Tag Archives: You Matter

You Matter – With Aurasmatazz (The Sequel)

About 4 years ago, I had one of those crazy-ideas-that-sounds-good-because-you-haven’t-really-thought-through-all-of-the-obstacles.  In a nutshell, I invited the parents of my students (I teach a GT pull-out program, K-5) to send in videos of themselves telling their children how much they matter to them.  I used Aurasma Studio to create augmented reality experiences so that whenever the students scanned their parents’ pictures in their folders, they would see and hear the video of encouragement and love.

The project turned out to be much harder than I expected, but the results were good. The students were surprised and excited, and I learned a lot more about them and their families through the videos that I received.  However, by the end of the year the novelty was gone and I suspected most of the printed parent pictures needed to trigger the videos got thrown away with all of the other school supplies that were zealously surrendered in order to make room for summer fun.  In my mind, the “You Matter” Augmented Reality Project was something I was grateful I had done but would probably never choose to do again.

Flash forward to last school year.  One of my 5th grade students lost his mother in a tragic accident that stunned the whole community.  In the usual way that we try to comfort people who have suffered such a loss, I attended the rosary and told my student that I would be “there for you.”  I felt more useless than I ever have in my teaching career.

But then I remembered that this young man was in my class years ago when I did the “You Matter” project.  I went home and searched my Aurasma account for his mother’s video.  It had been one of my “obstacles” at one point because she was late with the video and then wasn’t sure how to send it to me.   But it eventually arrived.  And, years later, it was still stored in my account.

I downloaded the video to a USB drive.  A few weeks later, I called the student to my room, and explained to him what was in the envelope I was giving him.  I told him that he may not be ready to watch it now, but that it would be there for him when he needed to remember how much his mother loved him.  He took the envelope from me, smiled through his tears, and walked away.

He may never watch the video.  He may lose the USB drive or delay watching it until USB drives are obsolete (but that’s okay, because I have several different backups now!) . But instead of voicing hollow platitudes I was able to genuinely express how much he mattered to me by making a small effort to remind him how much he mattered to his mother.

A few lessons learned from this experience:

  • Never expect that people “just know” they matter.  What you say to them and how you treat them are equally important.
  • Educators (and parents) often don’t see the positive effects of our actions.  We should never regret the efforts we put into something that seemingly did not have the results we expected – as long as we know we were trying to do what is best for kids.
  • Time developing relationships is never wasted time.

As the beginning of the school year approaches for many of us, I urge you to do all that you can to let students know that they matter to you.  Not so test scores will improve or behavior issues will decrease.  But because:

Screen Shot 2017-08-06 at 4.06.10 PM.png

What Breaks Your Heart?

My GT classes and our after-school Maker Club are participating in this year’s Global Cardboard Challenge.  Select projects will be chosen to bring to a local party/entertainment center, Main Event.  We will be inviting the community to play the games for a $1, as well as selling wristbands to access the other fun activities at the facility. All of the money we raise will be going to a charity that the students choose.

But, how can I get several classes of students – in addition to the 24 students in the Maker Club – to decide on which charity will receive our donation?  I decided to use an idea from Angela Maiers, who is internationally renowned for her motivational speeches about how we should Choose to Matter.  One of my favorite quotes from her is, “You are a genius and the world needs your contribution.”

In a blog post last year, Angela described the process for:

  • helping students to determine what matters the most to them
  • determining what “breaks their hearts” about their passions
  • thinking of possible solutions to those problems.
by @Kara Dziobek
by @Kara Dziobek

So far, I’ve walked two of my classes through the first two phases.  It has been very enlightening.  Similar to the activity that Angela describes from teacher Karen MacMillan, I had students mind-map their passions in the middle of a piece of paper.  Then they drew branches from each of those that identified what breaks their hearts regarding those topics.

As an example, I told them that teaching and learning are both passions for me.  What breaks my heart is that there are still children, particularly girls, who are denied the right to an education.

One boy had brainstormed every single sport he could think of as a passion.  When asked what broke his heart about them, he replied, “When I lose a game.”  I had to question him a bit more to get a deeper, less self-centered answer – “when people get injured.”

After we shared the things that break their hearts, we looked for trends or patterns.  Sports-related injuries was a big one with my 3rd graders, as well as cruelty to animals and pollution.  The latter two were also common themes with my 4th graders.  Today, I will get feedback from 5th grade.  Armed with the information from three grade levels, we can then try to find a charity that many of them will find meaningful.

We will also be holding on to these papers to use as jumping-off points for this year’s Genius Hour projects.

I really loved this process for so many reasons.  It tells me about what is important to my students and gives them a voice.  It shows them that they have responsibilities to be contributors as well as consumers.  And, it helps them to understand themselves a little better.

I’ll keep you posted as we continue on this journey 🙂

Help Desks

As my students gear up for this year’s Global Cardboard Challenge, they will also be researching a charity to which they will donate the proceeds from their cardboard arcade.  I want them to keep in mind Angela Maier’s mantra, “You are a genius and the world needs your contribution,” and to cultivate their empathy along with their creativity.

Help Desks for Indian children, created by
Help Desks for Indian children, created by Aarambh

As I was thinking about how to inspire my classes this year (many of whom have already seen the Caine’s Arcade videos), I ran across this video from an organization called, “Aarambh.”  Committed to helping students become more comfortable in their schools in rural areas of India, Aarambh found a way to make combination desks/backpacks out of discarded cardboard.  For less than 20 cents in American dollars, a child can be outfitted with this invaluable piece of equipment.  This is a great video to show students so many things:

  • the value of an education
  • how fortunate many of us are to receive a free education with numerous resources
  • how simple, yet creative, ideas can have an incredible positive impact
  • that recycling is not just a luxury but an imperative

Kid President: Declaration of Awesome

Quote from Kid President: Declaration of Awesome, Episode 1
Quote from Kid President: Declaration of Awesome, Episode 1

What do a llama, Kevin Costner, corn dogs, and Rainn Wilson all have in common?

Kid President, of course!

Many of you are familiar with the Kid President videos.  One of his most famous is his “Pep Talk” video, which is included on my Inspirational Videos for Students Pinterest Board.  You can view more of his videos by going to his site.

Kid President has just launched a television show on The Hub network.  It’s called, “Kid President: Declaration of Awesome.”  (You can see the schedule, and find out which local channel is The Hub here.) One of the show’s producers is Rainn Wilson – yep, this guy.  The first episode premiered last Saturday, June 21, 2014.  Don’t worry if you missed it, though.  You can view the full video here.

In the premier, Kid President investigates the concept of “heroes.” He interviews Kevin Costner for some insight, and then features a pair of girls who are great friends working for a cause.  As the short (about 22 min.) episode progresses, Kid President starts revising his “Wall of Heroes” to include real-life examples, rather than superheroes like corn dogs who accidentally got dipped in radioactive grease.  Kid President asks the viewer, “Who would you put on your Wall of Heroes?”  This reminds me of the Dream Team project my students do.

There are many quotable moments in the episode.  One of my favorite lines, which is simple but true, comes from Kid President himself, “If you want to be awesome, treat people awesome.”  Definitely great words to live by!

Kid President Medal of Awesome

Listening is an Act of Love

Screen shot from "Listening is an Act of Love", a program from StoryCorps
Screen shot from “Listening is an Act of Love“, a program from StoryCorps

This is an excerpt from the “About Us” section on the StoryCorps website: “Since 2003, StoryCorps has collected and archived more than 45,000 interviews with nearly 90,000 participants. Each conversation is recorded on a free CD to share, and is preserved at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.”  I have always enjoyed listening to StoryCorps interviews on NPR, and was excited when they introduced their animated shorts.  I featured one of them, “Eyes on the Stars“, on this blog at the beginning of this year.

To me, StoryCorps embodies the message that “You Matter.”  I have found so often in my own life, whether in my classroom or at home, that the simple act of truly listening to someone honors them in a way that many of our actions cannot.  That is why I was thrilled to hear about their upcoming television show, “Listening is an Act of Love.”  Premiering on November 28 at 9/8c on PBS, this show will feature 6 animated stories from the last 10 years.

I suppose it’s ironic that I am recommending watching a television show while I am trying to promote that we listen more to each other.  However, if you even watch one of the animated shorts on the StoryCorps page, I guarantee that you will see the value of these conversations and be inspired to begin one with someone close to you.  If so, you might want to use some of the ideas on the “Great Questions” page, such as, “If you could hold on to just one memory from your life forever, what would that be?”  StoryCorps also has an iPhone app with recommended questions and other resources.  (This could be a great project for Genius Hour. Just be sure to preview the questions, first.)

You can read more about the team behind the StoryCorps Animated Shorts here.  If you have a chance, watch or record “Listening is an Act of Love” this Thursday.  If not, at least take a look at some of the Animated Shorts.

Can You Keep a Secret?

I debated about whether or not to post this, yet, and finally decided to take the plunge.  The con of doing this is that I am planning a surprise for my co-workers, and I don’t want them to find out.  The pro of posting today is that some of my readers might want to try a similar project, and would like some time to actually plan it (rather than barreling into it blind as I, sigh, seem to have the tendency to do).  So, I decided to remind everyone of the time you snuck a peek at a gift when you were little, and how totally not fun it was to have to act surprised when you got the gift.  I will leave the choice up to you.

Now that you have received your Spoiler Alert, those of you who would like to continue may click on the link below to take you to my real post for today.  As long as you are not someone who works on my campus, I promise you won’t suffer from any residual guilt – at least not for this particular action.  Of course, now that I’ve built it up, I hope no one is disappointed, either…

Click here.

Oh, here’s the password 😉

IDoNotWorkWithTerri

I Think Louisa May Alcott Might Have Dreamed Up the First Genius Hour

Angela Maiers is one of my real-life heroes, with her advocacy for passion-driven education, the You Matter Manifestoand the Choose 2 Matter campaign.  (Don’t forget to check out her recent interview with Brad Waid and Drew Minock on the #2GuysShow.  It is fabulous and motivational!)   But long before I encountered the works of Angela Maiers, I ran across the works of Laura Ingalls Wilder, Lucy Maud Montgomery, and Louisa May Alcott – all of which included main characters who became teachers.  Each fictional teacher contributed to the teacher I am today, for they all shared one characteristic – they cared deeply about their students.

I have been re-reading Alcott’s Little Men (the sequel to Little Women) with my daughter.  In this novel, Jo, the vibrant tomboy of the first novel, opens up a boarding school for young boys, most of whom are homeless.  Now that I am reading this book as an adult, I am struck by the teaching methods that Jo and her husband use – a mixture of traditional and uncommon techniques that surely would have been considered highly unusual during Alcott’s life-time.  The compassion that Jo feels toward her charges is evident in every decision she makes.

In one chapter, a prodigal has returned to the school, and his fierce devotion to everything outdoors spurs Jo, her husband, and “Uncle Teddy” to give all of the young men a space to display their collections of rocks, bugs, and all things “important.”  (I still remember one of my own teachers who offered us each our own space on the classroom bulletin board to exhibit whatever we desired.  It remains one of my educational highlights to this day!)

Once they open their “museum”, the boys are urged to not only show off their collections, but to learn about them as well.  You can see below where I started getting goosebumps as I made the connection to our class Genius Hour.

From: Little Men, by Louisa May Alcott
From: Little Men, by Louisa May Alcott

I could be wrong, but I think, just a couple of pages later, Alcott might have also proposed the original version of TED Talks and the precursor to e-portfolios…

From: Little Men, by Louisa May Alcott
From: Little Men, by Louisa May Alcott

The point is, I think we all know, deep in our hearts, that one of our jobs as educators is to help our students to pursue their passions.  Even fictional teachers from the 1800’s understood the importance of letting people know how much they, and their interests, matter.

(To see some more of my real-life education heroes, please visit my page of “Engaging Educators.”  And, for more about Genius Hour, you might want to take a look at the Genius Hour Resources page.)