I feel full after watching Tim Tyson’s Keynote speech for Necc 2007. I feel full of anticipation for next year. Full of joy after watching seventh graders present what they care about. Full of motivation to inspire. I feel purposeful. Meaningful. And a little fearful.
I have always believed that student achievement should be based around things that matter. Grades are simply a letter from the alphabet, so why do they hold so much weight? Dr. Tyson’s idea of a film contest for the whole school is inspired. But, and here comes my fear, what do I do if I teach in a school that does not support a project-based curriculum? What if I’m trapped in a school that follows a day-to-day pacing guide that prohibits any deviation?
And so my question is this: How do I create meaning within my classroom? I like Dr. Tyson’s questions, “What do you have to say that everyone on our planet needs to hear?” I think I can do a small scale version of his film contest between my four periods. I’m already thinking about what kinds of videos my students might create for Lord of the Flies. It could be awesome! But wait, I’m just a student teacher. Next year Jaime, next year.
After watching this video I’m again reminded of the way that we, as educators, quiet down student thought and questioning in order to “get back on track” with what we think they should know (ie. standards, CRCT, etc.). It’s inspiring to see students with real, content-related questions and answers that they’ve created through their own learning experiences. These middle school students were asking BIG questions that require lots of thought and may not enable easy answers. These students asked questions that mattered…to everyone. Last semester my seventh grade students learned about cloning and that cloned meat will be sold without a label. They would have loved to produce a movie that persuaded audiences either for or against what the FDA has the power to label, especially if they knew that the world would watch.
I think that Dr. Tyson’s message is one that all educators should embrace. All students can be contributors to society. All students want lives of meaning. It doesn’t matter the age of the student, or the age of the educator, but we are all living. As Dr. Tyson would say, we need to “be living.” Let’s inspire our students to reach their full potential.