Friday, January 28, 2011

Give them an inch and they'll take a mile!

In February of 2010 our student parliament came up with the idea of organizing the school community into the Olympic Rings as a way of boosting school and Olympic spirit.   As you can see, the results are impressive!  You will notice in the front (middle) of the rings, one of our students who was selected to be a torch bearer. 

Last year, I was approached by some students about an “Olympic Rings” idea.  The idea seemed simple enough to them - mobilized the entire school (on the street), get over 560 students and staff to form five perfect interlocking rings (and stay still),  asking those same 560 people to conform and wear a certain color outfit and finally, put a group of students on the roof of our gym to capture the moment. 

My inner voice was saying: Are you crazy?  How about the risks?  What about the permits?  What about student safety?  What about loss of Instructional time?  Who is going to organize this?

My response to the students….? Yes, of course! 

As you can see from the photo above, they pulled it off with the precision and care that any adult could have done.  Under the watchful eye of a few teachers, these students came up with a creative idea, overcame all the administrative details and were able to mobilize and inspire an entire community and learn countless lessons along the way (even geometry!)
In my experience, as a high school teacher and administrator, I have come to appreciate that if you trust and empower students to be creative and take risks, there is no limit to what they can do. 

I am inspired when I see students engaged in peer driven learning initiatives like our anti-bullying workshop, student mentors, student parliament, student assemblies, peer counselors, peer tutors, project outreach, and the “green team” (to name a few). 

It is always impressive to see students empowered to take control of their learning, to find inspiration and motivation from making real world connections.  The challenge in my school is to continue to find ways to empower students in their learning as we embrace 21st century realities.  The recently published Vision for 21st Century Education: Premier’s Technology Council states:    

… Students will begin to take greater responsibility for charting their own path. It is the role of the student to accept and understand this responsibility. This would allow educators to take advantage of the innate learning ability of young people in a more open, exploratory learning environment where they learn by doing, not reading and listening (Vision for 21st Century Education, Premier’s Technology Council, 2010)

By empowering our students we are satisfying a core competency for 21st century.  Thankfully, when we give our students an inch, they will take a mile!

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