Sunday, March 23, 2014

Turning the Tables: MY Turn in Front of the Audience

Over the last 600 days (the last two years of teaching), I've made a significant shift to authentic assessment. That is, for each major piece of work in class, the assessment has been a product to share with a real audience--whether it be peers from other school districts, parents, social media, etc. If you've been following my blog or following me on Twitter or if you're friends with me on Facebook or in real life, this is NOT news.

What is news is that I got to play the role of the student a couple times in the last two weeks. That's right. For two different reasons--I presented on the value of our fall community book club AND I sang as part of a fundraiser for a phenomenal local non-profit--I was in front of audiences. And it did some pretty miraculous things for me.

  • I worked harder knowing there was an audience. I have not sung publicly in seventeen years, but when asked, I worked hard to do it well. I went to the one optional rehearsal. I recorded the accompanist. I sang it once a day until the event. As for the Lightning Talk at MACUL, I went through multiple written drafts to get the talk just right, to match the message up with the slides that accompanied it (see the video below). I practiced and practiced and practiced. 
  • I had fun knowing there was an audience. When preparing for the audience, I was having a good time dreaming of the moment. It just feels good to get meaningful feedback--to prepare, perform, and receive the credit for that. It's good for the soul when people recognize effort.
  • I connected with community because of the audience. Through the performances, I met new people. I shook hands with people I had never met and probably never would have had I not given the time to these endeavors. From those connections, ideas spread, thoughts are given legs to walk into others' lives.
  • I did it to communicate my ideas to an audience, NOT to get an official assessment. When preparing for the performances, I thought of ways to communicate my main ideas differently. I considered what the audience might like and let it inform my delivery. I did not use a rigid rubric. I used past examples. I looked up other Lightning Talks and other performances of "Mister Cellophane". I wondered how others did it and then I made it my own. I had the freedom to create, so I did.
And you know what? The EXACT same thing happens for my students when they create for audiences: they work harder, they have fun, they connect with community, and they care more about developing their thoughts than the final grade.

Having an AUDIENCE provides more CARE which means more THOUGHT and that results in more LEARNING.

THE MACUL 2014 LIGHTNING TALK
BE MY BIG-HAIRED MOTHER


THE SONG FOR FUNDRAISING
MISTER CELLOPHANE