Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Round 2 Reflection of Eracism: Global Debate, An Amazing Learning Experience

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The team at work
This morning I was lucky enough to have another group of students take part in a championship round debate in bracket B of the Eracism project. We came to school early arriving around 7:15 to get ready for a 7:30 am debate. This is a small sacrifice to make compared to our friends and debating opponent, AISG from China, who had to stay at school until 9:30 pm to take part.

I have not had the luxury to actually meet with my students since the semi-final debates which were a few weeks back. Between then we have communicated through some emails back and forth. I was just hoping that we would have enough students to come in early to debate as I had not heard from many of them. However, they were all there except for a few so we were ready to go.


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Trying to make sense of notes and rebuttals

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More random notes to organize on the fly!

We did have a major scare. I am not sure where the miscommunication was between the students and myself, but my students came to my office ready to debate the wrong side of the debate. They had all their notes and information ready for the negative side. We did not catch this error until 7:27 am which was three minutes before we started. In a mad scramble and panic we printed off a few notes for the affirmative side and the students were left to quickly change their mindset, their arguments  and really to have all plans fall to the wayside.

To say that I was proud of these students is an understatement. Here we are hearing the beep of Blackboard telling us it is time to speak and we have nothing prepared. Our first speaker took our notes and crafted a great opening based off the bullet points of our research from months ago. During this time we quickly assembled small squads -

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The winning pose!

  • some were developing a framework for our second speaker for rebuttal, which when even organized and prepared proves to be the hardest speaking part of the debate
  • some were constructing a conclusion to wrap up and drive home key points that we were speaking on the fly 
  • some were simply working on organizing any notes that we had and preparing for the other team and getting prepared to argue back
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Our secret ingredient: donuts!
If you read my first reflection on this project then you have seen the office that we work in. It is small and quite cramped. We have to shut all the doors which makes the room cook us like hot dogs as the heater in the ceiling pumps a ton of hot air. As we started and continued through the debate not only were we sweating from the heater, but from the intensiveness of this debate as we scrambled to sound intelligent.



In the end, both teams did an amazing job. The topic is difficult.  It is not easy, but to listen to these students articulate their thoughts is impressive.

I am not going to be redundant from my first post reflections because many of those ideas still reign true(click the link above to read), but I would like to reflect on some other ideas.

  • I love the ideas that AISG brought up in the debate. The whole notion of new emerging leaders who are empathetic is a great thought to absorb and think about. I need to follow the new emerging leaders and start to figure out how their empathy affects the countries that they lead. We argued back stating that conflicts of many lands go back generations to almost the beginning of time and a new leader cannot make change, but I would like to believe that this is perhaps a start of something positive
  • I love the whole notion that AISG brought to the table about education. Projects like this where students from all over the world work together to increase their learning is powerful. How can we continue to push this global education concept to the next level? We debated against one another, but how can we take these projects further where students can begin to build empathy and understanding of one another so that when these students become leaders the acceptance and equity of all people are just common nature? As I was wrapped up with the idea of current events and education from the debates last week, this new thought of mine is also taking hold of any extra brain cells that I have.
  • Debating and communicating with students from all over the world does two great things
    • Raise the local bar of expectations - Our students knew that they had to bring their A game in order to be ready for these debates. We came across some amazing students, research, rhetoric, and speaking skills. This was a good wake up call that perhaps we are not as amazing as we sometimes like to think. (I don't think the students would ever admit this, but just an observation from a teacher perspective)
    • With all the hype in the media about American schools falling apart and not being ready to compete globally with other children is just that....hype. Our students proved that despite all the negative press of education in America, our students are doing high level thinking and can do anything they want to do. The key as a school system is create more opportunities for them to feel motivated enough to challenge themselves while they are within our walls and school days. If we don't provide the necessary challenges and relevant issues we miss opportunities for our youth to expand and explore.
As I bring this post to a close I just want to say that all credit goes to the kids. I shared our victory with my staff and they were all very happy. The kids were ecstatic who participated. It is the joy of their emotions that reminds me that projects like these must continue. They were beyond the notion of grades. They were beyond the notion of just doing school for the sake of school. They wanted to do well. They wanted to make sure they could articulate their thoughts. Even during the moments of this debate when we struggled here and there to figure out what to say they continued to work hard and take measures to do all they could do(being ready for the correct side would have helped with this :)) The intrinsic motivation to learn was beyond anything that I could create in a regular room.

My new favorite line that I read on another blog was -

 I'm the chief learner in my classroom of middle school students.

This line is so true. I have acquired many new thoughts, ideas, questions, and development of my teaching skills through the observation of these students. Eracism has given me a new sense of how amazing students can really be and when we don't think students can do this or that, they can(that is a great reminder for ourselves as teachers!)! Today they could have just quit and said no when we realized we prepped incorrectly. Instead they thought on their feet and did awesome. Their quick thinking to prepare in 2 minutes was more impressive than actually thinking on their feet during the debate. 

Thanks to everyone who judged, participated, and helped to organize. There are too many to name. However, I would love to create a Google Hangout to talk with others about their takeaways, questions, thoughts on global ed, etc. Let me know if interested and I will work on setting a date.

As Vicki and Julie state, "Once you go Flat, you never go back!" My passion for global education has only gotten stronger through the participation of this project.

All of these students that I had the opportunity to work with through both teams that we operated have done nothing but remind me why I love my job! Kids are amazing! Simply put. When they shine and show their talents and you know that it is all them that have done the work, then as a teacher/leader you know you have done your job. I simply sat back and watched them blow my mind. It is amazing what kids can do when you place them in a situation where there is no ceiling but the ones they place on themselves. When they remove that ceiling WATCH OUT! because it is a spectacle to behold.
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