Let them shine

As we entered the school year there was so much talk of “learning loss”. This idea that the interruptions of covid have done mountains of damage to our students has been peddled by many. Have there been interruptions? Absolutely. Have those interruptions led to some wide-scale loss? That has not been my experience. Have kids forgotten how to take tests? Maybe… but I have to ask once you are outside of school when was the last time you had to write a high-stakes test? Is test-taking itself a skill we can’t afford to lose?

The pandemic ironically gave me a chance to stop, breathe, and reflect. I reflected on my practice, how I was assessing my students, how we could possibly keep testing them and assess them in the same ways we had been in the classroom when our students had to shift online. The answer was we could not. So I looked for better. I explored ways that my students could demonstrate their learning and their growth in ways that made it meaningful. It is a work in progress but it is working.

This week, as the semester is coming to a close, students are turning in their inquiry projects in one class and their multigenre projects in another. As I comb through the piles of work I see the brilliance of these amazing essay writers, creators, filmmakers, poets, songwriters, and dreamers. Students talk about how they are grateful that they get to write about what they want, how they want. They are relaxed, grades have become less of a focus (for most) and growth has become our goal.

Today I listened to the first song written and performed by a student. She spent her inquiry time exploring the process of songwriting as well as recording. The final product and a guitar-backed song with multiple layers of voice with some serious Taylor Swift vibes, all about her stress and anxiety. Another student tried his hand at creating a graphic novel, he discovered it was wicked hard but he tried. Today I read about the history of basketball shoes and watched an instructional video on how to do a crossover (it won’t help me but it would help others more basketball inclined). I read about the different theories around Amelia Earhart’s disappearance which took on a true-crime podcast-type feel, I read about the history of ballet told through poems. I learned a little about what it takes to be a veterinarian and also what horseback archery entails. Can someone point out where the learning has been “lost” because it is all I have found.

My senior English class has been working on a project for weeks. An exploration into legacy and the people, place, and things that make a mark on their lives. I have watched short films, read stories, poems, memoirs, and even the concept write up for an EP. Students are creating art work and recording songs. It is some of the most beautiful work I have be blessed to read. We are not writing an analysis of book written in 1960, we are writing our lives and their genius shines through. So much of the work has helped me learn more about my students. It has also helped them see how brilliant they are.

We often lose track of learning when we get lost in numbers. Things completed, things done “correctly”. In these last few years during the pandemic I think we are finding ourselves in room 157 (also the theatre because it is fun to learn in big spaces). We are looking past the numbers.

To close out this post I want to share one of the poems this week. Grateful for the learning I have found when I let them shine.

Where am I going?

Well, that’s easy 

I’m going to sail through the sea of stars. This little unnamed kid from a No Name® town in Alberta is going to be an astronaut. A good one too. I’m going to be the best role model for kids just like me. The representation that I never got. I’m full of untapped potential and I’m going to do great things one day. 

That’s what I would have said a few years ago.

The future doesn’t seem so clear anymore.

There’s not one specific event that I can blame for my change of heart. I don’t know when I decided I would never be good enough. All I know is that I have an awful habit of giving up before I even start. It’s just that you can’t really fail if you never even try.

Sometimes I feel as though I’ve been given a blueprint for a successful life.

A list full of Do’s and Don’ts 

Ten Easy Steps To Get Rich Quick

but as I sit there with the sheets spread out all around me, I realize the instructions are in another language and I’m left to make do with the pictures.

I don’t doubt that I can make…something,

I can’t guarantee that it’ll be structurally sound.

I can’t guarantee that it won’t collapse under my weight.

how would I know where i’m going?

i don’t even know where i want to go anymore.

I still feel that ache, that burning desire to achieve something great.

When it all gets to be too much, I’ll drive out to an empty spot late at night. Away from all light and humanity. I’ll sit cross-legged on the ground, back hunched and neck straining. 

Early mornings and mosquitoes be damned. 

I’ll greet the Moon with a kiss on the cheek,

and rhapsodize about her beauty,

so she might understand how I adore her so.

I’ll look towards Polaris,

Feel its warmth like an embrace, 

a reassurance that I’m not as lost as I feel

I let Orion fend off the doubt’s that threaten to drown me, 

that want to tear me apart like wild beasts 

I let myself be wrapped up in the Milky Way, 

the same familiarity as a baby blanket

It’s here my heart yearns the most.

If you look close enough, somewhere between Ancha and Albali of the constellation Aquarius, you can see it.

It’s a little rough around the edges but still glowing and bright.

Worthy of its place among the stars

Breathtaking

Exalting

It’s all I could ever hope for

It’s just out of reach.

All I have to do is stand up.

Shake off the dirt, and stretch.

I might need to find a stool, or maybe ask for help, but I can grab it.

I know I can.

All I have to do is just stand up

but i dont

My hands are cold

My legs have since gone numb,

and yet I just can’t seem to pick myself off the ground

So I remain seated

content to watch a little while longer.

Where am I going?

i don’t know

So now that you have read it tell me again about “learning loss”

One thought on “Let them shine

  1. WOW!!! That is beautiful, I felt like I was outside on a hillside looking up at the stars. Fabulous work! You are inspiring students and letting them run. I wish you’d have been my teacher in High School.

    Like

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