Posted in Classroom Examples, Student Perspective, Why Unlearn?

All the headaches of our passion based classroom were all worth it in the end, I highly recommend trying it out.

End of the Semester Social Science Fair

 

 

Kobe chats with Ottawa’s Mayor The Honourable Jim Watson about the ingredients in his homemade bread that relate to his experience in the course,  local Municipal Councillor Jan Harder and Darrell Bartraw President of Barrhaven Community Association learns about the DIFD game and how important that was to Chantelle, Reporter from the Barrhaven Independent Charlie Senack learns about Rajan and his unlearning journey over the last two years, Principal J. Offord learns about how the fruit combined in a juicer represents Lucas’ journey throughout the course and Melody from Empties for Paws comes to support her girls who helped her raise money for local animals in need.

On Tuesday January 22, 2019 my three classes hosted a Social Science Fair at our school. We invited parents, people from the community and board officials. The week before the fair the students spent five days working individually and with their classmates to find ways to connect their projects, their classmates projects course experiences and personal experiences to their respective curriculum. They reflected on our OCDSB Exit Outcomes (soft skills) and gave me feedback on what they liked, what they didn’t like and any suggestions that they might have to make the course run smoother next time.  On the day of the fair, students were asked to bring in a conversation piece for the showcase. These were the only guidelines they had:

  1.  Create something that will allow you to talk about what you want to talk about.
  2.  Don’t do something you would traditionally do in school.
  3.  Don’t create something that will just end up in the garbage.

To get an idea of what types of conversation pieces they brought in and what they talked about check out the video below.

As always, I was blown away by each and everyone of my students.  I got to overhear many of the conversations that they were having with the community member and I was amazed by what they had to say.  The feedback that we received from the community was amazing.

It was a pleasure to speak to all your students today.  They showed so much enthusiasm for their work and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to them as they described what they had done.President Barrhaven Community Organization

I’ve now subscribed to several student blogs, youtube channels and podcasts – love that infectious energy!  The students pitched with excitement; they were passionate, and they were very grateful for the outside-of-the-box experience you facilitated. Thanks for the invite, and congratulations on such an exciting event.  And- maybe it’s odd to say this- but one of the most compelling parts of the event for me was listening to students talk about why some of their projects did not work out. I loved seeing them share vulnerabilities and engaging in positive risk-taking!”  OCDSB Vice Principal

“...an absolute pleasure to spend time talking with your students and seeing first-hand the impact of your authentic approach to learning.  So impressive how well they articulated their learning – and their unique story. I left the event so inspired – and have been sharing it since with colleagues…”  OCDSB Principal

My favorite part was how honest they were about their failures. They weren’t ashamed at all. That’s where, if you ask me, the real learning happens. It was awesome to hear how they bounced back and understood that making mistakes is not what defines their character.”  OCDSB Teacher

Thank you Rebecca for a wonderful lunch hour talking to thoughtful, insightful students who were enjoying their learning.  I was so inspired by them.”, “I was struck by how much of most conversations with the students revealed that the way the class was run mirrored Indigenous pedagogy.” OCDSB Instructional Coach

The most consistent thing I heard from the students afterwards was “it was so nice to share what we did with people who really cared about what we had to say.”  If that isn’t providing an authentic audience, I don’t know what is.

Over the last 3 months I have been busy preparing for my new two credit course that I will be teaching next semester (I get to have my students for a full afternoon).  It is going to be another experiment but I am SO pumped for it. Keep following along if you are interested in seeing more of our unlearning journey.

Thanks for unlearning with us 🙂

Cheers, R

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Posted in Classroom Examples, Why Unlearn?

Going gradeless but are we really?

screenshot 2019-01-17 at 9.24.20 pm

For two months these girls worked their butts off organizing a charity girls versus boys hockey game in connection with the Ottawa based DIFD organization that raises awareness about teen suicide and mental health.  They set a goal, connected with people all throughout Ottawa, worked with a teacher mentor, created a plan, raised awareness, raised money and brought our school community together, it was amazing. As you can tell by the video these girls were motivated to do something that was important to them, something that related to their everyday lives, something that they were passionate about, something for themselves and their community.  Everything about this project really embodied what I had hoped to have happen in our passion project based classroom. They worked on a project that they loved, they acquired so many new skills as they worked on it and they benefited people other than themselves all while learning about course curriculum and our OCDSB Exit Outcomes. And never once was I asked “are we getting marks for this?”, they did it even though there were no grades attached, just points.  When asked at the end of the project if grades ever crossed their minds this is what they had to say.

“For me no never I just loved what I was doing and wanted to give it everything I had because I really cared about the cause.”

“To be honest, in the first project in your class it did all the time, but working on the DIFD project it never even crossed my mind. It must of been because I loved what I was doing.”

“I didn’t even remember we were getting marked I was just excited to do it!”

“For me marks didn’t matter for any of the projects I just wanted to make a difference or an impact on someone’s life”

“For me doing this project wasn’t about marks it was to get the message out there especially around our school and it was also a fun experience to create something that has such a big impact on all of our lives and just looking in the stands during the game and Madison saying “we did this” was such a amazing feeling that we were making a difference.”

BUT, we are back in portable 10 after a great holiday break and things are starting to wind down for the semester.  We now have two weeks left and we are using the time to reflect and to get ready for our Social Science Fair showcase.  Over the semester the students were exposed to the course curriculum, asked to create and implement their own projects where they would accumulate points, they were asked to chronicle their work via social media with daily posts and weekly vlogs, podcasts or blogs and to reflect monthly on the different projects that they had been working on.  For an entire semester and for some over the last three years I have begged and pleaded with them not to talk about grades. I wanted them to find their passion and I wanted that to drive what they did in our classroom. I didn’t want grades to be the incentive for completing tasks. And I would say that for the most part we have been successful at not focusing on the grades, however the reality is I have to put a mark on their report card at the end of the semester and I hate it.

Over the last few days I have been working away at making sure that I have all the students projects in my spreadsheet as well as the points that they have accumulated.  I have had discussions with the students to make sure that we are both on the same page and have an understanding of how many points they have accumulated and what grade that it equates to.  I love having the opportunity to talk to the students about what they have accomplished, their failures and what they learned from it all. This to me is more valuable than a report card mark and generic comments.  But in the end I still have to come up with a grade, so am I really going gradeless?

While I am frustrated at this point in the semester, I need to remind myself that I am doing my best to do what I can inside the box that is our education system. I will focus on all the amazing things that my students did because they wanted to, not the ones that were still just trying to get a grade.

I am very curious as to how others have gone gradeless in a system where it is still mandatory to place a mark on a report at the end of the semester?

Thanks for unlearning with us 🙂

Cheers, R