Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Book Club

Let's pretend no one signs up for this community book club idea that has been wonderfully consuming my summer. (Quick note: this is NOT a reality since 53 have signed up in just the first week of releasing its details, but let's just pretend.) I've learned an incredible amount already which will directly impact my students. It's certainly impacted me.

Lesson 1: Human connection is critical.

I was working on this project on my own for quite awhile. (Again, another fib. Emily Bazelon had to write the book, Superintendent Furton had to give the go-ahead and help with some ideas, and I used some friends to think through the concept more thoroughly.) Mostly, though, the work was my own: I set up the website, I emailed Ms. Bazelon, I created the format. But, as I was working on this project and hoped for it to reach a bigger audience, I knew that I was limited. 

My education came at the hands of Jill--a friend and parent of three students. After taking an hour with me to think about the details of the project and speaking to me from a parent perspective, she brought up the idea of a small committee. "More hands make light work," she said. So, I called a small group together and the idea has soared because of them. They had the idea of advertisement, personal stories filmed and embedded in the website, outreach ideas to parents and the community-at-large which never would have crossed my mind. (Not all of these ideas have been put into place, but they will.) They gave specific feedback to the website and to the sign-up form. Their work has been beyond valuable--and that was after just one hour of meeting. 

So, there's the lesson for my students: working with others will improve the quality of your own work. This committee has already improved the project. The same MUST be the case for my students. By THINKING together, ideas progress. The work gets better.

Lesson 2: Technology makes life easier.

I've never created a website with embedded video before. I've never created a Google Form before. I've never used a spreadsheet to gather data like this before. Already, in just a month or two of work on this project, I've learned an incredible amount about the technology that is at my fingertips--for free.

Students need these skills. The skills of forming websites, sharing them, creating spreadsheets filled with data is going to be part of their life. Honestly, if it's become a part of mine, it will be part of theirs. 

Lesson 3: Revision is necessary. 

Throughout this process, I've re-written the sign-up form about four times--maybe more. I've composed emails to administrators in my school district as well as my colleagues. Those emails went through many drafts. I've created presentation slides for the board of education and for local organizations. Soon, I'll be writing to all of the parents. Each one of these pieces, in my opinion, requires a slightly different tone. Some tweaks here and there change the writing based on my audience.  

Revisions have been necessary on all kinds of levels: sometimes the sentences aren't clear, sometimes my audience wants me to be less wordy (perhaps like right now--during this blog), and sometimes the information changes (a date here and there, a venue). To get the information right, revisions need to be made.

Often, students see revision as just something their teacher makes them do, just another step in a process they've been doing ten years before they get to me. But, there is HUGE value. I need to work harder to make sure that my students see it, understand it, and do it.


Most importantly--the best lesson I've learned so far to pass along to my students--it matters. Because I care for the book club's success so much, I'm willing to meet with people, to work with new technology, to revise and revise and revise. THAT is what I have to give to my students--meaningful assignments. Once we have that, the work becomes important and feels less and less like work.

(Side note: I did my BODY+MIND REGIMEN, mentioned in last week's blog, six out of seven days this week. Feeling pretty good about that.)