Thursday, June 16, 2011

A Digital World

Wow.  So, I’ve always considered myself to be fairly technologically savvy.  I’ve pretty much self-taught myself on any number of computer programs and until this last spring, the proof of my abilities lay in the fact that I was able to create newsletters and PowerPoint presentations with all the bells and whistles.  Co-workers and friends often asked for help in producing their own presentations and brochures.

Then iPod Touches arrived in the classroom, I received a MacBook as part of my duties as a middle school teacher, struggled endlessly to make the transition to the world of Macs, and ultimately learned that I knew nothing.  It’s true.  In the Mac world, I knew nothing!  And considering I had worked on a Mac doing desktop publishing back in the mid-90s, I was absolutely certain I would jump right back into the game, no problems.  Right… Frustrated and overwhelmed, I decided the best way to make my way across this terrifying bridge between Windows and the weirdness that was Mac was to immerse myself in a huge end-of-the-year project.  And when I say huge, I mean I-must-be-insane, breakdown-inducing MONUMENTAL.

The last six weeks of school, my students and I struggled with (and were sometimes buried beneath) the challenge of transforming the writings and artwork they had produced over the past year, all of it detailing their lives and experiences both here and in their home countries, into a digital format. Today, I am the proud [neurotic] owner of a single DVD.  Upon that DVD lie 35 of the most incredible stories ever produced in any of my classrooms.  It is not that the writing of my former students was any less powerful or inspiring.  It is simply that the writing of my current students can now be heard first-hand, read in their own voices and accompanied by breathtaking images of my students, their families and their artwork.

It has been an incredible journey and in the process, I have learned 3 things:

1.  I am not as technologically savvy as I once thought.

2.  My students are even more amazing than I ever knew.  And I thought they were pretty darn amazing before we ever began this process.  In fact, they are truly brilliant.  It was pretty humbling to realize that 13-year olds who had never moved a mouse before arriving in this country five months to two years ago are more technologically savvy than me.  Wow.  Like I said. Amazing and brilliant.

3.  I am truly blessed.  I love teaching ESL and I love working at the middle school level.
I am so incredibly proud of my students in this moment.  Every time I watch their stories, I learn something new or notice something I missed.  Their stories truly bring tears to my eyes. Sometimes because the stories themselves are just that moving.  And sometimes simply because I watch their stories and I remember where they were at the beginning of the year (or whenever they arrived in my classroom for the first time) and I am literally blown away at the growth that each and every single student has shown.  I suppose I have grown too (after all, I produced a movie with my students!), but at the end of the day, it’s never about me.  In the end, I simply benefit from the amazing presence of the students in my life.

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