A year ago I decided to change things up. I had been teaching grade 4 and 5 for a few years and was ready to freshen things up a little, do something different. I went into the year with a goal, I wanted my students to see they had a voice and they deserved to be heard. In the upper grades is quite often where students start to lose that willingness to risk and share things because they might look “stupid” or feel judged by their peers. I really wanted to help them develop a confidence in the power their words could wield, if they were willing to open up and put it out there.
There were many little things I did that to help me reach this goal with my students, but one of the more powerful ones I did with them was blogging. I went into it at first, like many, questioning whether this would really work. Were they mature enough? Did I have time to fit this into the myriad of things and objectives I needed to teach them? Would they actually open up and be willing to try this new form of writing out? So many of the “what if’s” went through my head, but I decided that I had to try this out and if it didn’t work out the way I hoped, then it would be a learning experience for all of us.
The experience of having my kids blog turned out to be something that started out small, like a ripple. At first, they were intrigued and really got into it because it was something new they had never done before, but then once the thrill was over, some of them really started taking it seriously. The blogs written, the comments shared are hard to describe – some made me laugh, some made me cry (in both good and bad ways), and some made me look at that student in a different way. Once I gave the power over to them, I explained that what they were writing was giving others a glimpse into who they are as a learner, as a person so how they wanted to share that was totally up to them, it was quite amazing what happened. I didn’t tweak or edit (even though I wanted to), I let them share what they wanted to share. And yes, I ultimately still had the power because I was able to see everything they were sharing and if I felt it was not appropriate, I could delete their work. However, again I was often able to take those situations where I was not entirely comfortable and use it to have a conversation with that student to help them see where they needed to be aware that what they thought was “funny” didn’t come across that way to others.
By the end of the year, my students grew in their confidence, in seeing that they had important things that should be heard. Was everyone the same, of course not – some grew in leaps and bounds, others in tiny steps. But all that mattered to me was that they were able to see themselves the way I saw them, to take pride in the ideas they had. Did I reach my goal – you bet I did… but more importantly my students did.
And interestingly enough, to those that might question blogging with students, whether the students really bought into it, I would tell them this – it is now summer holidays, my students have been out of school for almost 3 weeks and I still have seven or eight of them blogging about their summer, talking to each other which I think is marvellous.