Friday, April 5, 2013

Embrace and Empower Their Voices. This Is Why I Teach. This Will Make A Difference.

I have wanted to be a teacher and artist since I was a little girl.  

I played school with my sister Heather and loved it when we could do our own thing at our own little school in our house.  I loved pretending we had a library too with all of our books.  

We were creative, we talked a lot, we worked together, we were messy, we thought outside of the box, and we had fun. 
Now I am a teacher and a librarian. 

I love teaching.  

I love using social media and Web 2.0 tools to empower our young people to use their creativity and knowledge of the things they are learning and passionate about.  I love to hear and see the voice that they all have.  I love to share this with our community and the world.  

This week at the Iowa 1:1 Conference in Des Moines I presented with seven of our elementary students from Van Meter.  Our presentation was called Empowering Young People To Have A Global Voice.
They all have quite the voices.  I listen to them every day. But throughout the week as we prepared for the conference, I listened a little closer.  They wanted to be heard a little more. 

I loved watching them spread out in the library, sharing snacks and drinks they brought, kicking off their shoes, and organizing the space how they needed it.  They took breaks to do cartwheels or just to lay in the beanbag playing Minecraft on their iPhone for a few minutes.  They came back on their own....just like I would if I was working on a project like this. 
Each of them wanted to use their hands to create the slides we used.  They ripped paper, made a mess, picked their favorite colors, and created several unique, beautiful slides. 
They helped one another and gave kind advice to each other as they created the different projects they would highlight in the presentation.  They lifted up each others strengths instead of getting hung up on their weaknesses.  
We worked together in a Google Presentation that we all had access to.  It was fun to watch their comments for taking turns, assigning tasks, and asking for opinions and help.  At school...and at home in the evening.  Even one morning, two of them were there in the presentation before 7:00am.  
When I was adding a few of my own slides, I asked the girls what they thought about things like learning targets, standards based grading, teachers collaborating, and Active Grade.  

I loved hearing their thoughts....

"Learning targets help me know what I am going to learn for the day. The teacher knows too." 

"I love Active Grade because my parents and I can check out how I am doing in math and reading.  Even in the library with you." 

"I like Active Grade too, but I miss the paper report cards because I like getting the good comments.  I need some feedback about how great I am." 

"It is so much fun figuring out these Web 2.0 tools by ourselves sometimes.  I like finding new ones and showing you Mrs. Miller." 

"I love being able to teach my friends things.  I even teach my teachers and my Mom things." 

"I like it when teachers teach together.  It is more exciting and more people to help with questions."

"I love Skyping with the people and authors we do.  It is so fun to read your tweets Mrs. Miller and see what we have done that day.  I really love how you share our work and projects with the world." 

"I like that you have lots of art supplies in the library and let us get messy.  It is fun coming here and using them with the computers and books."

"No offense Mrs. Miller but sometimes we like listening to someone else and not you.  Like when Mark Moran Skype's in and teaches us about SweetSearch4Me.  Not that you aren't great at teaching research, but he is an expert." 

This is why I teach. 
They were all in the school parking lot at 7:00am ready to go....with smiles on their faces, little treats for their friends, and lots of fun conversation all the way to the Iowa Events Center.

When we got to our room they were nervous for about 10 seconds when they saw how big it was but that was soon gone as they did cartwheels down the aisles to the spot they would practice up in the front.      
The girls asked me to pull up our presentation so they could all see their slides and make sure I didn't switch anything around over night.
They were still my students, still the little people I love working with, but they were now also my colleagues.

We presented together to a room full of educators about the change they can make in education.
We did this together....everyone with a very important part.

Everyone with their very own voice.  Everyone heard.   

This is why I teach. 
We all loved hearing the message that they gave.

The girls were so excited to see their friend and teacher Mark Moran not just in their presentation, but also in the back of the room as they presented.  He cared.  He listened.  He learned from them.
We read several tweets from others who told the girls how much they appreciated their voices and sharing.  And people throughout the day too.
Thank you Emma, Natalie, Maddie, Lucy, Meridan, Josie, and Chaney.  Thank you for presenting with me and for doing such an awesome job.  Thank you for sharing your thoughts, your creations, and especially your voice.
They left us with this message.

We all need to embrace it...We all need to empower the young people that we are with.  We need to listen, care, and encourage them.

Let them be creative, talk, work together, be messy, think outside of the box, and have fun.

Embrace and empower  their voices.

For each of them.

And for you.

This is why I teach.

This will make a difference in the world.
You can see our presentation in this FlipSnack I created from the slides or go the Google Presentation here. 


  1. Dear Mrs. Miller,
    Your students are lucky to have you to help them learn how to have a powerful global voice! Great post! I especially love the creativity of the torn paper style slides.

    Mrs. Hembree

    1. Happy Saturday,

      Thank you so much for reading the post and the very kind comment. :) I think having a VOICE is so important because it encompasses so many things. And these students were definitely heard.

      Truly, Shannon

  2. Shannon,
    Hi! I’m putting together a directory of teacher-librarian blogs by state, and I’d love to include yours. You can check it out at The Centered School Library.
    I appreciate the ideas you share. I learned about ThingLink from you, and I'm trying it with a brave first grade teacher on Monday!

    1. Hi Cari,

      Thank you so much for the kind words. Of course you can include me....Thank you for asking.

      I enjoyed looking at your website too. :)

      Happy Sunday, Shan