An experiment in professional learning, collaboration and sharing of ideas.
Monday, June 22, 2009
Being Inspired - Part 2 (The Kids)
In my first 'Being Inspired' post, I wrote about the many inspiring teachers I've been lucky enough to collaborate with in my short time as a classroom blogger. These experiences continue to help motivate and make me a better teacher.
This year at my school, we have all had a 'reflection buddy' with whom we have weekly critical conversations about our own teaching practice and classroom learning. During these conversations I am constantly reminded about how much I am inspired by my students. Our students are capable of amazing things. Part of our job, is to help them find what it is that they thrive at - what they are passionate about.
I teach at what is known in South Australia as a 'disadvantaged' school. Many of the students are from families who struggle in some form weather it be financial, or with other social or family issues. It's really important to make sure that these students believe in their ability to achieve and not let them get tied down by the 'disadvantaged' label.
Over the last couple of years, this has been a focus in my teaching. My class is an all boys class. We spend a lot of time maintaining our strong 'team' relationship, and being specific about what it means to be a boy and be a man. We talk about the idea that being a boy doesn't mean being a 'boof head' (at least not ALL of the time), and we talk about the need to keep challenging yourself, and stepping up and out of your comfort zone. This is something I try to model, and something my students are doing increasingly well. Taking on these challenges has led to some fantastic learning opportunities, and to some seriously inspiring efforts by my students. I would like to take this opportunity to share some of these with you.
There is a young man in my class, who has come to us from New Zealand. He was an 'immersion' student and has entered a completely different type of schooling here in Australia. A very shy student, he hardly spoke a word when he came here but he accepted the 'challenge' and took his passion for music to a public place. This was a scary experience for him, but he stepped up and out into the limelight, for our class and blog audience to respond to. I don't know that I'd be brave enough to do the same thing, but I do know that he has inspired me to take more risks with my teaching and to put myself 'out there' more often. Press play to listen to his results.
Clippers For Cancer
They apply the label 'disadvantaged' to our school, and I guess that has some merit. In our class we try to put this aside, and look at how we can contribute to society and our community. This year I decided that we would support a cause to better the lives of others.
I handed this idea over to the boys who spent quite a lot of time discussing the different groups that we could help. They decided that they would like to raise money to support children with cancer. A worthy cause by anyones standard. After some further discussion, the boys decided that they would like to raise this money by shaving their heads. They believed that taking 'drastic' action would better raise awareness for the cause, and help them to raise more money.
Their reasoning was sound, but I wasn't sure that parents would be too thrilled with the idea! To my surprise, all of the parents gave consent and Clippers for Cancer was born. We spent several weeks aiming for our goal to collect $200. The boys gave their all and managed to raise an amazing $1900. This is a huge amount to raise for a single class in our school. I didn't think we would make the original goal of $200.
Once again, the kids positive outlook, and drive to succeed proved me wrong. This is one of the highlights of my short teaching career. It still gives me a lot of satisfaction to watch the highlights clip. I am very proud of the boys and what they achieved here. They are already talking about next years event.
This ongoing experience has been so much more than we'd originally planned. We first took on this project to try and engage boys in choir. It worked. We went from 3 boys in choir to having a complete boys choir with 44 members. We performed at the festival theatre, and went on tour! We were then asked to perform our Haka for Premier Mike Rann which in turn led to an opportunity to perform for the Premier again this year, along with the Governor-General. We then recieved this message from Premier Rann on Twitter.
It has been amazing learning journey from what we considered a short term project. This year we successfully auditioned the Haka for an assisting artist position in the Public Schools Music Festival, and will perform it for around 1500 people at the Festival Theatre.
Throughout it all, the biggest buzz for me, has been watching the kids light up, and hearing them talk about a whole new range of things they would like to do with their lives. They are talking about becoming performers, getting into politics, becoming chefs and caterers. It continually reminds me that providing these opportunities is so important and that it opens up new dreams and life expectations.
It's not just my students that provide inspiration. During our Haka journey, we were sent a video my students in Myles Webb's class at Melville Intermediate. The students in this video show an obvious passion for their culture, and put in an amazing amount of effort in this performance. It inspired me, and inspired my students. It is a must see video.
These experiences are just some that have inspired and continue to inspire me to be a better teacher. I am inspired by the students that never used to turn up to school, and now do. I am inspired by the students that were withdrawn and now step up to lead their peers. I am inspired by the amazing things that students achieve when they step up and step out of their comfort zone. As teachers, we know that we need to model learning for our students. More and more I realize that often it is the STUDENTS that model for US.