If you were to enter my class today you probably would wonder, “What the heck is going on in here? Where are all the students?” Aside from the occasional group of 2 or 3 kids who enter to get something out of their backpacks, there’s literally no one in my room.
Because they are all out on campus working. They are interviewing, filming, getting B-roll footage, shooting themselves, and so on. It’s “Production Monday” meaning that all my students know that they have this class period today to go and work. Just work. On what? Well, that answer varies for each group of students.
My kids are producing multi-media expository essays. The subjects vary based upon their own interests. Some kids are doing an expose’ on the dangers of teen drug use, others are exploring how gang violence impacts the community, some are delving into the issue of sexual molestation against young women, others are looking at ways in which our schools can better serve the needs of the kids. Many groups, many kids, many ideas.
Essentially, they’ve spent 2 weeks doing the work on the page, writing rock-solid outlines, constructing scripts, doing factual research based on credible, verifiable sources, and so on. Now, they are out scaffolding. Some are making enhanced podcasts, some are making short movies — all of them are critically thinking, creatively contributing and deeply problem solving.
At moments like this I often think back to a wonderful line that all teachers should remember: Who is doing the thinking in the classroom? If I, as the teacher, am working my brains out while the kids’ brains are on cruise control, then something ain’t right. But if my kids are intellectually sweating, pumping mental muscle in a way that deeply challenges them, then good stuff is going on. Me, I got to get caught up on some grading, deal with some papers that have been sitting on my desk for about 3 months, and just be here to help my students should they need me. But since we put in so much rigorous work at the start of this project, right now my kids don’t need me — they simply need time to work. Time that is spent as they best see fit.
And why should I feel the need to micromanage them? Truly, the students are growing up right in front of my eyes. They are taking responsibility for the completion of high quality work within an assigned time frame. And what adult doesn’t need to know that?
It’s great to see.