Today was the first day of school, September 8, 2009. This was like no other first day. We started the morning by welcoming and congratulating JK/SK students in Sault Saint Marie, Ontario via Skype, thanks to Mr. Poluk. Many of my students were stunned and they quietly watched as I read the primary students, 500 km’s away a story called “10 Dinasaurs”.
My students then gathered in groups of 5 and with a list of curriculum/standard items, they began to plan their own activities. Their list was something that I have never seen and was an excellent example of what students in 21st Century expect. Students talked about using Google Docs as a method of writing and some of my students (from last year) excitedly told the others how we could “collaborate” and “edit” and “share” their work. Some asked if they would be getting their own blogs and would be able to make their own Wiki’s. Some students suggested that they create wiki pages about the Winter Olympics (our theme for the year) and others asked if they could do math on the “Smartboard’. Many students talked about doing “hands on activities” and experiments.
Before we knew it, it was 12:00 pm and we were anxious to watch Obama address the students of the nation. Transcript of the speech is HERE. We discussed our connections with the U.S and why it is important to hear what the president has to say, even though he is not “our” president. Students understood the concept of global relations and partnerships. We watched the speech in complete awe.
It was then, that I felt most inspired. Not by Obama, but by these 10 and 11 year olds. One of the students said, “That is why we need to be allowed to work in different ways”. Another student reminded me of a conversation that we had last year about multiple intelligences and learning styles. Angela told the class that while her “strength” is reading and writing, she needed help with Art. She empowered another student in my class by telling her peers what an “amazing artist Brianne is”. They went on to identify the strengths of each other. The students were beaming with pride. Imagine your peers, telling the room how good you are at something. My goal for the day was achieved. I just wanted the students to feel worthwhile and empowered. I want them to be in control of their own learning, not to be controlled by our standard driven curriclum.
I asked the students if they could relate to anything they heard in the speech. Every hand went up. Every student has their own story – a story that they will tell.
Only 10 minutes after the speech, our class called Mr. Turner, in Glendale Arizona for a videoconference. We discussed how the speech impacted them, as US citizens. We discuss how the speech gave us the motivation to set goals and not to give up, even when things seem tough. It was fun to compare our climate and environment with this Arizona class. “Does it ever get cold there?” Logan asked. “What was the hottest day this summer?” asked Angela. We learned that what they think “cold” is, is not the same as what we think it is. To answer the second question, they saw temperatures over 120 degrees F.
We finished that video conference with so much excitement and enthusiasm, which was perfect for our next trip. We went to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. These Grade One students sang us the most adorable song and then I read a Shel Silverstein poem, picked by Leah. Students, on both sides of our great country giggled together while they listened to a familiar poem.
As the students were dismissed, I asked them, as they left the room, to tell me ONE thing that they did today that was meaningful. “Meeting classrooms across our world”, “being spoken to by Obama”, “reading to Grade Ones”, “Going to the Desert”
What an incredible first day of school. I look forward to more.