For the last several weeks the wheels have been furiously turning for most of the learners in our classes. We have spent day after day researching, creating annotated bibliographies, and putting together a ten minute long documentary. Woah. They all worked really, really hard, and it was evident in their final products.
Teaching ninth graders can and is often a challenge. They struggle to focus and don’t seem to understand deadlines, but they can also be invigorating and inspiring. Today, I want to tell you all about one of my students who really pulled through in the documentary challenge for the District 10 National History Day competition, but not in a way that is typically admired. I want you to know that I’m sitting in Barnes and Noble reflecting on this student, and I have no idea if he will place or if his documentary, because it was technically incomplete, will be disregarded.
He chose to work as an individual, knowing that that would be more difficult than working with a group. I think that he wanted to prove to himself that he was capable. For two weeks he wrote and rewrote his script. For two weeks he did enough research to fill up six pages single spaced for his annotated bibliography. For two weeks he assembled and recorded and did more research. Then, on the eve of the competition, his iMovie stopped working. Half of his recordings disappeared. They were gone, and he tried for hours to fix them.
As his facilitator, it was so difficult to watch him struggle like that with no way to really help him. But, as his facilitator, I don’t know if I have ever been more proud of an individual student. We printed off his script and he went into a room with three judges, told them about his technical difficulties, and stood there, even during the silent parts. What he did, I couldn’t have done.
When he was outside after the interview portion, standing with our school’s principal, he said that he felt like he had messed up the interview portion. The interview portion involved the judges, after having watched their documentary and read their process papers, asking them about their research. It was very specific to the learner’s projects and there was really no way to prepare for the answers ahead of time. Dr. Arbuckle told him he did fine, that what he had to do was difficult for anyone, and the learner replied, “It was good practice.”
He isn’t in it for a grade. He isn’t in it for the glamour. He’s in it to learn. It’s really hard to teach that.
When he left the room, the judges called me over and complimented him on his bravery for standing up behind his project, even when it wasn’t working properly. They also complimented his topic choice and the research that he did.
I’ve got to tell you, win or lose, place or no place, I don’t think I have ever been so proud of any of my students.