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Resiliency – What are we learning from our students?

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I’m intrigued by the topic of resiliency. I’ve spent quite a bit of time at several Title 1 elementary schools this year, working with 4th graders on technology-infused projects.  What I have observed is that, despite grinding poverty levels and what are often intolerable, grossly unfair home situations, for the most part, kids are amazingly resilient.  In each classroom there are three to four students who are unable to maintain and need a bit of physical space away from their classmates, but the rest of the class manages to get through the day much the same as as their more affluent counterparts at wealthier sites. Why is that? What’s the key to being resilient? And what can we learn from our students about resiliency?

When Paul Allison‘s email arrived last week, with an invitation to listen to a Teachers Teaching Teachers podcast on resiliency, I rearranged my work schedule so I could make it home in time to join Wednesday’s conversation. It was worth risking a speeding ticket in order to join NWP ‘thinking partners’ Lynette Herring-Harris, Suzanne Linebarger, and Vanessa Brown, and others who would be  leading the discussion.

I’ve learned to keep a notebook with me during the TTT sessions to record resources, strategies, and great quotes, such as:

I’ve added the above titles to my summer reading list and also made a note to myself to contact Suzanne Linebarger directly to learn more about the work she is doing up north in Butte County with third graders, especially the program she developed to combine technology with the genre of cooking to build resiliency in her students.  I’ve known Suzanne for about ten years, through our Writing Project connection, and am always blown away by her insights, her work – and her humor. Her latest gem was during Wednesday’s TTT session, when she mentioned how she deals with the lack of Internet connectivity at home that is a reality for most of our Title 1 students: Start them thinking about where they can get online: a neighbor’s house, a relative’s house, the public library, etc.  On Thursday, when I headed in to work with a classroom on a VoiceThread project (please checkout the project embedded below), I found myself ‘going live’ with those same problem-solving strategies.  When I asked how many had Internet access at home, few raised their hands, but when I threw out some suggestions, heads started nodding.  OK, Suzanne, where are you posting your work?!

My contribution to the topic of resiliency is to share a bit about that VoiceThread mentioned above. Halie Ferrier, the wonderful teacher who had asked me to come work with her students, had also organized in May a Day of Tolerance unit for her 4th grade team.  I suggested that she invite Marielle Tsukamoto in to speak with the students on tolerance and resiliency.  Marielle has worked with me on the Time of Remembrance Oral Histories Project.  We’ve tried to capture through interviews the lived experiences of those citizens of Japanese heritage who were denied their Constitutional rights following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Each interview is testament to resiliency.

Following Marielle’s visit, along with a reading of Yosiko Uchida’s The Bracelet, Halie’s students stepped back in history, assumed the role of internees, and wrote letters to a friend back home, along with an accompanying piece of art. Thanks to VoiceThread, the students’ historical fiction is now crossing genre lines and mixing with biography, as Marielle and others who experienced discrimination, exclusion and forced removal first hand begin to join in the discussion:

Oh, and the image of bamboo – It symbolizes resiliency in all its forms.

    Image copied from http://i61.photobucket.com/albums/h71/navigate53/Inspirational-2/bambootree.gif

3 Comments

  1. This is an incredible Voicethread!
    Thanks for sharing, Gail.
    Kevin

  2. There’s more to come on this VoiceThread, Kevin. Just shows, though, how technology can level the playing field for our students, no?

  3. Pingback: Using Voicethread for a Tolerance Project | Kevin's Meandering Mind

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