A Day in the Life of a School Teacher

A Day in the Life of a School Teacher during January (J) Term Experience...
8:00: My early morning 'Media Literacy' class starts.  This week, we're discussing 'Life in a Digital World.'  We spent the first half of class reviewing our Media Consumption Logs, where I asked students to record the number of minutes they spent actively engaging in some form of digital media.  They used their data to then analyze a national study focused on teens and media use, compiled by the Kaiser Family Foundation.  I had one student who sent more than 300 text messages yesterday...she commented that it was a 'slow' day for texts.  We discussed the impact of this digital dependency on various aspects of our lives and discussed how we've changed as students and learners since moving to a 1:1 computer initiative here at school.  

8:52: Drive a student to UNI's campus to get a Mad Hatter-ish top hat from her mom's office.  

9:30: Pick up a group of very excited high school girls, ready to recreate their favorite classic fairy-tales, turning them into modern adaptations that reflect the social issues and values of our time.  

9:38:  (Stop at Scratch for some food fuel)---Detour to a consignment shop for a deck of cards because 'the Mad Hatter definitely needs a deck of cards...'

9:50:  The work begins.  We set up shop at Elements Portrait and Design, a local photography studio owned and operated by Beth Burrell.  Ashley Rozeboom, local hair stylist from Visions Studio is ready to transform our high school students into aspiring models for the morning.  The girls pull out their computers, log in to their Pinterest accounts, and begin to communicate their ideas to our professionals.  Their ideas are highly creative, and they communicate them with thoroughness, enthusiasm, and confidence---skills highly necessary for success in the 21st century.  Together with our amazing community volunteers, they plan, revise, and collaborate on their visions until they've reached an idea they're all happy with. 

10:20:  The fun begins.  Students continue to build on their ideas with Beth, who continues to show them how she's using her camera to capture creative images.  When students aren't posing as characters in their own stories, they're trailing behind our professional with their own cameras, practicing camera angles, lighting, and style.  They ask questions, share ideas, and focus on the smallest details in their images.  In addition to the professional shots they get, they are responsible for using their cameras to capture all of the other important elements that go into telling a story: sensory detail, mood, emotion, suspense, setting, symbolism....

Symbolism like the Queen of Hearts in K's story of the Mad Hatter...    

...Or the mirror that represents our society's quest for perfection in this student's modern rendition of 'Beauty and the Beast.'  

...Or the importance of the color red in Alice and Wonderland... 

Today and tomorrow, 13 of my high school students will have the chance to look at literary analysis in a whole new way.  This project is part of our school's semester J-Term project.  Each semester, students have a chance to spend one week taking part in a project that is new, creative, and connected to skills necessary for success in the 21st Century.  J-Term breaks the mold of the typical school day, and gives the students a chance to learn in a new way.  Students can create their own projects, complete an application, and be supervised individually, or they can sign up for a teacher generated project.  Every semester, teachers come up with unique and creative ideas for engaging a diversity of students.  From making quilts to ice-climbing silos, learning to make and sell 'green clean' products like lip balm and soap, or using Google Sketch-Up to create a new building on our College Hill, there is definitely a project for everyone.

My project combines photography with the art of storytelling and the skills of analysis and creation.  All of the students enrolled in my course have a passion for photography, many who have received cameras for Christmas.  After taking a number of photos over Christmas Break and discussing the elements that go into a great photo, students had a practice session with our school's 4th grade class.  They experimented with posing and facial expressions, lighting, angles, and backgrounds.  We learned and discovered by doing---not by reading about photography in a textbook.

Then came the final project.  Students chose their favorite fairy tales and analyzed them for character development, appeal, setting, symbolism, and most importantly, the themes, values, and social issues of the time they were written.  Then, they worked as artists, called to adapt their classic into a modern and edgy rendition --- one that remained true to the fairytale genre, yet reflected the values of today's culture.  Students used a whole lot of discussion and a whole lot of Pinterest to get their ideas flowing.  Pinterest became their inspiration board - their visual brainstorm of ideas they would ultimately use to communicate with our amazingly talented professionals.

Their ideas were awesome.  Although our Cinderella group still loved their heroine, they were unsatisfied with her ending.  Instead of Cinderella defining her happiness by her Prince Charming, they wanted her to realize the happiness that can come from her own independence.  They each chose to depict Cinderella in three stages of her story: the desperate, lonely Cinderella, aching for a light at the end of a dark tunnel; a hopeful, yet heart-broken Cinderella after she is stood up on Prom night by who she thought was Prince Charming; and finally, the independent, talented, Superwoman Cinderella, fearlessly ready to tackle the world in front of her with or without her Prince Charming.

And Beauty and the Beast.  A story of beauty, and the lengths young girls will go to to try and reach an impossible perfection.

Tomorrow, we'll retell the stories of Rumpelstiltskin, The Little Match Girl, and a French story, La Petit Prince.  Tomorrow, I will get to watch seven students become characters in their own story.  Now if only I could be 16 for a day :)