Gratitude. I am so grateful to so many people for the opportunity to have gone to Prague for the Microsoft Partners in Learning Global Forum last week. I certainly appreciate the hard work and dedication of the Microsoft team who pulled off an amazing event. As Pauline Roberts has eloquently articulated, I thank Anthony Salcito, Lauren Woodman, Sophie Tual, Rob Bayuk and Carrie Hoople Hispsher for their ability to bring together a world-class collection of educators for a powerful professional development experience. Thank you, Microsoft, for your willingness to honor and uplift the work of students and teachers around the world who value effective, transformative teaching and learning from the classrooms of our schools to the streets of our communities.
I was humbled and inspired as I walked the aisles of the forum. The breadth and depth of projects that my international colleagues are undertaking is very familiar in structure to ours and also motivating at the same time. I look forward to the chance to spend more time deconstructing other projects and creating more global connections. I am certainly grateful to my new friends from all over the planet for their dedication to their students and the real learning that takes place when students’ learning leaves the classroom and enters their lives beyond the school building.
I am certainly appreciative of the support from the administration, teachers, school board members, and parents of Birmingham Public Schools. The opportunity to participate in the Global Forum is certainly a career-altering event, and the chance to participate has been a gift that will reap dividends in my classroom for years to come.
I deeply appreciate the most compelling reason I was able to attend the Forum in the first place, and that is the vision, dedication, and hard work of my teaching partner, Pauline Roberts. “Queen Pauline the Green”, as she is known around the Joberts 56 team (54 students and two teachers), Pauline has long been a champion of educational experiences that enable students to view themselves as stewards of their own learning.
Pauline came to me with the idea of participation in Partners in Learning last year, after going through the experience by herself the previous year. The conversation went something like this:
Pauline: “Hey Rick, what do you think about our kids’ getting involved in Partners in Learning?”
End of conversation.
My implicit trust in all things Pauline stems from the fact that Mrs. Roberts encourages each child to develop a relationship to self from a place of deep integrity, and to live the principle of “see a need, fill a need”. On the Joberts team, kids don’t need to wait for an adult to tell them what to do. Students are encouraged to identify problem areas in the world in which they live, and to act on them. It is this guiding principle, I believe, which has enabled our Doing Business in Birmingham Project to be successful.
Queen Pauline lives constructivist practice every day. She enables our students, through inquiry, to develop their own realizations and take ownership for bringing them to fruition. A recent example took place last week during our sciracy class (science and literacy – rhymes with piracy). It is during sciracy when we have to creative freedom to give students the chance to engage in project-based learning experiences like Doing Business in Birmingham.
We were in the midst of planning our “Global Celebration Manipulation” in the wake of our first place win in the Collaboration category at the Global Forum. Pauline asked the kids,
“So, what do you want to do for our celebration?”
The responses varied from surprisingly reasonable (“Let’s have cake”) to more predictably daring suggestions. Pauline skillfully facilitated the conversation to honor and uphold the students’ suggestions with the minimum amount of necessary teacher parameters. Her consistent message to the kids was clear: This is your party. What do you want to do?
The empowerment of our students on a daily basis is a hallmark of who Pauline is as an educator. It is part of her charisma. Kids flock to her with ideas because they know that their thoughts – no matter how outlandish - matter and will be heard. Queen Pauline the Green makes kids and their visions her own. She uplifts and empowers, from Birmingham, Michigan to Prague and back. Every day.