Saturday, February 28, 2015

You Matter

We started working on a window design yesterday. Our old window design was called What Makes Us Happy? I loved it, it included students' drawings of the things that gasp make them happy. But you know how it is when artwork doesn't change for a long time - it becomes part of the landscape and no one pays attention to it.

Initially I had thought of a photo project with pictures of kids holding signs saying things like, "I want to be valued," and "I have a voice." I love classroom photo projects. My pal Katie (@mrskusiak on Twitter) always has cool photos in her window. The more I thought about it though, that wasn't the thing. Saying, "I have a voice," empowers me. Saying,"You have a voice," empowers both of us. By giving you value, I create value in myself. Everybody grows. That's where Angela Maiers' ( @AngelaMaiers on Twitter) amazing You Matter Manifesto ( came in.

On Friday morning, as I talked with students about the project, student voice joined in. Ben said, "In videos where people hold cards, the people never smile." He was so right! We agreed to look serious, as we were sharing an important message. As we were taking photos and sharing them, the idea came to have our last cardholder smile. After all that seriousness, doesn't the message, "YOU MATTER," merit a smile after all?

As we took the photos, we tweeted them out on our class accounts (@mrfarnumsclass on Twitter and on Instagram). The last one went out during recess, so I thought I should share them with the kids afterward. As we looked at the photos, the students started asking, "Can we make a slideshow?" Yes!

With the kids watching, so they could see how it works, I popped the pictures into Movie Maker, explaining the process as I went. Next came time to add music. I showed them - a website where you can download (for free!) music that creators share solely for credit given. We worked our way through several instrumental samples. We talked about how some songs wouldn't work - the songs were too slow, too sad. If we combined them with the solemn faces in our photos, it'd be depressing. Some were too upbeat, too lighthearted. We settled on Goodbye War, Hello Peace by an artist named teru. The kids and I agreed that it felt like music that was sharing a hopeful and positive feeling. As we wrapped up the video, we credited the kids alphabetically - I don't like to put a name under a face online. We credited teru - because you don't use other peoples' work without permission, and without giving them credit.

Then we pipped the video up on YouTube, and started sharing. I'm really pleased with the way it turned out, and I'm very proud of my students and their role in our project.

Our goal is still to print the photos, and hang them in our window as a message to other students in our school. I'm so happy that on our way, we were able to make something worth sharing with everybody, because if you're reading this, You Matter.

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