Well, TEDx East Bay Arts is over.
There were moments of brilliance. Here are some of my favourites:
- Of all the students who showed up, only one decided not to present, and she has only attended class four times this trimester. That means every student who showed up (but one) decided to Dare Greatly. That's pretty awesome.
- While waiting for her presentation slides to show up, one student managed to keep the audience engaged - for several minutes - and then kept their attention when the technology caught up. Which is an extraordinary thing to do when you're 14, nervous, and in front of your entire 9th grade class.
- The passion for so many issues - why art is important, what we can do about sex trafficking, what education should be, evolution vs. creation, the very nature of reality itself - was great. While they didn't always have the best research or most articulate presentation style, they cared. A lot.
- One group explained each of the nine layers involved in being an ogre using a metaphor. Then gave out gum WITH LAYERS. Funny, innovative, and a great break from the more serious topics.
- When several students broke into tears after their presentation (EMOTION + BEING DONE), the judges all got up and hugged them.
- Watching 80 9th graders cheer for one another, cry with each other, hug away the nervousness, and even completely shine in the spotlight...yeah, it was amazing.
Then there were the things I wish had been different:
- Students didn't spend enough time preparing, and I didn't guide them enough. My goals were A) to build community, and B) to encourage them to Dare Greatly and talk about something they loved. And I knew that they didn't have enough time to adequately practice, or learn presentation skills.
- The visuals were not great, and many of them ended up not being displayed because reasons. Also, I hate PowerPoint.
- We only got to have 2/3 of the students present in the theatre on day #1, and the others had to use a classroom on day #2, where they only presented to a small group of their peers. There is basically one space on campus that holds large groups, and every grade level needed space, so we had to compromise. The students who presented on the second day were relieved to not be on stage, but also a little disappointed to miss the experience of the Big Stage.
So content-wise, they struggled. However, the answer presented itself: have them take their presentations, treat them as a draft, and revise. Students have a video of their presentation (I filmed them all) and will look at the actual content to see where they need to add and modify. Today we watched several videos that illustrated styles they may want to use - video blogging, RSA-style animation, voice over with video/pictures, videos with clones/special effects, and even stop-motion choose-your-own-adventure-style videos - and analysed the effect and how well the content was delivered.
I told them they could make any sort of video...so long as it wasn't boring. So no narrated powerpoints, and no standing up and re-presenting the same over again. Students have now done a storyboard and a reflection, and the real work begins on Monday. They have a week to finish.
I hate grades, but people always ask how I grade these things. Because we are treating this like a first draft, they will not be graded. However, students will get credit for having completed it. Then the mastery/quality letter grade will come from their video. The videos will be scored by small groups of students and by teachers (EBA teachers and Andrew/me).
While content left something to be desired, community-building wise I'm pretty impressed with what happened. Not only did the students support each other, but we are seeing the seeds of empathy growing as a result. In one of the freshmen classes after the presentation, they talked honestly about the event, and many students shared some of their personal struggles - parents lost, alcohol or drug issues, struggles with academics and motivation, anything really - and they listened attentively and most importantly, empathetically. There is so much pain being carried by our students, and yet they all feel so alone. They need to see how we are connected, and how emotion is a human thing, not a weakness, or character flaw, or individual trait.
We talk a lot about helping our students see themselves and each other complexly, and being generous when they (and we) fall short. Those steps are worth all the not amazing presentations and technical problems. I can see the growth.
That makes it all worth it.