Listening to High School Teachers

This evening I did an ASK workshop for my local teachers. I had two high school English teachers in attendance. They’ve come to other workshops on videoconferencing. One of them has done a couple ASK programs; the other wants to but hasn’t found the right fit yet.

After the workshop, we talked for quite a while about the situation in their school and their wishes for a videoconference for their curriculum. I realized again that we cannot just be frustrated with teachers who won’t use videoconferencing. We have to listen to their concerns and situations and see if there is an appropriate, helpful way to integrate videoconferencing in their curriculum. And if there isn’t, we should accept that!

Some of the concerns were:

  • New schedule. The school switched this year from a block schedule to trimesters. This is a huge jump and is causing all kinds of frustrations.
  • New curriculum. The updated state curriculum has ramifications for their curriculum. In addition, due to the trimesters they are teaching classes they didn’t teach before.
  • Less prep time. With the new schedule and new curriculum, they are also dealing with less prep time! More preps of new classes crammed into a smaller amount of time.

With challenges like that, who would even consider using VC? However, these teachers see the value. They are struggling though to see how to fit it into already crammed schedules.

So I asked some questions. I think the most important question was, “what do you already do to teach that curriculum”? In this case, British literature. In the course of the conversation, I discovered the students act out scenes from Shakespeare’s play. Voila! Here’s a perfect way to insert a videoconference. The students will already act out scenes. Just add a videoconference to up the ante with an outside audience. We’re hoping for UK or Canada when we get around to scheduling this. The students will already be practicing the performance.

We also discussed how stressed and freaked out high school kids are when they do collaborative connections. It’s really hard for them. I remember an 8th grade class last week in an ASK program. I overhead a kid saying, This is really creepy, before they muted the microphone. Creepy! How do you get kids to overcome their fear and concern about the videoconference? It’s different with high school kids! There’s this whole “body image” thing going on that’s really tough for kids.

So in our discussion we came up with this idea for an agenda:

  • Introductions
  • Insults – both classes prepare 5 Shakespearean insults for the other class. The two classes share insults back and forth – one from each class at at time. This should break the ice and get them laughing and more at ease.
  • Scenes. Then the classes share scenes from a Shakespeare play. We’ll have to see how long the scenes are and how many can be shared in one class period.
  • Question & answer. It’s critical to include the “fun” questions. They want to know about each other: what they do for fun, what music they like, etc.

What do you think? How do you listen to the teachers you serve?

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