It’s been said, if you don’t tell your own stories, somebody will tell them for you.
This is a story that must be told.
Sometimes things happen in your school that are so awesome, but no one knows about them.
And if everyone knew, the world would be a better place.
This is about Bess and Lauren, two teachers at our school.
There’s a sixth grader who is sort of in their class. His name is Kevin. Kevin went to one of the elementary schools many of our kids came from. They know him. He’s registered, he has a student ID number. His particulars, even his photo, are in the student management system. He’s been assigned to a sixth-grade middle school team of two teachers, Lauren and Bess. But this student has an illness that prevents him from coming to school for the present time. Kevin’s going to get better, but he has yet to step foot in our school building. Consider how difficult that must be for this boy. Here’s where his middle school teachers, Lauren and Bess come in.
I know that there are robot-like devices that can be used for kids to attend school under these circumstances. There was an IBM commercial that showed a kid attending school from home while remotely operating a robot that traveled the hallways and even joined his friends in the cafeterias at lunchtime, “Oh my, I can’t wait ‘til the future, it looks so
cool.” There was a story on the news in 2014 about a high school freshman on Long Island who attended school using a robot because he was recovering from appendicitis surgery. But his mom works for the company that makes these robots. She loaned one to the school for her son That was three years ago, I haven’t taken a sick day in five years, still no robots.
Bess and Lauren didn’t wait for the robots. They are cutting edge users of technology. That’s not to say that they are always incorporating bells and whistles into their lessons. Quite the contrary. But they realize that if there’s a way to leverage technology in order for kids to connect with people they otherwise could not, or obtain information in a way they could not access without technology; then they are eager to incorporate digital tools. They use Flipgrid to give students another means to demonstrate learning in ways that don’t involve pen and paper. They use Google Hangouts and Facetime to do Mystery Skypes with kids in other parts of the country or across the globe. These teachers jumped in and got Kevin into the class using simple, free technology available to anyone with a laptop or any device. Using an app called Appear.in that is designed for video conversations and meetings, Kevin joins the class every day via his computer at home. Lauren and Bess have leveraged technology to bring Kevin into their classrooms every day. It’s incredible and inspiring.
I had a chance to see this in action recently when the 6th grade at our school organized a student-led EdCamp (read more about #KidCamp here). The teachers, and sometimes students, carried “Kevin” around to different sessions as he video conferenced in on a Chromebook. He chose what sessions he wanted to join because the session board was posted online for everyone to view. He joined a session I facilitated called “Music: What are you listening to? Let’s talk” It was so cool to learn about the music my middle school kids are listening to. We used a Padlet to post a link to songs we like and the discussion went on from there. We simply talked about the nature of music and why we love it. Kevin had the link to the Padlet and he was able to post his own links and share songs he liked. He is an incredible kid.
Amazing educators, when you ask them, “What do you teach?”, they reply, “I teach kids!” Great teachers love kids. They love the students in front of them and they understand the sacred nature of their professional responsibility to nurture the academic and personal development of kids. Great teachers know that relationships are the most important thing; not homework, not tests, not awesome lesson plans, but relationships. Great teachers love kids more than they love content. They might be historians, they might be scientists, but they are teachers of kids first. They put kids before the curriculum. Inspiring teachers love students they haven’t even met yet. This is what Lauren and Bess have done.
I think that Bess and Lauren are going to be a little embarrassed that I’m writing about this because they’re not looking for any credit but, think about it, this is so awesome. The agile use of technology, the willingness to think outside the box, their incredible empathy and love for their students, the love of the other kids in sixth grade for their friend, the innovation of Kid EdCamp and including Kevin in it. How many “Kevin”‘s are there around the world? It’s pretty simple to bring them into our schools and classrooms. It’s great for Kevin, it’s transformative for all of us. Not because people want recognition for something, in fact, the opposite seems to be true. Sometimes teachers are just absolutely crushing it every single day in their classrooms and no one really knows about it. They don’t want you to advertise it. But, if I don’t tell you about it, you won’t realize how easy this is to do.
Like I said, sometimes there are stories that need to be told…