Friday, May 11, 2007

I Have a Little Shadow

My technology students have little shadows this week. And for the rest of the school year. When I first started working with the fifth graders three years ago to create, produce and show an electronic morning show through the school's direct feed system, it was an incredible amount of work. We figured out together how to work the video camera, how to use Power Point to create and show the morning songs and how to tie it all together into a production of which we could all be proud. It didn't take me long to realize that once those students left, I would be starting all over again with a new group. So, I created shadows. The fifth graders would work with fourth graders who had expressed an interest in being in the technology club, for the last few weeks of school, teaching them all the tricks of the trade. When they showed up the next year, they would have a basic understanding of how things work. Easier for me. Fun for them.

I really had no idea what to expect the first year we did this. I honestly thought maybe the older kids would be a little stingy with their knowledge. This was their baby, after all. They were the stars of the school. Kindergarten students pointed to them in the hall and were awed that, oh wow, that's the person who did the weather on TV this morning! They knew all about the equipment. Teachers asked them to videotape events in the classroom because, frankly, they didn't know how to do it. That's a lot for an elementary student to experience.

But raise your expectations and they will rise to meet them. I stood back and let them teach. And teach they did. They were thrilled to share their knowledge. Excited. Gentle, patient, kind. They showed the same thing over and over again. How to put in the tape. How to tape. How to pause. How to play. They did not lose their tempers. They reassured panicky fourth graders that it was OK to mess up. They praised and smiled and nodded. The fourth graders looked to them for guidance. And they glowed when they got it.

When the fourth graders came back that next year as fifth graders, they fell right into the rhythm. They knew what to do and they were good at it. I stepped to the background and let them work. One of our former fifth graders catches the bus for middle school at our elementary school and waits in the library on bad weather days. He was there when the shadows started working this week. He looked at the two students getting out the video camera and smiled wistfully at me. "I remember when we did that." He said. "It was great." "You mean putting on the show?" I asked. "No", he replied, surprised. "When we taught the fourth graders how to put on the show."

He had enjoyed putting on the show. But what he remembered was teaching the other students how to do it. I've been trying to figure out why. And I think I know. It's because he could share what he knew with them. And he could see them learn. And then watch them use what they had learned. And that's a powerful experience. For any teacher. Of any age. Even a fifth grader.

Let me show you how we choose the morning song.