Phenomenal Cosmic Powers…

…itty bitty living-space.

Taken from Magic of Disney Art (c) 2010.

I can’t help but think of Aladdin‘s Genie every time I use the word phenomenal, and I must’ve used it about three or four times in an hour today.

“That’s phenomenal! This is phenomenal!”

Today was a day to marvel at student accomplishment. I had the privilege of seeing students actively contribute in a large think-tank style meeting as to what they thought their education should look like. Some students were more opinionated than others but many were well-spoken and quite insightful on their likelihood of finding a job when they left high school. Perhaps the biggest student outcry was against irrelevant education, something that echoed a conversation I had yesterday. After listening and brainstorming a great number of suggestions and modifications to the current public school system, students voted by adding stickers to the suggestions they most supported. Among the top few were:

  1. Mandatory financial education (ex. personal budgeting, tax information, etc.)
  2. Personal life skills (ex. washing the dishes, doing the laundry, fixing things around the house, etc.)
  3. Relevant, hands-on school learning
  4. Personalized instruction with teachers who cared
  5. Student representatives in government

Indeed, the vehemence with which some students argued for their modifications to their current high school education was intriguing; not only did I not expect such firm stances on school curriculum I was quite surprised by the confidence with which students had in themselves, going so far as to suggest that they represent themselves in government. Any university campus survey can tell you that student governance is not an interest of the majority but the neat thing here was that high school students wanted to sit in on board meetings as student trustees and student representatives.

Photo credit to oomlout @ Flickr via Creative Commons

Almost immediately afterward I had yet another great privilege: that of observing a robotics class. This particular class and its teacher have made a name for themselves in the world, having won world championships in first, second and third places in the past several years. When I first walked into the classroom the atmosphere was incredible: all the students were engaged, whether they were programming, building or testing their robots on a massive mock-platform in preparation for the upcoming competitions and the world championships. One team had already been pre-qualified to represent BC; another team was headed by a student who already had come first in the world championships in a previous year; and several other groups had students who were technically “special needs” students but who also were tech whizzes in the field of robotics because they were the hardest workers and the most patient testers.

In sum, today was a day of seeing phenomenal things from students in both their theory and practice. Part of the reason I tell people that I want to be a teacher is because I enjoy seeing people develop their potential, but I don’t think I’ve realized just how fantastic student potential is as it develops and manifests into opportunity and object. What about you? Where do you see students developing potential in your classroom?

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