Today my students showed up, right on cue, wearing their school shirts. Normally, the only time we break those bad boys out is for a class trip, and that’s common practice throughout the school. As such, no fewer than 8 staff members stopped us in the halls this morning to ask “Where are you going today?” The puzzling reply?
Well, maybe not exactly. I explained we didn’t have a trip. Instead, we were going to be Skyping with our buddy class in Wisconsin (although, until our friends popped up on the computer, at least two of my boys still thought we were actually going to Wisconsin today). This was met with a variety of “Wow! Cool!”s and some “Oh”s. People were either impressed or indifferent. Never did we mind: the entire class was pumped.
At around 1:05 EST, my and Pernille Ripp’s class were finally connected via Skype – the culmination of several months of planning and exchanges. After a couple of initial hiccups, the kids on opposite sides of the Smart Board saw each other for the first time and let out squeals of joy. I knew my class would be excited to finally see the kids from the mystical land of Wisconsin. They had wondered openly whether people in Wisconsin had cars and airplanes, as if Wisconsin was some distant star in the universe, inhabited by no one but Mrs. Ripp and 23 children. I was not, however, prepared for Mrs. Ripp’s students’ reactions to us. Did they think we might have three heads, too?
My and Pernille’s collaboration was conceived with the idea of learning about the differences between Madison and New York, but more and more it became clear to me my students would be even more excited to learn about the similarities. Of course, none of us were prepared to learn one girl had 17 horses (how many of us can even say we have one?), but there were plenty of things to find in common. The kids in Wisconsin knew “Puff, the Magic Dragon,” and they sang it with us as we performed.
Even though many students reported having butterflies in their stomach leading up to the big Skype call, everyone rose to the occasion and shed some insecurities in order to speak in front of their new friends. There was obvious interest on both sides to learn about each other, and there was nothing forced about it.
It was truly a memorable day in my class, and it’s one that I don’t think we’ll soon forget.