Voice of the Library: Connect, Create, Celebrate

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May 3rd, 2011

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Week 3 with Shannon Miller!


There are so many things that happen each day that remind me why I love being a teacher.  I am happy when my elementary students run to the new picture books I have displayed in the library and sit down on the floor to read them with friends.  I get excited when a group of my 6th graders ask me if they can go into my library office to record themselves for an iMovie they are creating for a state wide technology contest. I smile when I see one of our seniors reading with a kindergarten student in the hallway of the elementary school.

And I love it when another teacher shares something special that has happened during their day. This teacher might be right down the hall from me or perhaps one that is 1000 miles away, someone that I have become close friends with through Twitter.

This is the story of one of those moments.

On April 30th, I went to Van Meter School to see a play that our students wrote, directed, produced, and promoted. The play was “Romeo and Juliet.” However, this version was very different from any I had seen before. The freshmen at Van Meter,  and their incredible teacher, Shawn Hyer, have been working on the project for several weeks, to create a modernized  “Romeo and Juliet.”

To make it even more unique….The Epic Romeo and Juliet Project was created in partnership with the freshmen at Grosse Pointe South in Detroit along with their amazing teacher Nick Provenzano. Nick and I met last year at ISTE 2010 in Denver, Colorado. We had a great conversation and brainstormed about several different things. One of the projects….a virtual, collaborative, modern Romeo and Juliet.

I have watched the students, Nick, and Shawn, write, film, collaborate, create, and connect to produce this incredible project.  In November, Nick came to Van Meter for EdCampKC and connected with Shawn and our students. I know that it was stressful and crazy at times, but WOW was it worth it! As I sat in the activity center at Van Meter last Saturday, I was so proud of what everyone had accomplished.

When we came back to school on Monday, I couldn’t wait to hear what Shawn and Nick had to share about The Epic Romeo and Juliet project.

Shawn told me, “In the beginning, I was uncertain about the project. Both the collaboration and the students taking on such a large responsibility was something new to me. However, once my students saw what was going on at GPS, it both encouraged and motivated them to rise to the task.

The best part about the project for me was that it was centered around the students. The students led each other in different aspects of the production. This caused them to work together to figure out what was best for the common goal. Although there were disagreements and setbacks, they overcame them by working together.

Now that it is over, I am proud of what my students accomplished. Most importantly, they did not do it just for a grade; they did it because they had come together to achieve a common goal and wanted to complete it to the best of their ability.”

And Nick shared, ”I was excited and nervous in the beginning. I had never done a project that relied so heavily on the students to make it happen. It really was all or nothing and that is what was both thrilling and nerve-wracking.

During the process, I was proud of the hard work that my students put into the project. Despite the setbacks, I was impressed by how they problem-solved and persevered.

Now that it is over, I’m a little sad. This has been such a large part of my life for almost a year, it was crazy to not have to think about it after we showed the movie. This is, by far, the best lesson I have ever been part of and I’m glad I was able to share it with my students and teachers from all over the world.”

While The Epic Romeo and Julie Project was a complex undertaking, there are  similar activities , whether modest or ambitious, taking place every day in every school.

Today I challenge you to take time to be more aware, to listen and connect.  Not just to your students, but to the teacher next door or the one who posts a great project on Twitter.  Celebrate with other teachers and their students.  It is inspiring to see what colleagues, both “real” and virtual, are doing with their students and what they are creating, producing and learning from their peers and themselves.  We are all learners and need to soak up these experiences happening around us.  What a terrific way to spend a day!

Nick, Shawn, and all of the students at #VMGPS (the hashtag where you can follow our collaborative work)…..You are rock stars! Thank you for inviting us all to share in your journey.

If you missed the premiere of The Epic Romeo and Juliet Project, you can VIEW IT HERE. This is the link for The Epic Romeo and Julie Project Wiki and to the  GPS/VM Romeo and Juliet Project website created by Van Meter student Ashlyn Reicks. The “Making Of The Epic Romeo and Juliet Project” will soon be posted on the website.


Shannon McClintock Miller is the district teacher librarian and technology specialist at Van Meter School in Iowa.  You can find her on Twitter at @shannonmmiller and blogging at Van Meter Library Voice http://vanmeterlibraryvoice.blogspot.com/


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