When we heard about Kim Skilliter’s initiative The Humans of FHS, we asked her to please share with us (and you!) all of the details around this project. We are so happy she agreed! Here’s what she had to say:
I have always LOVED the Humans of New York site. I love how these stories work to soften the edges of a huge city, and to remind us that, at the core of society, no matter what is happening in the world, are people with incredible burdens, triumphs, challenges – and all it takes are a few questions to reveal what is below their facades. It is a reminder of how extraordinary we ordinary people are. As a teacher, I am an eternal optimist, and it does my heart good to know that, as Brandon Stanton describes in a TED Talk, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HGzgyVAlsDE, even the most intimidating people have been willing to share their stories with him. All he has ever had to do is ask.
In my never-ending – and, honestly, often unsuccessful – quest to find something that will appeal to my English 123 classes, I thought I would try to see how a Humans of FHS project would work. We explored the HONY site, learned a little bit about its history, and then I set the students loose in the halls for a few days. Admin loves when I do that! All jokes aside, they, and all the FHS staff, were incredibly supportive of this idea. Many of them are the subjects of the students’ profiles, and this is a testament to their kindness and approachability.
Once the work was complete, I printed the slides, and, with the enthusiastic support of the librarians, students displayed them on both floors of the library, facing out to the hallways. The response from the FHS community and our supporters was very positive. I still have a few tweaks to make; I was too hands-on with the proofreading of the slides, for example. I need to find more time to sit with students and to guide them toward, let’s say, more conventional English spelling and grammar, instead of just cleaning the slides up myself on the weekend. I need to encourage them to reach out to people they do not know. It is a work-in-progress, but it does work, and I got a huge validation of this one day from a normally very unimpressed student who, when asked how I can improve this experience for next year’s students, said “Well, the least you can do is put our names on the slides. I mean, we did the work!” She wanted everyone to see her name. She wanted to take ownership of her work. She was proud. For me, it does not get much better than that.
Kim is a teacher at Fredericton High School. She teaches 112, 122 and 123 English. She is always looking for new ideas, so she loves to read this blog!