The level of personalization Emily and I have created in our classroom is making me reflect constantly (hence this blog). It fills me with wonder, how much our students can experience and grow. It’s awe-inspiring, and I get so much more insight into their thought process, and I learn so much from them.
Once in a while though, because it’s evolving in what feels like a lightning quickness, I have doubts.
Here’s what happened today. It’s our email day, and we wanted to have students share their work on their yearlong “Expert Author” project. We’ve built the project through the lens and theme of “We’re all becoming better thinkers, readers, and writers.”
They’ve fully bought into this and daily self-reflection is a huge part of this.
Today, we showed them the rough draft of their final “showing” of what they’ve learned and where they are and where they’re going. It was purposefully very open, as daily class is, and we knew some of them would want more structure. As always, we wanted them to grapple first. We knew some of them wouldn’t like it.
One of my students approached me, agonizing over how he could possibly make a movie (one of the suggested platforms) showcasing his growth. I gave him a couple of broad ideas. He got more confused. I told him not to use a video platform if he didn’t have a vision for that. He repeated his concern and wanted to be told how he could do it. He wanted it to make sense. I told him it didn’t need to make sense right now. I heard my words. I saw his struggle. I knew he hated my answers.
I stayed firm. If we’re going to meet students where they are, then we can’t make everything make sense. It should not. If learning is personalized, it looks different for everyone. That means a movie makes perfect sense to someone and no sense to someone else.
I told him if he thought about it and couldn’t figure out how, that he should think of another platform. I sent him away.
My heart constricted. I thought about talking to him at the end of class and trying to reassure him that it was okay that a movie made no sense to him.
Two minutes later, he approached me, a calm and satisfied expression on his face. “I’m going to make a website. A movie needs a theme, and I don’t have a theme yet. With a website, I can showcase all the ways I’ve grown as a writer and reader.”
He sauntered away.
My heart constricted in a good way. Wow. Just wow. He barely grappled with it, and he came to an amazing wisdom and truth. A knowledge I could not give him. He had to make the meaning himself.
A few weeks ago, I was involved in an impromptu collegial discussion that started as a question about competition affecting learning, and it meandered into how learners need to make their own meaning. A long time ago, that philosophy was labeled “constructivism,” and a long time ago, I identified with that philosophy. A long time ago, it was my greatest dream for all the learners in my classroom (including me). Now, I say this yet again, the ideal can be realized. I’m learning so much from my students, and I’m so excited to have their learning be so much more transparent to me.
And, on a completely unrelated note, some of my STEM students were having trouble finding video of moving mice for their PSA on showing students the dangers of leaving food in lockers. We brainstormed search terms. I suggested scurrying mice. “Scurrying!” They all yelled. Then yelled it again. Then, they kept repeating “scurrying mice.” Ah, the beauty of perfect word choice.
Goal: moments like these every day.
Gratitude: moments like these every day.