Monday, October 5, 2015

Colleen Kiley's Opening Volley


My name is Colleen Kiley and this is my 5th year teaching high school English at Mount Abraham Union Middle & High School in Bristol, Vermont. I teach 9th grade English as well as a handful of elective English classes to juniors and seniors. This is my second year participating in WTS and my role is to mentor any and all students in the cohort, while providing our main instructor, Tim, with as much support as he needs.

The kickoff this year doesn't even compare to last year's. That's because I was not able to arrive on Middlebury campus until 3 pm last year (the tail end of things). Being in Oxford last summer and missing most of the kickoff last fall left me in a confused state from day numero uno! It was hard to ever feel fully immersed in the project. This year, I was excited and inspired by the kickoff. I got to meet the kids (although I wish there had been more getting to know you activities) and was a contributor rather than a bystander (good call on that one, Tim). So yes, the kickoff was a success.

My 3 ah-ha's? The first was seeing how many adults were in the room on September 18th. It spoke to the support and excitement of this project. I feel apart of something larger in the world of education, and that is exciting. My second ah-ha was a negative one, turned positive. I'm not very good at doing things I do not want to do. Creating an introductory video was one of them. Originally, I was really excited but then I got overwhelmed, and didn't feel like I had anything important to say in my video. Seeing everyone else's video made me frustrated with myself for not trying harder...for giving up. But then something else happened. A friend of mine starting making a video about his passion for rock climbing. I started thinking about my own passion for running. I got really excited about making a video that would include footage of me running through the woods and highlight the importance of being part of a running community. So I realized something once again: I need to have passion in order to pursue a topic. Much like our students must have a passion for whatever social issue they will pursue here. We can guide and support, make suggestions and help them revise their ideas, but ultimately, they must have the passion and the drive.

My 3 I Wonder's. In reference to my first ah-ha, despite all these wonderful adults, I wonder how we can ensure that STUDENTS are at the helm of this project, rather than the adults? I'll admit, last year at a few of our meetings, I got frustrated when it felt like the adults did most of the talking and decision making. I feel like when we leave our kids alone and let them work through the awkward silence, they eventually begin to generate some really fabulous ideas. So, I wonder, if as adults who are accustomed to being in charge, can we let go of some of the control? Can we allow things to be a bit messy? Can we allow our students to create projects that are not what we had planned, but are instead more than we could have dreamed? Finally, I wonder how we can provide the space in the second half of our course for students to work together and experience the true benefits of collaboration. We all know 2 (or 20) heads are better than can we help our students realize the truth in this statement?

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