Senior Presentations: Students at the Center

At the end of each year, YB students share Senior Presentations with staff, peers and community members.  Students work all year on a slide show that showcases their personalities, reflections and dreams. Finally, they stand up in front of their chosen audience and share what they’ve created.  

The presentations are powerful.  Students are often nervous, a sign that the experience is real in a way that pushes them. What they share is heartfelt. The school walls are permeated, and we honor the whole person standing before us, with his or her strengths, challenges, quirks and surprises.  

From a pedagogical perspective, creating this experience for students makes me proud to be an educator. The task is authentic to the activities students will do beyond school. From job interviews to presentations before classmates or colleagues, students are doing something they will do again in their lives. Along the way they develop skills that are universally relevant and transferrable: creating and navigating google slides, sending emails and calendar invitations, telling their story and public speaking.  

In addition to skill building, this process actualizes a student centered education.  The flip of the script is physical:  a student at the board in command of the room, creating the energy of the space, while staff, peers and community members sit in front of them to listen, absorb and respond. This is student engagement and ownership on display.

When I hear our staff members reflect on the senior presentations they witnessed, they share genuine appreciation for the presentation itself, but also for the person who had the courage to stand up and share.  There is no way in these presentations to think about a generic “student.”  Instead, there is the specificity of Niomi’s poise, Bryce’s quiet voice, or Tahlil’s artistic slides.

Sure there are flops, students who skate by or who do not yet have the skill or investment necessary to make the most of the experience. But more often than not, there is a genuine exchange between people that transcends the school space, a sharing of oneself with others in the pursuit of learning and growing together.  

Versions of this ritual exist in schools throughout the city and beyond. As we close out a challenging year, may all of us in educational spaces like these stop long enough to soak in the humanity of the young people who stand in front of us, sharing themselves and their light.   

With love, 

Sarah Burgess

Director of Curriculum and Instruction 

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