Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Playing the "Oops" Card

Art Credit: Terry Elliott

One of the beautiful parts of #clmooc is the often overwhelming chances to connect with other people by creating with them. During the first make cycle, Sheri Edwards created a "make" and invited people to contribute.  In short, the challenge was to choose 6 words that could be arranged to read both horizontally and vertically.  Her challenge, and some beautiful responses to it, can be found at this link.

I am playing my "Oops!" card because while I tried to meet the challenge by coming up with six words and creating a slide to contribute, I failed, but I feel as though I'm still in the game.

Let me explain.

I started brainstorming about what matters to me as a teacher and director.  What do I want my students to achieve?  While I was thinking about it, I read Stephanie Loomis' great post about (re)mediating a photo of her hydrangeas.  Really, though, the post is about the educator and the garden of students in our classroom.  She inspired me. These are the six words I came up with:

Empower Agency
Encourage Presence
Enable Creativity

I think these six words express what I want to achieve in my classroom and in my student's performance: help them be masters of their own work and actions, help them "be here now" and focus on the task at hand, and offer them the chance to express themselves with words and performance.

Great. But in trying to make the six words read vertically, I came to a standstill.  The first three words are all verbs. That's not a sentence.  The second three are all nouns. Again, not a sentence.  I tinkered with synonyms and tenses. Not happy.  I'd looked at the work of others and was trying to make mine like theirs and, as a result, I was stymied.

I finally created a slide that read:

Encouraging Agency
Presence Enables
Empowers Creatives

Encouraging Presence Empowers
Agency Enables Creatives

Although I'm not happy with the first six words because they seem to lack the power of my original phrasing, I think the two sentences at the end express something powerful: encouraging students to be present empowers them, and giving them their own agency allows them to create.

The slide looked rather plain, so I looked around for some clip art to enhance it. I had a vision, but nothing I could find really expressed it. Finally, I saved the slide and decided to turn my attention to something else. This post.

I have not succeeded at the challenge I set out to complete.  But I did clearly express something that I had heretofore only vaguely thought. As a Lincoln-Douglas debate coach, I spend a lot of time talking with students about how the value we choose for debate case construction reflects how, in our own lives, we act on what we value, whether we speak those values aloud.  So I know that my actions in my speech/drama/debate classroom are based on those three beliefs. I just haven't put them so explicitly before.

One "oops" card played, one game still ongoing.


  1. you most definitely did not fail in any way!

  2. I am more in favor of reflective posts like this than a well-designed Make ... so trade in the "oops" for a "yeah"!

  3. Thank you for reading and responding! Yours are the first comments on my blog and I feel a little thrill that there is someone out there!

  4. Hi Jennifer -- I've been in meetings and learning Minecraft, and I finally made it to your blog. I love your chosen words -- both sets. I so appreciate your fiddling with the format-- I thought it was fun to think about, and want to do this with my students. This post will be great for them to read how you struggled with your ideas, and really have two -- one that fits you, and one that fits the form required; we make compromises as well as revisions. Thanks for sharing your process, and I hope you add your slide to the rest. They are great to read, and yours are powerful. I'm going to use them sometime, giving you credit. Thanks again! Glad you are in CLMOOC again; I truly enjoy your thinking and philosophy.