Raise Their Voice

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April 26th, 2011
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Week 2 with Shannon Miller, Teacher Librarian from Van Meter School District in Iowa

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Last week I had the honor to present with Julia Albaugh and Emma Durflinger at the Iowa 1:1 Conference in Des Moines. I have collaborated with both of them before and have helped them prepare for other presentations as well. When I spoke at the Follett User Conference in March, Julia, Emma, and two others Skyped into my session and told the attendees how social media is used in education and how they have developed their own voice.

Yesterday, on Emma’s blog We Talk, she posted about “Presenting” :

“Presenting is something I do for fun and for school purposes. I have just lately presented at the 1:1 conference in Iowa. I have also presented at many other places. I got involved with this last year when I was in 5th grade. My father Mr. Deron Durflinger and my mother Mrs. Amanda Durflinger said that I could start presenting and creating a blog after I got their permission. I love presenting. It makes me feel good because I can teach the teachers in multiple ways. It has made me smarter with Web 2.0 tools and made me more experienced. I LOVE PRESENTING!!!”

Does she sound like a person who is passionate about presenting and teaching others? Does this person want to make a difference?  Does this sound like a 6th grader?

And how about this quote from Julia, who is a senior…

“Mrs. Miller has encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone, getting me involved in National Honor Society. She also has helped me have a voice, through my PLN, and through Twitter. She is always so supportive, and helpful.”

Do you encourage your students to connect to their passions?  To use their voice?

I became a teacher because I wanted to make a difference in the lives of young people.   I wanted to empower them to have a voice through creating, collaborating, and connecting. I was inspired by one of my teachers and she changed my life forever.

Art has been my passion since I was a little girl.  My Mom always supported my love for art.  In the summer she would get my sister Heather and me giant refrigerator boxes and let us paint on them in the grass.  She would buy us endless art supplies and save every possible paper roll, piece of tissue paper, and little crafty items so we could create.  She took me to art classes in a city close by.  She loved sharing our work with others and put it up in our house. Mom let me create, be messy, and express myself.

When I was in 6th grade a new teacher came to my school.  She was young, super cool, and best of all….she was the art teacher. Ms. D, as we all called her, quickly realized the passion and talent that I had and began to spend extra time with me.  She would give me books to look through, let me dig through her amazing portfolios, and was never the first one to end one of our conversations.

I will never forget the day that we were given the assignment to draw our hand.  Most people took their paper and drew it life size or perhaps a little smaller.  I sat off by myself, took the biggest piece of paper I could find, a new piece of charcoal, and drew my hand so large that it almost spilled off of the paper.  Ms. D came over and stood by me.  At first, I wondered if she was upset I took the big paper or perhaps that I used charcoal instead of the pencil.  She lifted up my paper and looked at what I had drawn.  She “really” looked at it.  And then she looked at me with a big smile on her face and I knew from that day on she would become not just my teacher, but also my mentor, friend, and fellow artist.

As I went through junior high and into high school, Ms. D, along with my family and friends, encouraged my passion for art and continued to find opportunities for me to express myself.  I spent every moment I could before, during, and after school in the art room.  I entered art and photography shows. I worked on other projects throughout the building and created art during the summer for 4-H projects with Ms. D’s guidance and encouragement.  I got accepted into the Design College at Iowa State University and planned for a career in art. She expected a lot from me in all of my classes and extracurricular activities. And most of all….as a person.

Ms. D made a difference in my life and the lives of so many within our school.  She came to Shellsburg and created a change.  She encouraged us to have a voice, to connect to our passions, and to express ourselves in different ways.  By being a passionate artist and teacher, Ms. D showed me that I could also be a change and make a difference in the world.

Now that I am a teacher, I have over 600 students and others in classrooms around the world who make a difference in my life every day. I love seeing the excitement in their faces when they create something wonderful, teach a new concept or Web 2.0 tool to a friend or teacher,  or when they have over 100 adults in the room hanging onto their every word because they are the voice of our future.

As you walk into the library, you will see this quote by Mahatma Gandhi on my wall:

“Be the change you want to see in the world.”

We can all be that change.  Today, I want you to “really” look at your students’ work.  I want you to “really” listen.

Today, let your students have choices, let them teach your class something new, let them give you ideas, let them present with you, let them be heard.

And most of all…let them know that you think they can be the change that we need in our world.  Let them know that they have a voice.

My dear friend and mentor, Diane Cordell, who has enjoyed watching Emma and other students at Van Meter develop a voice, wrote in the post Emma and the Perfect Storm on her blog Journeys, “Emma isn’t merely posting chatty Twitter updates. She is using her connectivity to stretch her wings and expand her horizons but with adult supervision and parental permission. Emma is learning to ride the winds of change.”

As we give our students the chance to develop their passions and voice, we are giving ourselves that same chance: to find meaning, to have a voice, to be the change.

References:
Cordell, Diane. “Emma and the Perfect Storm.” Journeys. 21 Apr. 2011. Web. 25 Apr. 2011. <http://dmcordell.blogspot.com/2011/04/emma-and-perfect-storm.html>.
Durflinger, Emma. We Talk. Web. 25 Apr. 2011. <http://vanmeterwetalk.blogspot.com/>.

 


2 Responses to “Raise Their Voice”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Hi Shannon,
    Yes, we definitely need to look and listen to our students much more than most us do. We get so caught up in “teaching the curriculum” that we must remember that we “teach children”. We need to create opportunities to let them share their “voice”, express their creativity, and discover their true passion. Thanks for sharing and reminding us of what it truly means to be an educator.

    • Shannnon Miller says:

      Hi Paula,

      Thank you for your comments to my post. Yes, we truly do. I think about when your class visited my kids in the library via Skype and taught them about Madi Gras….what an incredible experience for all of them. Your kids were so connected and passionate….it was a great day for us.

      Have a wonderful day, Shannon

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