Freedom to Learn: A story of success

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Have you wondered if all your hard work will somehow make a difference to anyone? I have. Deep inside I know I have brought significant change to my school but this week I actually watched the evidence of that change through a program a new teacher introduced last month, a classroom version of TED Talks. She is a part-time interim teacher of English and Creative Writing and her gifts are tremendous. With her insight and experience, she immediately connected to our middle school students and gave them a platform to reveal themselves in ways they never did before.

photo-by-ejam-maail
CC; Flicker.com, photo by Ejam Maail

I was excited to be a part of her adventure by scheduling a guest speaker for her students, a personal friend, Brett Lewis, who had recently been in New York recording a real TED talk about being a peer helper to students with special needs. Brett is a sophomore in a neighboring public school and shared with them his experience preparing for his talk, and the real purpose behind the TEDx Youth world stage. He spoke about his nerves and excitement, explained how long it took to memorize his speech, and talked about the attention his talk has received.

Last Friday, was the first of our mock TED Talks. Students gathered in the English classroom (which happens to have a stage) where a large red piece of paper was laid to stand on, just like in NY. In his typical fashion, my 8th grade son, Braden, a student in the class asked me to help him gather some items so he could create a more “realistic” TED stage for his peers. Let me remind you that I am the Technology Director for his school, but on this day I was not working. It is not unusual for him to scurry through the school helping others with their technology – often at the request of teachers – so I was happy to give him a hand.

We don’t have much extra in our school so he and I (and my husband who happened to be there volunteering) pilfered from other classrooms. Braden set up a TV on the floor, a a laptop and video splitter on a stand, so the presentation could be viewed by both the speaker (from the forward facing TV) and the audience (through a small projector he brought from home). He borrowed my Bluetooth presentation clicker and proceeded to log into the laptop that sat on the floor. On the back wall he projected a countdown timer from another laptop and projector which was visible to the speakers on the stage.

He moved with great speed, as if he had manipulated these items many times before; switching out VGA cables until his electronic masterpiece was working. Finally, Braden asked (or should I say, told) his teacher to log into her Google account from the laptop on the floor and tell all the students to share their presentations with her. And he said to her, “may I go first?”

My husband and I began to usher ourselves out but our son motioned for us to stay. We slid to the back to make room for students who were piling in to watch. And then he began, “Why are my teachers always picking on me?”…realizing this, we captured his talk. As he closes out this chapter of his life along with his 8th grade peers, I can rest soundly knowing that however meager our resources as educators, it is by granting our students (and children) freedom to learn that that we-and they- will succeed.

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All clip art retrieved from Google Images with CC license to share

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