[This is a guest post I wrote for Pernille Ripp’s special Blogging Through the Fourth Dimension blog.]
I am perhaps the luckiest teacher in the world. The thing that makes me so blessed is that I teach a group of 108 eleven and twelve-year-olds who I learn from on a daily basis. And I don’t mean this in the indirect way, as in, I am learning from my baby by changing their diaper that we all come full circle, or I am learning from my dog that we’re all a bunch of animals that need to be loved.
I mean that I literally receive instruction from these kids. They are remarkable. Sometimes I listen to their responses to an open-ended discussion question in class and get floored. Or I read one of their blog posts and tears well up in my eyes. Aha moments? I’ve had a few with them.
It was sometime during this past week where I felt that everything went *click* in my four classes. It was like the first month and a half with collaborative discussion, multiple understandings of ‘text’, iPads, blogging, and social networking were all a novelty and then, bam, everyone suddenly realized what the point of it all was. It was as though my mantra of Creativity, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, and Communication suddenly became normalized rather than unique. Preaching to practice. Lesson to living, breathing.
This tipping point dawned on me over the span of the week.
On Monday I read a post on one of my student’s blogs that levelled me. Then I witnessed the passion spread like wildfire. Seven other students read her post and wrote homage-worthy versions of their own.
On Tuesday I had a student approach me after class: “Um, Mr. Lee, I have, like, this idea? You know how we’re, like, working on procedure writing in English and healthy living in Health? We should, like, do a procedural writing thing on how to live healthy!” Guess what their new assignment is?
On Wednesday I mentioned to the students how astounded I was to witness their creative use of spelling, punctuation, and grammar on Buzz. I still wasn’t completely sure whether I was alright with them subverting the English language in this manner. Well, wasn’t I surprised when they so eloquently persuaded me that they wrote this way on Buzz because it was a completely different context for writing. One student’s words were: “It’s a place to talk like we really talk. As long as we know not to spell like that in a different situation, like on our blogs, or writing a letter to the principal, it’s OK.”
On Thursday I had a student ask if he could make a movie on his Mac in lieu of his procedural piece of writing on healthy living. “And don’t worry, I’m still gonna meet the success criteria.” After hearing this, another student piped in to ask if they could use Google Docs to pen a collaborative novel.
On Friday I was given what I now realize was a gift of a question from another student.
“Mr. Lee, can I use my iPod to video our class sometimes?”
I didn’t really know how to answer at first. I figured she wanted to make a movie about our class. I just asked her why.
“I don’t know. I just wanna be able to watch it at home because it helps me learn.”
If you expect kids to lead, they often start leading. That’s what I notice. That’s my Aha moment.