I wish laryngitis on all of the reformers. They need time to stop talking and start listening. I lost my voice last week with laryngitis. Although this made my demonstration lesson on how to speak publically a lesson in irony, it forced me to speak less and listen more.
My students seemed to listen better to my hoarse voice during me lessons last week. If their presentations on Monday are any indication, they understood more too. Their assignment was to present Prezumes, which are resumes made with Prezi to the class. The students spent 5 days putting their presentations together. I began each class with a 5 minute tutorial on using Prezi or public speaking. The goals of the Prezume-tations were to 1. be memorable and 2. be honest. I created a rubric for students to peer-grade one another based on the elements of public speaking we reviewed in class.
What happened on Monday was beyond my expectations. I introduced each student even though I sounded like Harvey Fierstein’s interpretation of Don Corleone. After each presentation, the students clapped and yelled “Positive reinforcement,” a part of our classroom culture created on the first day of school.
The presentations were memorable and honest as was discussed in days prior to the presentations. However, I could have not expected them to be as moving and inspirational as they were.
One student shared his dream of working in theatre, how over coming dysgraphia made him a faster typist, and showed how he worked up to a position of leadership and responsibility in the school’s theatre department. The presentation ended with an empty slide because his moment of greatness had yet to be reached.
Another student shared her impressive academic achievements reflected in a perfect grade point average. But even she is more than a score. She is part of a nationally recognized dance team, an award-winning flutist, and aspires to be a music teacher.
A third student’s presentation focused on his pursuits outside of the brick and mortar school house but were no less impressive. He creates music, flies on a skateboard, and drinks philosophy. His presentation included a video he created of him skateboarding that could have part of an ESPN feature.
The last student shared the journey, struggles, regrets, and dreams of a child uprooted from his home. It was riddled with spelling errors and used only basic features of Prezi. It ended with the loudest claps and the most “positive reinforcement” shouts.
The presentations were not perfect. But that’s the point; they did not need to be. All students start from where they are. It is the discover of what is not perfect, and journey to make what is imperfect better that gives meaning to students’ lives.. It gives the students a reason why to engage; because it matters to them.
Whether it is lack of imagination, financial gain, or indifference to our students’ futures, education reformers do not have the tools or hearts to improve what goes on within our schools any more than they can fix the brick and mortar outside. They do not have the tools, experience, or motivation to do either.
Transformative teachers, inspirational leaders, and informed parents can no longer allow this flight on a plane being built in the air to continue. Leaving no children behind has dragged the underfunded unfairly and has raised no students to new heights. Anyone who says differently is selling something.
From a reformer’s perspective, Monday’s class was a success because a special education student, an honors student, an African American student, and an ESL student completed a summative assessment using computer technology to address CC speaking, listening, and writing standards (which by the way, none of which are part of state tests). The students in my class listened to four peers share who they are and what they love to do with people who care about them. They inspired their classmates, increased their self-esteem, and evaluated their lives.
To listen, love, and inspire is a noble dream for school leaders to have. Perhaps if those who have assumed control listened with loving ears, they too could inspire.