Monday, March 14, 2016

Eulogizing the Living #SOL16 Day 14/31

When my colleague Robin approached me about assigning our speech students eulogies and then suggested we eulogize our colleagues, I worried the morbid index would rise. After all, aren't eulogies speeches about dead people? Well, typically; however, Robin and I decided that a speech of praise, one that would give students a chance to get to know their teachers on a more personal level would be a perfect segue into the informative speech assignment. 
Robin, in her natural habitat.
Robin set to work creating a questionnaire to email to the teachers in our building, close to 100 people. I offered some suggestions and Robin finished the document and sent it off into cyberspace. We gave teachers the option of emailing back their responses or submitting a hand-written response. 

We were on a short timeframe, so once we had enough responses to make the assignment work, we gave the kids the assignment. Again, Robin created the assignment sheet. Students had the option of working independently or pairing up to share the assignment in a partner presentation; this latter option is the one most students selected. 

Robin also found some eulogies on YouTube so students could get more of a sense of how a eulogy sounds. We made copies of the questionnaires, a set for Robin's class and one for my three speech classes to share. I numbered the questionnaires to make keeping track of them easier. 

I left the assignment for my sub to distribute last Monday while I was home convalescing. The students had last Tuesday to complete their eulogies prior to presenting them on Wednesday. 

Our school has over 1,400 students in grades 9-12, but the building's design is not conducive to collegiality. When it was built in the early 1960s the architect sold the district on the open campus design popular in California and Arizona. A renovation in the 1990s enclosed most of the buildings, connecting them to one another, but it's still cavernous. Thus, I can go weeks without seeing most of my colleagues; I don't even see all the teachers in my department every week. 

Through the eulogies, I learned some fascinating things about my colleagues, and many of the students took time to visit with and interview teachers to improve their eulogies. 

From two students' paired eulogy of George Yarno, a science teacher and assistant football coach, I learned that he has been donating his hair to Locks of Love for over a decade. 
Yarno with his hair down. It's normally
in a ponytail or bun.
Many of my colleagues shared the reasons they became teachers, their concerns for students, and advice they'd give their teenage self if they were able to do so. 

One of my favorite stories was shared by Chris Wilkinson, a math teacher whose son Parker is in my AP Lit and Comp class. 

I loved organizing summers with my kids. We would go to the pool one day, have a craft day an outdoor activity day, and a day for reading and doing worksheets. 

Only the bit about "doing worksheets" made it into the eulogy! 
Chris at her desk. 
Every teacher who responded shared their love of students, and the kids talked about this during their speeches. Every teacher who responded shared the joy they experience when a kid "gets it," when "the light bulb goes on." 

Most of my colleagues are from Idaho and attended college locally. We do, however, have some transplants, among them Kristen Berger who came to us from New York. The students who eulogized Kristen spoke about her activism in New York. She shared how she worked with students to raise $20,000.00 to lobby Congress. Kristen earned her B.A. at Swarthmore and her M.A. at N.Y.U. The students had not heard of either university, so I had a chance to talk to them about upper-tier schools. 

Some of my colleagues bravely shared their own challenges in school. My neighbor across the hall told about being treated as a weak person who gained strength through dancing.

Danielle danced to be strong!
One student who interviewed Kyle Jenks, one of my English peeps, shared his most embarrassing moment in school. It's uncanny that it involved taking an all-day test and a certain biological need. Kyle and I joke with and tease one another often, and we even shared a student teacher two years ago. Now we have something else in common, and I told him so after hearing his embarrassing moment! 
Kyle is smiling because he's almost done with his PhD! 
I've only mentioned a few of my colleagues who responded to the questionnaire and who my students eulogized. I'm hoping to get some more pics and perhaps share some more stories from around the halls of Highland. 

And if you're sensing a theme her in terms of Robin's ownership of this assignment, you're right. I must say that having her as a collaborator has been a joy. She and I work closely with our colleague Debbie, and the three of us also collaborate with our friend and colleague Wendy, the debate coach at Pocatello High School. We are a team, and that alone deserves some praise, perhaps a eulogy is in order! 
The 9th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge
is in full swing. Thanks Two Writing Teachers team
for this spectacular opportunity to engage as a community
of writers. 

10 comments:

  1. what a fantastic assignment! It sounds like it was meaningful to all the participants, teachers and students alike. brilliant!

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  2. My grandmother is almost 95 years old and has often lamented at funerals that she wished the deceased could have heard the praise offered at his/her funeral. We have joked that we need to have a mock funeral for her so that she can hear what others would say about her now. I think she also gets it that a eulogy is much more for the living than the deceased.

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  3. Wow, the title "Eulogizing the Living" certainly drew me in because I had no idea what it where you'd take this! :) As I read through this, what a wonderful "tribute" to the staff members (and your team) in your school. I think allowing your staff to share gives your students a better sense of the human side of their teacher, and that will only reap benefits. Thank you for sharing this very human slice with us!

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  4. Wow, the title "Eulogizing the Living" certainly drew me in because I had no idea what it where you'd take this! :) As I read through this, what a wonderful "tribute" to the staff members (and your team) in your school. I think allowing your staff to share gives your students a better sense of the human side of their teacher, and that will only reap benefits. Thank you for sharing this very human slice with us!

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  5. I love this idea! What a great assignment it would be. Could be adapted for a digital story or for a school newspaper, too.

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    1. I'm thinking about eulogies for AP Lit and Comp, Dana. I do like the idea of using them for a digital story.

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  6. This is an amazing assignment - meaningful to your entire school community.

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  7. This is an amazing assignment - meaningful to your entire school community.

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  8. Glenda, this is an amazing assignment--one I have thought about doing, but just haven't tried. Would you share?

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    1. Of course I'll share. Let me upload the assignment into a Google doc tomorrow and send it to you. BTW, if you have the book "38 Speech Experiences," Robin and I looked at that for inspiration. Still, you'll like Robin's handouts.

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