Saturday, October 12, 2013

Allowing Students to "Run Wild"

Here in the south, allowing kids to "run wild" is a topic one overhears whispered amongst judgmental parents.  As in, "She just lets her kids run wild; what is wrong with her?"  I'm here to put a different spin on those two little words-- and to suggest that sometimes, as teachers, we give our kids the freedom to run wild.  

Let me start at the beginning.  I have a brand-new newspaper class this year that is so much fun.  It's made up of 10 brilliant young people and myself.  Several of them actually want to pursue writing as a career, so while I feel some pressure to really rock it this year, I also love teaching them.  They're interested and dedicated; I never hear, "Do we have to?"  Frankly, they're one of the great joys of my school year.  

But when three boys, who all aspire to become sportswriters or sportscasters, approached me about doing something new and different, I hesitated for a moment.  They wanted to broadcast the Homecoming football game.  On film.  My first thoughts?  I don't know.  That sounds difficult.  Where could we do it?  I don't have any equipment.

A tiny voice inside my head said, "Let them figure it out."  So I did.  I told them they'd have to figure out the logistics.  In a few minutes, they were back.  They had booked a room in the press box for the night of the game, and secured a video camera and tripod.  While we wouldn't be able to actually "broadcast" or stream the video feed, we could definitely film it, edit it, and post it on our newspaper blog.  

I told the boys they'd have to dress professionally (If you want to be a sportscaster, you're going to look like a sportscaster.) and that, since I was signed up to sell tickets at the game, they'd have to go it alone until I could join them at halftime.  I must admit, I was a tad bit nervous for them.  I saw one of them briefly before the game; he'd been unable to find the others and was stressing.  But when halftime rolled around, I made my way up there with snacks and drinks for them, and my mind was blown.  

guest commentator + two of my three students

Not only were they all in shirts and ties, but they had brought in a guest commentator, a former player from our football team.  Their knowledge of football amazes me, (partly because I know precious little), and their commentary was incredible.  They even referenced former players, other teams in our district, and made comparisons to college and NFL teams.  I am so stinkin' proud of them! 

We are still in the editing phase (and they're doing it all), but I think the lesson I learned is this: sometimes, kids get excited about learning.  About spreading their wings, trying new skills, and running wild.  And it's our job to just let them.  That project took almost no effort on my part; all I had to do was say yes.  In the process, I showed my students that I believe in them and that they can.  If you haven't yet, give your students a chance to run wild. Soon.
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