What do you see?

Everything that my students have done this year has been for an audience somewhere in the United States. How cool is that! But the last project we did left me a little intimidated. I had one class that wrote songs about the Oregon Trail and recorded them. It wasn’t our culminating project for the unit but something they did as they were doing some initial research about the trail-the songs were basically serving as their notes. The writing ended up being rushed, the recording ended up being rushed, getting 25 kids who fear talking in class to believe they can sing a song was so tough, but we managed to finish it in the last minutes before vacation. It was a very tough for this particular class. I was supposed to put the Mp3s onto a CD and ship them off to an elementary school. After listening to them I realized that we should have taken more time with the writing, the recording, song selection, I could have done a better job, we had problems I never saw coming, etc…. I wanted to put them on our site but was worried that a person listening to them would…well…think a little less of us since the songs were…well…a bit sloppy. The problem is, if these songs weren’t suppose to go to the other class I would have been extremely proud of this class. This was really difficult for them – and did you ever try to get a group of 8th graders to write and sing songs and then record them live? Yikes…talk about intimidated. So I started to write a post about how sometimes I am worried that people who look around the web and see all these fantastic multi-school collaborative projects that are just incredible, would just throw a passing glance at my kids work because side-by-side without knowing their background it’s not as impressive…and I hate to say it…but I wonder if I am not worried about their reputation, but mine. Then I started thinking about all the other content teachers at just your average little school that are in the same boat–or all the teachers in those schools that are just thinking about starting and looking for schools to partner with. How do you compete with these college prep school tech classes?(I know…don’t take me literally) I decided one of my goals next year would be to invite a class to collaborate with us that has never done anything on line and might be a little intimidated about starting. So I started writing a post and I ended up rhyming the first four lines by accident which turned into a crazy out-of-control poem. So here it is in all its glory. I don’t know if it makes my point, and I know I leave myself open for criticism with a couple of lines. But what the heck-let’s rock on.
**In order for the last line to make sense you have to know that our class’ nickname is Collaboration Nation.**

When you see my student’s work
On our blogs or on our wiki,
Do you see the students home life,
Do you see their IEPs.

Do you see past their mistakes
Or the pressures of their neighborhood,
Do you even realize
That their three sentence paragraphs should be considered very good.

I worry that when people see some of my kids stuff online,
They will compare us to other schools,
All that work from prep private schools
And full time tech classes is pretty cool.

Can you see through their off key singing,
And their stuttering podcasts,
That they have showed the world,
That learning can be a blast.

They have exceeded my expectations
Using podcasts, blogs, and wikis,
They have established a world-wide audience
from Australia to Missouri.

But some days I really do hesitate
to send out what they create
I wonder if people on the receiving end
Will only focus on their shortcomings…and forget what they did is really great.

I am very proud of what they accomplished,
They worked darn hard all through this year.
They sent their work across the country,
And overcame many of their fears.

And so when you see student work online
And you think it really sucks
Often times those are kids coming from places
That don’t get all the breaks and have all the luck.

I guess this lousy poem
Is just a way for me to whine and vent,
A reminder that even though we focus on the biggest and brightest of the 2.0 classrooms,
We shouldn’t forget to write about and invite into our classrooms all the rest.

So if you are reading this and thinking
About starting a path in 2.0 collaboration
Please don’t feel intimidated
Give us a ring, because you are always welcome, in Collaboration Nation.

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