I started the term with great hopes of the digital classroom and online publishing changing the world for my students. I hoped that it would open up to them a new way of expressing themselves and responding to different challenges and ideas. I wanted it to feel more like learning and less like school.
Some have embraced the opportunities and are writing and blogging with style. Others have simply handed me the piles of papers that I have been accustomed to accepting. Is this their comfort zone, or is being encouraged to do things in a different way just too confronting?
I asked one young lady – a good student – why she had opted to give me paper rather than a URL. Her response? “That’s not the way English is meant to be!”
Wait. What have I missed? Aren’t English classes meant to be about powerful ideas and the ways in which they are communicated? Isn’t the power of imagery it’s ability to deliver meaning in an out-of-the-ordinary way? Isn’t the strength of punctuation it’s ability to direct the reader which way to read and understand someone else’s ideas, because there are myriad ways in which they could be presented?
I wonder if what is really behind this unexpected resistance is a lack of confidence. Perhaps my students are happy for me to read their work, but they don’t think it’s good enough for anyone else to read.
I really hope not.
These are all vibrant, bright young adults with different talents, interests and experiences. Each of them has a valuable perspective on the world around them.
Phase 2 of my brilliant plan is going to have to be encouragement. I will communicate to every student that their ideas and feelings and responses are valid and interesting. I will remind them that they are unique and valued. I will laugh with them, work with them and then remind them that the Internet is there, waiting for each of them to conquer it.
I think I am going to be exhausted.