Connect. Collaborate. Risk. Innovate.

Connect. Collaborate. Risk. Innovate.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Empowering Students in 140 Characters or Less

      For several years now, I have been privileged to co-sponsor the Sullivan Heights Global Issues Club. Our initiatives, stemming from the diverse interests of our members, range from awareness campaigns relating to various social issues and environmental concerns, to fund raising drives in order to support local and international charitable organizations. As a club that operates within the sometimes frustratingly short lunch period, we have often struggled to connect and collaborate with our members beyond this time period. And so, last year in addition to creating a email contact list for our members, I began using twitter to bring awareness and information not only to our club members, but equally importantly, to our larger school community, and beyond.
      The impact of my decision to extend my twitter use beyond my subject area was immediate and profound. One of my first steps was to create a hash tag based on our Global Issues slogan and t-shirt design, Sullivan Cares. And thus #sullicares was born. With an ever expanding student population, I believe that effective communication is vital to provide a sense of belonging and connectivity, not only amongst our students, but also within our staff. I would argue that an additional layer of communication has been added to Sullivan Heights with the increasing popularity of twitter use in all areas of our school. Now, in addition to submitting daily announcements, it has become part of my daily routine to craft precisely worded, concise "tweets" in order to convey vital information, to raise awareness, and to motivate and inspire our student body.
        Today, the Sullivan Heights Global Issues Club hosted presenters from the Free the Children "Give Where You Live" Speaking Tour. Close to 800 students filled our theatre and normally, this highly motivational and inspiring message would be confined within those walls, but today I was able to immediately witness the ripple effect of the presentation through the "tweets" of my colleagues and our students. It was a powerful and impactful moment for me.
       And so, for the sceptics who bemoan the seemingly limited platform that twitter  provides, is it possible to empower and engage our youth in 140 characters or less? My unequivocal response is, yes! Through twitter, our Global Issues club can effectively demonstrate to our school, to our community and to our world that indeed, #sullicares!

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Communicating and Connecting in the 21st Century Classroom

          With the start of a new semester, it is only natural for teachers and students alike to be reeling from the onslaught of new information, new schedules and new faces. This semester I am gifted with a diverse range of classes, including Advanced Placement English Literature, English 12, Leadership Coop English 11 and English 8. Add to that a  lively group of Discovery 8 students and a Global Issues Club that welcomes all grade levels.
           Somewhat to my amazement, however, I have discovered that this range of courses has not depleted my energy. It has, in fact, revitalized and further inspired me to expand and extend my teaching practice to meet the varied needs and interests of my students. I must admit though, that I feel a tad chameleon-like. As each new group of students crosses the boundary from hall to classroom, I find myself shifting and adjusting my approach and my persona ever so slightly to mirror the energy and interests of my students. This constant state of flux is what I love about the profession of teaching. After 15 years of teaching, I am still learning, still growing, and yes, still making some mistakes. I am fortunate to work amongst an amazingly dedicated and supportive community of teachers and administrators who have encouraged me to continue to integrate new technologies and techniques into my English classroom.
             The creation of my website, and my entry into the twitter-verse several years ago, allows me to extend my teaching beyond the walls of my classroom, and as such I am often communicating with my students, and with their parents outside of school hours. Just yesterday, I received a politely worded inquiry from one of my English 8 students, which allowed me to clarify instructions for an activity that she was working on at home. I have successfully collected email contacts from 100% of my students and many also follow me on twitter. These additional methods of communicating with my students have served to further strengthen and enhance the daily interactions that we have in the classroom. And so, just a few weeks into 2nd semester, I am feeling more energized and more connected than ever. Better still, I have early indications that on most days, my students are feeling
much the same!