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The Power of Presentation

The end of each semester signals the arrival of one of the most wonderful events at Clark Street Community School…..student Presentations of Learning or POLs. More than any other single experience at CSCS, POLs represent the best of engaged and empowered learning and it is not by chance that they involve public presentation. Without exception, POL days find me laughing out loud, moved to tears by the power of our students’ voices, and filled with hope for the future these young people will lead us to….if only we continue to fuel their flames! There are three significant reasons POLs carry this power in our learning community:

Public speaking is the number one fear in America.

The research is clear that significant learning does not occur without struggle. As an educational institution, we must stay consistently focused on creating an environment and system which ensures that all students will have the opportunity to experience productive struggle. Nowhere do we see the positive effects of this more than through POLs. When learners are provided the right combination of structure, support, feedback, voice and push, they begin to find in themselves a confidence and a power that they may have never known existed. The first time they get the taste of the genuine excitement and appreciation that audiences have for individuals who are willing to step in front of a group and share their message, they begin to build a sense of themselves that is far more powerful than they ever imagined.

Preparation for a real audience creates the motivation to do excellent work.

If you are going to get to the point where you are ready to take this vulnerable step of standing in front of an audience and sharing a message, you are going to want to make sure you are well prepared. There are no better learning experiences for anyone than those where they know the sharing of their new found knowledge or understanding really holds power and the possibility of making a very real impact. Now, the struggle matters. Now, the feedback holds significant value and must be thoughtfully provided and received. Over the past seven years, the quality of the presentations has gotten consistently better. As students marvel at the skill and intelligence of their peers, they also continue to push themselves to make sure they too are doing their best work.

The public nature of the presentation brings out the power of our learning partnerships.

Equally important to this formula for success is the power of each student in their role as supporter, challenger, and audience member. Watching veteran students provide impromptu motivational speeches to young, nervous students is impressive and admirable.In these experiences, CSCS veterans expertly validate new student fears while reassuring them that they will not only be fine but will feel great about their accomplishment when they are done. Bearing witness to these interactions is an incredible privilege, yet it happens so frequently now that sometimes I fear I may lose my perspective on how truly special this is. At CSCS it’s become the norm. Observing students providing their peers honest, respectful, challenging feedback with a clear motivation of ensuring that everyone is as prepared as they can possibly be is so powerful it inspires me to be a better coach and leader. And, on the day of the big event, observing a group of teenagers deeply engaged in learning about everything from art, to nuclear power, to economics from their peers while offering some of the most sincere, genuine appreciation I have ever heard often moves me more than the presentations themselves.

As our district looks to create learning environments and systems which support deeply engaged and empowered learning experiences for all learners, there is much to be learned from the power of presentations of learning! We invite you to join us and encourage others to attend and share this amazing experience with our community!

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(608) 829-9640

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2429 Clark St, Middleton, WI 53562, USA

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