Dean Shareski’s post, Robbing Teachers and Students of Joy, resonated with me as I thought about a grade 8 classroom that I had been in today. It was an incredible mix of students including Cree, Metís, non-First Nations, a girl from the Ukraine who had been in the classroom for one day and another who had been in Canada just since the start of the school year as well as students from the division’s behavior program.
Was there joy? Maybe not… at first. However the students became engaged when the Arts Ed consultant and I started talking about culture – they had already done a fair amount of work on the topic – and asking them to consider what they had learned about culture in terms of their youth culture. It was an interesting moment for them to realize that culture applied to them and not to the past or that which existed in a country far, far away.
The teacher asked us to assist in the class because the students are going to create a media project about culture. He is very open about the students using any sort of technology that they have available to complete and share the project including using cell phones to capture images and Facebook to share.
We showed the short video, No Mankind is not as Island, which was shot entirely with cell phones and the students were totally absorbed. Afterwards we asked them to reflect and then share on what they thought the messages were, the mood of the film and the symbols used.
Their responses were thoughtful and mature – “talk to people because everyone has a story”; “we need to help, share, care….for others”; “ we should work together, be united” They saw the red, heart-shaped balloon as a symbol of hope when flying high and that of despair when crushed flat.
We talked about audience and authenticity. About copyright and getting people’s permission to use their photos. About using one’s talents to communicate ideas.
Although they were typical grade eight students who niggled at each other, constantly interrupted, squirmed, moved incessantly, and were somewhat boisterous they were engaged and thoughtful. There was joy in this classroom today.