started with some simple questions and desire, turned into an event that created excitement and energy throughout the entire school. Project 49 will hopefully leave a legacy that will be remembered for years by those who come behind...