On Tuesday night, I attended a service for a family friend and one of our students, Jack Jenkins. A family member read a poem that Jack had written in middle school, and one line resonated with me. “I am an important person and I have something to contribute to this world.”
As we talk about web 2.0, school change, or what each of us can do to create authentic learning experiences for our students, this is what it is all about. Hearing our students. Hearing them as people.
One of Jack’s friends spoke about his passion for changing education. He loved people and loved his teachers and friends, but, his friend said, he wanted to see a place where students could be more engaged and more enthusiastically involved. Many of us walked away from the service as the sun was setting in the park where it was held, vowing to carry on some small service in memory of Jack. My small service is this–not forgetting that there are students that we need to be reaching, students who care greatly and who really want to contribute to our learning community.
It’s hard to begin to know where to change your classroom or teaching practices (or library) or my own. But as a community, we can walk this walk together. And there are many guides for us as well. Due to our unusual teaching schedule this year, we’re going to have time each week to talk to one another and collaborate on rethinking and improving our practices.
Yesterday, in one of our workshops, our principal said, “Sometimes more interesting than the answer is the question itself.” I believe Jack might have agreed with that, from what I heard at the service. She talked a little bit about risk taking, and supporting a culture where people on our campus feel safe to take some risks in the classroom.
Recently, Chris Lehmann, the principal at the innovative SLA, wrote an excellent post about how to create and support a culture of innovation. He points out that innovation needs to be purposeful, that it needs to be supported with room to play and reflect.
I think time to reflect and play particularly get lost in our rush for content and our enthusiasm for our subjects. Do we allow students to just sit quietly and absorb something for a minute? to listen to the things around them? or to just have the release and joy of play, even educational play and experimenting?
In American Libraries magazine yesterday, I read an article more specifically about libraries and innovation, and want to add one point from their list to Chris’s suggestions–Be Kind to Your Risk Takers.
Our students often are risk takers. It’s the nature of adolescence. We need to be kind to them, scaffold them, support their explorations and create an environment where their contributions are valued and enriched by knowing us, just as we are enriched by knowing them.
So how can each one of us consider “shaking it up” so that we never forget that each of our students is an important person who has something to contribute to this world? Let’s keep thinking about that for all of our sons and daughters and for Jack.
image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/99107397@N00/653396228/