Monday, January 26, 2015

#youredustory, Week 4

Prompt: What is the best thing you do in your classroom/school/district/job?

Early in my career I spent too much time directing my students’ learning. On some days in my classroom, I still do it way too much. This is what many teachers know school to be - and what many students and parents have come to expect from school. 

I think that the best thing that I do in my classroom is to get out of my students’ way. After a couple years of experimenting with class structure, I’ve finally landed on a structure for units that I like. We spend some time as a whole class on a unit hook and working through some shared schema that everyone needs to have in order to understand the unit. Much of this work is literacy rich and focuses on conflicting understandings of what happened in the past: pieces of history that ask you to make judgments or don’t necessarily have a right or easy answer. 

Unit structure in my class

After we get through this part of a unit, I get out of my kids way to make room for their enthusiasm. What in a unit interests them? What do they want to learn more about? Where are there contemporary issues similar to the larger picture of the unit?

Tapping into my students’ curiosity has been enjoyable. It has also taught me a lot: I knew very little about the transgender movement before a student chose to do a project on it. I had never heard of the Third Servile War before two students chose to research this - turns out it was fascinating!

Finally, we come back together as a class to look over some of the larger similarities that exist across what we learned separately. This synthesis has been valuable for my students to see across time periods and see the resonance of ideas outside of the narrowly bounded time of a unit. But what has been more valuable, for me, has been to get out of my students’ way and let their curiosity take control of their learning.