Who Do Teens Admire?

This week in my year 9 English class, students were delivering prepared oral presentations on the subject “A Person I Admire”. I love this assignment. Every year, I have been delighted as students have usually prepared well and revealed the heroes in their lives.

Most years there are a couple of ‘celebrity’ heroes and they have predominantly been sporting and entertainment heroes until this year. I was delighted with the ‘famous’ heroes chosen this year, social activists, business people doing extraordinary things and courageous survivors were the only ‘personally unknowns’ in the speeches. This is really important to me because I feel young people need real role models. Role models that are worthy of their admiration and worth imitating.

Most students select a family member. Grandparents, mothers, fathers, aunts, brothers and sisters are all the people most looked up to by teenagers over the 6 years I have been teaching year 9 English. The love and gratitude the teenagers express in these speeches are precious. Whenever I can, I let parents know this because I wonder if they realise how much their young person appreciates and respects them.Usually they are surprised.

Tears came to my eyes in class a few times whilst listening to the speeches as they were so touching. As I looked around the room, some of the students were feeling similarly moved. I felt proud this class has created such a safe learning environment that they can share their passions and express their emotions within it. It feels human to me.

Schools Today

I’ve just returned from our schools fashion parade. The talent displayed by the kids just blows me away. The beauty of each individual kid who modelled the clothes, all different shapes and sizes, hair colours, individuals shone for all to see. The creativity and work that was on display in the drawings and sketches in the foyer, in the recycled fashion items modelled by the students was stunning. It saddens me that it is so obvious to the adults in their lives, parents, teachers and friends, yet they miss it in themselves. This is why I loved Anthea Paul’s awesome speech last night.

It’s been a busy week at school and I have seen some amazing displays of goodness this week. On Monday we held a Remembrance Day service. A group of students organised and delivered speeches acknowledging their appreciation of the selflessness of those who served the country. Students then pinned names of family members who had served to a string. The remainder of the student body, roughly 600 students all seated on the ground around the flagpole, were so silent and respectful, you could hear the names gently flapping in the wind. Every year I witness this in awe. I look at the sea of faces and feel proud to work among these kids who rise to such occasions.

It is also a privilege to work alongside the teachers who make these things happen. The teacher responsible for the Remembrance Day service and the Fashion Parade sits next to me at my desk. I watch her every year making calls, driving around town, running fundraisers to make these events a success. She gets exhausted, tired, stressed yet her passion for her students and life keeps her turning up every day to make these truly educational experiences happen. She is not paid any more than other teachers at our school, she has no special position, she enriches our school community because that is an expression of who she is. I appreciate her greatly.

The media rarely reports these things. Reporters don’t tell about the kids who support one another through family, friendship and health crisis’s. They don’t find it newsworthy to inform about the efforts that go into fundraising and social action in most schools around the country. They don’t celebrate the talent and creativity we get to see in the art shows, fashion parades, musical performances, to mention a few of the events I get to see every year.

Yes, we will all be exhausted over the next few weeks wrapping up the year into corrections, reports and award nights, but it is entirely worth it.

Students Today… (a bit of a rant)

This could make you think…..

A Vision of Students Today by Mike Welsh and class

On my school based blog that I recently deleted due to lack of interest from fellow staff members, I had posted The Machine is Using Us. I read today about Mike Welsh’s latest clip Information R/evolution on Sultana Blog:Observations on How We’ve Changed and noticed the clip above.

Granted the students are obviously university students, yet from conversations I have with secondary students (12-16yr old) replace Facebook with Myspace and you would get some similar feedback. I have noticed many of them don’t use email as much as we ‘grownups’ do either. Quite a few students use forums to discuss their gaming and other online interests. They socialise and use their mobiles similarly.

Another good clip on this theme, I had previously posted on that other blog was…

Pay Attention

Youtube is blocked at my school. We have 4 computer labs shared between 22 classes. MP3 players and mobile phones are banned. There are good reasons for this, but I often wish we could harness the positive use of these things. I wish some others got over being scared and listening to the scare campaigns about the latest scary thing that happened online, and learn and be effective for this generation.

Schools aren’t protecting students from online threats by excluding the Internet from their education. The one place they could get some leadership and guidance, is largely ignoring online experience.

Sometimes I wonder if the first biro ever brought into a school was used as a weapon and stabbed someone in the eye, would they have been banned across the country? If someone reflected on the amount of times students use paper to make planes and fly them around, thus causing a distraction, should paper be banned? And what about paper cuts? I know I am becoming cynical now, but I’m frustrated.