A New Start: Practicing What I Teach

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CC BY-NC-SA by -eko-

The new car smell has faded from this school year, but I’m making a new start. Blogging ideas have germinated and stretched their tender shoots into the air only to wither under the heat of a heavy schedule. I’ve read many blog posts and felt inspired and guilty in turn as I consumed and didn’t offer much in return. What finally pushed me past excuses to action? Students.

Student voice and choice have been the focus of my new school year. Last year I kicked the tires on approaches like genius hour, but this year I bought the car, declined the insurance, and stomped the gas on the biggest road trip of my career. I’m running genius hour (we call them passion projects) in two classes, and in another our activities are almost entirely designed collaboratively with students. This class of grade 12 students began the year by “translating” the course outcomes into more student friendly language and have been devising ways to show mastery of them ever since. I’ll discuss what they’re doing in future posts (Yes, there will be future posts), but first l’ll share how they inspired me to start blogging again.

Several students were getting overwhelmed by the wide-ranging freedom of the class and the challenge of making their learning visible. “Just tell me what to do!” was the secret cry of their hearts. I offered journalling as a way to work through their fear and document what they’re learning. “Writing/thinking through your learning,” I explained, “will help you focus and organize your thoughts. Then you’ll have a record that you can analyze and that can give you direction.” Students are not unfamiliar with journals, but for the first time I saw students clearly recognize their value. Shock slowly drained from their faces and smiles settled in when they realized that they wouldn’t have to wait for a teacher’s journal prompt, but that they could write about present and pressing challenges AND that doing so could find solutions.

Revelation!

For them. For me.

How could I kneel along side their desks and give them this advice–advice I believe to be sound–while my neglected blog waits, patient as a loyal dog, in my digital dog house? So, thanks to my students who are journalling their way through their discomfort and challenges, I’m back.

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