What I Learned Today at Roberts

Another fabulous day at Roberts! I absolutely love going to this school, working with the teachers and students. I am always impressed with how happy everyone seems to be, or more appropriately, how much of a sense of family they've built among themselves.

So many exciting events and conversations took place today, but I will list the ones that stood out most, or at least the first few I can name without boring my audience:

1) Media specialist Maggie Caverly introduced our team to a new concept in children's biographies: story-based biographies. These are books intended for children (but enjoyable for an adult audience as well!) that aim to convey historical fact, such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton's participation in the suffragist movement, through the use of narrative techniques like drama, dialogue, characterization, and even more recently: the graphic novel! Very interesting and this trend perhaps even reveals our culture's awakening to the power of story-telling. Furthermore, this approach engenders a cross-disciplinary approach in that social studies enters the language arts classroom.

1a) As the best educators do, Renee used this conversation as a learning activity. She pointed out that what sets Maggie apart as a Media Specialist is that she has worked hard to make sure that library materials are reflective of and incorporated into the curriculum. The Roberts library is not just a mass repository of books, but a resource center to supplement what the students are learning in the classroom. It is very much a symbiotic system at Roberts.

 2) We discussed Jason Ohler's Green Screen Project and how we might be able to incorporate that into our pen pal exchange program. I really hope we can make something like this happen. 

 3) The students! I LOVE interacting with these students! They are not at all camera shy, which is really helpful for us, and they are so smart that nearly everything they say is a perfect sound byte. There is something so magical about being behind a camera and interacting with a young mind through that medium. I can't put my finger on why the experience is so powerful, but I relish it...Children are less self-conscious than many adults in front of the camera, so that whatever they say is genuine, pristine. And it feels like a service to humanity to capture these pure expressions, these unadulterated expressions, to share with hundreds if not thousands of people for years to come through the magic of movie making.

 4) Out of metaphysical mode: I am learning a great deal about pedagogical practice through this independent study. Today, Jiwon and Renee and I discussed ways in which we as educators can introduce inquiry-based learning into the classroom. I discovered, in talking to them, that my teaching philosophy, up to now, has been: introduce the students to as much as possible in the classroom, touch upon as much as possible, open their minds to as much of the world as you can in the classroom so that upon leaving, they are so intrigued by all that they saw (in little depth: depth of information is sacrificed for quanity of information) that they go out and excavate the depth for themselves. But Renee suggested there could be another approach, which is to use the classroom to model for them what inquiry is: rather than trusting that they will go out and ask  questions and explore in great depth every idea that we simply touched upon in class, focus on one idea in class and explore it in depth, modeling for the students how to ask questions, what kinds of questions to ask, how to critically engage with a text.

So, I am teaching "representation of Iranian identity in the media" on Monday February 23 and am going to attempt this new approach. Rather than bring in 10 clips of 10 different films to give an overview of Iranian representation, I am going to bring in one telling clip perhaps, or one telling media item of sorts, and burrow through it in depth by asking questions of the students and leading the students to ask questions of it....I am very nervous as I've never tried this before, but I need to try something new because I am seeing that while my approach in the classroom may be very generous and affable and may be attempting at inclusion and engagement, I may also be overwhelming students with the amount of information I provide. And I always feel more teacher-centered than I care to, so hopefully Monday will present me an opportunity to be student-centered, focused,and inquiry based so that we are setting up a situation conducive to investigation in the moment rather than hoping I've set up enough incentive to investigate later on their own (because let's face it: even if they wanted to investigate further, will they have or make the time to do so? And will they do so if they don't have to write a paper?)