I am hearing now, from my students who have checked online that Betsy DeVos has been confirmed for Secretary of Education. Many students understand the mistake this represents, understand her lack of experience, her lack of desire to uphold public education. It did not go unnoticed that last night, as Democratic Senators spent their 24 hours on the floor speaking against the choice of DeVos, many chose to read letters from high school students. They were well, written, well reasoned and backed by real stories and evidence. They were letters that were more cogent than most communications written by adults on either side of the aisle.
One student in my class, in response to hearing the confirmation said, "What can I do? I'm not going to college to become a lawyer. What difference can I make?" We talked about protesting, writing our representatives, writing letters to the editor of papers across our country. Writing blog posts that make their thoughts and perspectives known to the adult world. Their voices need to heard. Need to inserted into the political landscape, as they are the ones who will be most effected by this appointment.
And as an adult, I will do everything in my power to amplify those voices, both online and in person. This is my job, as a teacher, as a role model and as parent. It has never been more clear to me.
I just got off a Skype call with a friend of mine and two teachers from Vietnam who are exploring ways that they can get their students to showcase their learning to employers. The request to speak with the teachers couldn't have come at a more perfect time as we are about to roll out a new portfolio process at New Tech High. We have revamped our portfolio requirements to better meet the needs of the students, so that they have a real, usable tool to showcase what they know and what they are interested in.
When talking with the teachers in Vietnam, it became clear that for those students, a portfolio is a way to get students to reflect on their learning, so that they get more comfortable writing and speaking about their learning. I know that the biggest complaint at New Tech is that students believe the portfolio is just a hoop to jump through and does not produce a usable end product. They say that after their portfolio is created, no one every looks at it again. However, after talking with my friends in Vietnam, it is clear that the process of creating a portfolio does allow students to make their learning visible and that in turn helps them to go confidently into interviews . They have the words and ideas in their heads about what they have learned and are very forthcoming and clear when speaking about their experiences at New Tech. Some of that confidence comes from having to create a portfolio.
We have decided to move on to a more Blog oriented portfolio that allows for students to reflect all the way through their learning process and is focused more on process and less on end product. The social aspect of blogging provides an incredible opportunity to be seen in professional circles, as an emerging expert in fields of student interest. It also provides a way to network with professionals and like-minded people. It can also be used as a way to share information and teach others what the student knows, thereby cementing that information in the students minds as they teach. Blogging is an exciting arena to move toward and as it unfolds, students are already seeing benefits to developing a blog.
So, we are moving on to the next iteration of portfolio at our school, but as we move, I think it's important to realize that, even though students feel that portfolio used to be a waste of time, it was not. Speaking with the teachers in Vietnam, and seeing where they are headed, I am excited for them. I'm also more appreciative of where we've been and and what we've done so far at New Tech. We forget that we once were beginners as well. We forget to appreciate where we have come from. We are constantly dissatisfied with the status quo, and that is what moves us forward, but we also have done some tremendous work and need to acknowledge that.
Lisa Gottfried is a CTE teacher with 20 years experience as CEO of her own Video and Motion Graphics Production house. She currently teaches Intro to Digital Media, Video Production and Game/3D Design. She loves her job and her students!