Welcome to my grade ten communications technology class. They are pure energy, talking and thinking and creating like a hive of loud, busy, bees. While grade nines may have invented “sociable” it took the grade tens to evolve it into a higher art form and they are continually polishing the concept. If you were to be a fly on the wall on any given day then you’d say, there is so much noise. And that is how it felt to me for the longest time, until they taught me otherwise.
Their project was a digital poster to be created in Photoshop Elements 8.0, to appear on our classroom TV’s (every class in our school has a 25” TV hung from the ceiling – we use them for our daily announcements and for school broadcasts). Our school was supporting the Toys for Tots campaign and it needed more publicity so I thought these posters would work well as a purposeful and quick end-of-term project. What I did not expect was how different their responses would be.
One created a design that was so simple and yet, so articulate and I was not prepared for that. Her design was in stark contrast to the other works that used every Christmas colour and seasonal font imaginable. It turns out she is also a wonderful singer, but that only came up because she suddenly, quietly, started singing in class. I would have never otherwise known. Another wanted more powerful colours – we explored the possibilities of layer blends together and she was delighted – that poster is still in progress but looking very promising (so much for deadlines!). Yet another was taken by the idea that there were students whose parents could not even afford food, let alone gifts and treats. How, in our school, could this happen? Very easily, as it happens, because we are a diverse community with many people in every demographic, including poverty. I am not sure she will ever finish her poster. I think her “poster” is still being formed inside her mind – a newly expanded and more aware mind than the one she had before. These are all voices being formed amidst the noise.
At our end of term Christmas concert I got to see that some of my grade 11 students are also well practiced musicians. Some may be struggling with Flash but when they are playing their instruments they sound fabulous and proud. I am so glad I got to see this other side of them. Their work in Flash made me think of a musician still learning the fingering for an instrument – initially very mechanical and not at all musical but later – fluid and intuitive. First we learn the basics – their voices will follow soon after and their “music” will flow from there. Once again, individual voices appear from amongst the noise of my classes.
It was meet-the-creature night (parent teacher interview night) and my interviews were done. I was chatting with another teacher when a couple came in and asked if anyone knew where they could find – me. It turned out they were the parents of a girl I was helping with her photography, and they wanted to express their appreciation for everything I had done. But – there was more. Mom was very concerned about how her daughter was going to earn a living as a freelance photographer. Her daughter has already found her voice – it is photography. We all know how important it is to her and while mom does not want to get in the way of her daughter’s dreams she also wants to be sure her daughter will be safe and secure. We talked about the realities of life as a photographer and faced the reality that there were no guarantees. At the end of the conversation she seemed better with it all. We’ll talk again. I will talk and work with her daughter and her daughter’s voice will continue to grow. Another voice will emerge from the din and the noise.
It is the end of the day and I am sitting alone in my lab surrounded by 30 very quiet, very peaceful computers. Everyone has gone for the Christmas break. The silence is wonderful, but strangely out of place. I miss their noise. As we pause for Christmas I hope you love the silence but also love the noise and all of the voices it contains. May they grow and learn and prosper.