Got a tweet from my Sup’t today saying she was talking to one of my former iKids and Yarnspinners. You see, 12 years ago I taught in a school where I started two programs–one for kids to help each other (and teachers) use technology in more efficient and useful ways, and the other was for kids to become storytellers–or “yarnspinners” by weaving tales in a yearly show called “Tellabration.” This kid, who is now a high school senior, was both an iKid and a Yarnspinner. She told Pam (@pammoran) today that her experience as a Yarnspinner led her to drama, and now she’s pursuing a human rights major. Her education was transformative.
July 17, 2011 a former student friended me on Facebook and I pointed her to a personal blog I had done about her class and our experiences together. In her response, Deisy said, “It brought back a lot of memories and reminded me how before we started working with you and getting all that extra help, we were struggling. To be honest, I never thought I would get as far as I am right now and am still trying really hard to pursue my dreams now that I’m about to start college. I’m very thankful for everything you and everyone else have done for me and for believing in all of us.” Another student also responded and added, “never in a million years would I have thought you would end up being my fifth grade teacher and changing my life. You helped us understand that there was a better life when we got older, we just had to reach for the stars. You never let us give up on anything and that’s probably the reason why so many of us are determined to make a better life for ourselves.” Their education was transformative.
I had two kids in my room today during recess working on their wikis–using “Getting Tricky with Wikis” to add scrolling text bars. One of them asked if it was possible to add a hyperlink to text within that scrolling text bar and I sat down to try to remember the html I had used back in the early 90’s to create my first web pages. As I taught that skill, I thought how different these two kids were this year from last–and I asked them if they ever thought last year that they would be staying in from recess to be geeky on their wikis. They both said no, that that would have been unthinkable–but they love it now–and then they asked if during lunch we could work on their LibraryThing accounts. Their work, sharing their knowledge online, and responding to their peers and watching their clustrmaps grow has been transformative.
I had a young man write me an end of the year note to say “I just wanted you to know that, and that you are the best teacher I ever had.
So I wrote back:
I’m curious—best because I taught you, or best because I let you learn?
and he responded:
Best, because you let me learn what I want to learn. I really enjoyed that, and wish that schools would do that, too.
These kids–various years, many ages, interested in many different things–have been allowed to find their passions and run with them. They have been given permission–and opportunities–to develop new passions and be mentored as they learn. (A seventh grader just wrote me–over wikimail, of course– in October, offering to help my fifth graders with their wikis, since his is visited often!) Their feedback comes from knowledgeable others–and their peers who are learning right along with them. Not only is their education relevant, but it is human–they learn to support each other and build their own audiences by sharing them with others. Their education is powerful as they find their voice through helping others–whether it be on a computer, or sharing hero stories in a remembrance of September 11, 2001, or giving peer feedback to writing, or sharing books through book conversations. They listen not only with their ears to what is being said, but with their hearts–and they make connections that last beyond this one year, this one class. That’s transformative