Why My Students Are Connected

Why My Students Are Connected

I have written a lot about being connected myself, even about connecting my students. I have written of the conversations that happen, the connections that happen, and even how it brings this amazing world of strangers in to our rooms. And yet, some people still don’t get the importance of being a connected educator, not just for yourself, but also for your students.

We are doing our final book clubs right now and a group of girls had picked Anne Ursu’s The Real Boy as their choice, something that made me quite happy because for some reason students had not yet gravitated toward this amazing read. When it was time for me to check in with the girls, they immediately told me just how well their book club was going, how deep their conversations were, and all of the things they were speculating about. It was clear that this book had made some new fans. As they walked away, I mentioned that the author, Anne Ursu, is on Twitter and would they like to tweet her?

One minute passed and the girls told me what to tweet (we do have a class account but no one was logged into it at the time). Here is what they said

I pressed send and the girls went back to their group.

3 minutes passed, I looked up from what I was doing and this caught my eye

3 minutes! And the author of their new favorite book had taken the time to reply to them. The girls lit up and immediately started to discuss Mrs. Ursu’s reply and what that must mean. This quickly spiraled into another questions and then another and what ensued was a deep literary discussion fueled by Anne’s answers and my students questions. For 30 minutes, Anne Ursu took the time to answer them, ask them questions herself, and even having her own thinking pushed. 30 minutes!

As I stood back and let it unfold, I kept thinking how this is exactly why we are connected. Not to just show off our learning as if the world is our audience but to interact with people that matter discussing things that matter. That same morning I had written about engaging our strongest readers, and here my girls were pursuing ideas and theories grounded in a text much like I had discussed. In the end, my girls asked this, officially blowing my mind…

Do I need any further assessment that these kids get what it means to think beyond the text, to make connections, to infer, to look for commonality between texts? Thanks to Anne Ursu and her willingness to connect, my students just applied everything we have discussed within our own four walls.

So when people ask whether being connected is needed, I have a hard time not saying yes. Sure, we can teach just fine without, in fact, we can be great teachers without being connected, but our students will miss out on amazing opportunities to connect with others. They will miss out on great discussions waiting to happen, on opportunities to expands other people’s minds in the process. These girls, my 5th graders, they made someone else think today, and that is invaluable.

cross-posted at pernillesripp.com.

Pernille Ripp is the the author of Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classroom Back to Our Students, creator of Global Read Aloud Project, and co-founder of EdCamp MadWI. She teaches fifth grade in Verona, Wisconsin, and blogs at http://pernillesripp.com.