Seventh grade teacher Silvia Zanatta recently shared with me the ways in which she and her students are engaging in the You Matter movement. Through heartbreak mapping, memoir writing, and even slam poetry, Ms. Zanatta helps her students feel empowered to channel their genius and share it with the world. Ms. Zanatta is definitely a teacher with the Habitudes! Please enjoy her special post and follow what her students are up to on their class blog and on Twitter @Mszclass.
I began the new school year last September with a plan to embed social media more into my educational practice. I was also interested in making the theme of Identity a focal point of the year. I knew that these would meld somehow, but I wasn’t yet sure how. After “bumping into” Angela Maiers’ work on the net (what she calls “tactical serendipity”), the shape of the year became clearer. Her messages about education, student voice and genius, and how everyone can make a difference in the world, resonated with me. Particularly at this age, kids begin searching for who they are, what they believe in, and what their identity is in the greater world. I knew that Angela’s “You Matter” movement would be an important part of my teaching.
We started the year talking about how we were going to share our learning with the world, on our class blog, through Skype and on our class Twitter account. I told my students: “I believe in you, you matter to me, and what you have to say matters to the world. And the world has a lot to teach us! So this year we are going to delve into who we are, and share it with the world through our social media activity.”
I started out by focusing my language arts unit around teaching about memoirs, reading many of them, and then writing our own. We talked about the reason people write memoirs: what people experience, what they contribute to the world, matters, and there is something to learn from everyone. My students’ memoirs surprised me with their honesty, and emotional descriptions of difficult and joyful times in their lives. I believe they shared such personal stories because they were beginning to realize that what they had to say, and what they experienced, really mattered to me. The memoirs then became a springboard for an idea that would take greater shape, as I began reading about Angela’s ideas around #followyourheartbreak. Angela’s blog post, and then Joy Kirr’s heart mapping activity that I read on the “Teachers with the Habitudes” blog series, went perfectly with my theme of identity. After talking and thinking about their passions, my students did a similar heart mapping activity. (see picture). Coming up with how they could address what breaks their heart about the things they love was remarkably easy, because now they were really beginning to believe in their own genius and most importantly, that they matter! So what followed was no less remarkable.
I had toyed with the idea of teaching slam poetry for a while and as we were doing our heart maps, it struck me: slam poetry is emotional and it has a powerful message. What better topic to slam about then your heartbreak?! My students loved the idea. After watching many videos of other kids slamming, and being petrified about performing slam themselves, the poetry they wrote was stunning. Emotional, raw, honest and authentic. They told their stories of heartbreak, of what matters to them, in powerful language that left nothing unsaid. The culmination of their writing was a “Slam Café” morning, when we drank hot chocolate, wore our hipster outfits, dimmed the lights, and listened to everyone perform their slam poetry. Here’s a video of one of our amazing poets.
Immediately following our Slam experiences, we have begun discussing and reflecting on the Habitudes, and how they manifested themselves through the process of writing and performing our poems. Examining our heartbreaks, writing about them, and then sharing them in an emotional way taught my students how the Habitudes can elevate each of us to not only be our most authentic genius selves, but how we can share our full genius potential with others. We have represented the Habitudes artistically (see picture), used them as the reference point of our current novel study, and delved into how they can manifest in our lives by reflecting and connecting with each other, through things like blogging and Genius Hour sharings. The experience of writing and performing Slam based on their own personal heartbreaks, has given my students insight and experience of the seven Habitudes, and they have no doubt: they can imagine possibilities and change in the world that does not yet exist; they are curious learners who share their passion through things like Genius Hour; they have learned to persevere and be adaptable when faced with new things like performing a slam; they have had courage when sharing their work through Skype or our blog; and they have gained greater self awareness through our exploration of identity. If you would like to read my students’ blogs about the Habitudes, Slam Poetry, or Genius Hour, our website is mszanatta.weebly.com and you can follow our class on Twitter @mszclass.