Thursday, March 8, 2012

Finding Lessons in Photos and Stories

On short notice, I was invited to speak with a dozen student-teachers who are spending the next few weeks at my school. While I've held court on the topic of 'student success' a few times before, I decided to try reaching this group in a new way.

In the past year, I've been consistent in getting audience members to share personal stories at the outset of workshops and presentations. For this group, the prompt I provided led students to introduce themselves by sharing stories of how they 'overcame or succumbed to key educational challenges'. Through a discussion that ranged both across and around the table, teacher candidates spoke of very personal academic struggles and without intending to, addressed many of topics I was going to introduce.

In addition to introducing topics related to student success, the activity modeled for all, that personal stories are compelling; that getting to know your students is important; that each of us faces up to unanticipated challenges; that remarkable wisdom of learners lies waiting to be uncovered. Rich unanticipated lessons were shared at the outset, because I chose to invite conversation, before launching into a monologue.

The remainder of my Student Success story was told through photos I'd tagged the night before. Instead of using a slidedeck or a handout, my presentation consisted of simply clicking through pre-selected Flickr photos. My lesson was instantly personal, because the images I chose to make my points, were those I had taken myself. Each image had a back-story, followed by a point of information. As a result, the students were learning about me, in addition to attending to a philosophy of education focused on the student experience.

Maybe I'm on a Photo Kick?
There was a time when I first entered 9th grade, that I very badly wanted to join the photography club. As a multi-sport athlete living a 90 minute bus ride from school I was unable to join in. I've loved photography from the time I was a 10 year old playing with what I found to be a truly magical polaroid camera. And now, some 35 years later, I find myself caught up in ny first photo club of sorts. In my second connection to the iPhone Photo Project , I'm reconnecting with Andy Forgrave and others to create and share. Join us if you like.
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