Today is the first day for students in my district. Our building is undergoing some construction and major changes as we shift to a PBL model. The start was a tad rocky, but the power of our staff and administration allowed us to function and make changes on the fly.
My room is not available to me as another teacher is in need of a place. In my new job, I am able to head out and in many ways it proved to be good as it forced me out of the room and begin to connect with teachers. I spoke with many teachers today and had some really great conversations. Being the first day I was loaded with some amazing discussions and ideas.
A key idea that I heard over and over which lead to some great brainstorming is the idea of our Exhibition Night. We have begun the process of planning for our Exhibition Nights as well as having a project for each quarter of the school year. As we think about exhibitions I cannot help but think that there is a much more broader goal to these nights where students showcase themselves and work. I would like to share this idea as it is in the rough stages of thought to collect my ideas.
This broader idea is that Education is more than Academics!
We are caught up with the idea that during these exhibition nights students should have several things on display from the various classes to share out. Personally, and this is my own opinion(not the school or other teachers), but education systems need to begin to explore the real need and necessity of education – to develop people who can create, implement, and help develop positive social change.
With that being said and keeping it to the idea of PBL and Exhibition Nights, we need to think at a higher level. Our goal should not be to showcase academics. That is what our classroom tests and systems are developed for. Rather, we should be showcasing students passion, visions of the future, and helping them bridge the classroom instruction to the real world. If we cannot help students see these connections, then perhaps what we are teaching them is not the right material.
To do this, students should have choice. We need to eliminate this multi-artifact display where students can speak a little about many things. Instead have them choose one and polish this to perfection so they can blow our minds.
Perhaps students can choose which project they wish to focus on. If there are 2-3 projects in development(which is wrong, but that is another post), then they could focus on the one that speaks to them the most. For me, I would not be devoted to presenting on a science or art project as student. I did not feel like I was good at those topics. I would do the work to earn a good grade, but I would not be passionate about them. But, if I could showcase a history or language arts type project, then I would be all over that. On the flip side, another student might be complete opposite. And that is okay.
We need to remember two things.
1. Students – what do they want and how can we help them find themselves as they go through life? Forcing them to act like they really care about something they don’t for the sake of a grade is wrong.
2. Students – our goal is to help them find their voice. In order for them to do that we have to guide them along with providing choice to helping them find out what they are passionate about.
Could we have an Exhibition Night with several choices to choose from. Each student can pick the one they really want to share, discuss, and prove their ideas as a person. Then they could connect it to how it will help them contribute to society. Remove the hiding behind of several mediocre projects and instead focus on one to really share their insight. If 30 students pick the science one and 50 pick social studies and 20 pick language arts that is okay. They have the opportunity to stand up for who they are!
Thoughts? You may or may not agree so I would to hear from you! I am trying to sort through many ideas from the conference, conversations, and personal reflections. This idea may change, but it is where I am at right now. Please don’t take it as set in stone!