Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Student Voice and TEDxOntarioEd

I’ve sat down to type my reflection on TedxOntarioEd every evening since it took place on April 9th. I’ve written about what it was like to get to know the amazing organizing team of Jamie Weir, Ben Hazzard, Rodd Lucier, Sharon Drummond and Colin Jagoe. I’ve written about the speakers, motivation and meeting people from my PLN for the first time. My words cannot do any of this justice. They seem dry and flat.

So, inspired by Ben Hazzard’s blog post, I now choose to incorporate my thoughts on student voice and TEDx with images from the night and feedback on my writing, provided by my friend Stacy Someville @stacesome (seen below with her husband, Vince).

Me: Last Friday night educators gathered for TEDxOntarioEd. Throughout the evening we heard from adults, or former students. Tim Long, writer and executive producer for The Simpsons, reflected on his experiences as a student in the gifted program at South Huron District High School. Jesse Brown, host and co-producer for Search Engine, reflected on what it was like as a student who enjoyed and honored texts that weren’t valued by his high school teachers. Paul Finkelstein, Stratford Northwestern teacher and slow food advocate, shared his old report cards with us (and apparently with his principal) and recognized that he now creates a class that he would have enjoyed as a student.

My friend, and Avon Maitland's student success co-ordinator, Stacy Somerville, wrote her master’s thesis on the ways that our school stories shape us as teachers and as people. At the TEDxOntarioEd after party, she spent a lot of time talking about this, but even more time talking about Tim Ludwig, a student presenter from Petrolia. Tim's story isn’t a reflection. It is now. It is his reality, his everyday life. The pause in his speech while he struggled to find words and his place was, for me, symbolic of the need to listen to our students.

Stacy: Yes! And not fill in the blanks with our thoughts and what we think he is thinking. And wait time. Someone else mentioned time - giving people the 'permission' to take time to learn.

Me: We were a room full of educators. If we had jumped in, if we had interrupted Tim while he struggled to find his thoughts, what would we have said? Would our words, thoughts or instructions have changed Tim’s narrative? Instead, we listened and let him find his way of constructing the story he wanted to tell us.

And I had goosebumps and a big lump in my throat. Love that kid. To speak fearlessly and honestly - very powerful.

Stacy is right. Our school stories shape who we are, and for our students, they will shape who they will become. We should spend more time listening.