In my last post, How do I incorporate inquiry, innovation and all that other stuff they want me to bring into my classroom? I outlined what I do in my classes. Over the next few posts, I intended to dig a little deeper into each of the different things outlined. The first one I am going to look at is:
Enlighten them!! I teach them about unlearning, about what is wrong with the current system and show them that we need to change in order to prepare them for the real world. This prepares them for their unlearning process.
After many discussions with colleagues, I have concluded that some teachers are reluctant to stray away from the norm in their classrooms because they are concerned about what the administration and parents will think. They are also concerned that if the focus is not on marks, then students will not do anything. I often get the question, what kind of pushback do you get from the admin and parents and my answer is simple….none. I am pretty transparent with both admin and parents about what I am doing. At the beginning of the semester, I send an email to parents outlining my teaching philosophy as well as what we will be doing and why. While I am sure there are some parents that are questioning it at home, I have only heard positive things so far. Another question I often get is what about the students? How do they respond to this? Do they even complete anything?
Starting my Students on an Unlearning Journey
As mentioned in my previous post What Exactly is Unlearning, The unlearning movement involves what Peter Hutton describes as ‘“ new ways to think in the face of established practices.”’ So for the first week of the course, I take my students on that journey so that they can think differently about what school is when they are in my classroom. I use the following PowerPoint to discuss all of these things.
Click here to view my powerpoint Welcome to HPA Social Sciences
My goal in doing this is to open their eyes and get them to see that it is necessary for all of us to unlearn. Yesterday I told my classes that I was writing this post and asked them for their initial reaction to that week-long enlightenment session and the start of the class. Here are some of the reactions I got:
“I was confused, I was waiting for it to turn into a normal class where there are assignments, readings, tests, notes etc.”.
“I was worried about how I would get my marks and how I could do well”.
“I was afraid that I would never break out of the structured way of being taught”.
“I saw that this was a new atmosphere, all other classes have structure, this class is different – even the physical set up of the room is different”.
“How am I going to get marks?”
“I was super uncomfortable”.
“In the beginning, I saw independence as a chance to do nothing and then saw it as an opportunity to learn things that I wanted.”
“I still gravitated to school like topics and assignments, I didn’t know how to do something that I was passionate about”.
“Confusion – ya always, because it was different because I didn’t know what I was doing, lack of structure – it was the first time I was told that you can do your own thing.”
“I thought it was sick, I thought, I am actually going to get to try and do things that I want to do”. (FYI sick = good)
“It is hard for me – I like things that are right or wrong, yes and no, black and white.”
“No guidelines scares me…..”
“FINALLY, someone who will teach this way! I have been waiting for someone to teach this way since I was in elementary school”.
“I thought it was interesting and exciting.”
“Agreed with it.”
“Agreed that education system is outdated.”
“I do what the teachers tell me to do and you told me to learn things on my own so that is what I am going to do.”
You can see that I have two different types of students (actually, there are three but I will talk about that group in another post, these are the ones that have totally checked out of school altogether). The first group is reluctant, confused and unsure about the class. The second group is excited and ready to go. The second group buys in quite easily, but still needs to go through the unlearning process. Whereas, the first group needs a lot more encouragement and proof that they will still be able to get the grades that they want. The unlearning process is hard for them because they have mastered the current process and are motivated by marks. These students are the toughest to win over, but every semester I have a handful of them that I successfully break!! Meet Britney below as she talks about her unlearning journey.
Britney is an amazing young lady who does really well in school. She has taken three of my classes and found each one tough to navigate through. This is a video of her at our Social Science Fair explaining her journey from last semester.
So there you have it, don’t get me wrong, my classroom is by no means perfect AT ALL. However, I have support from my admin, the parents and after a little time in my classroom the students as well.
Thanks for joining us on our unlearning journey. I hope you will join us!
P.S. My students assess themselves through reflections, I am still tied to giving out grades at midterm and the end of the semester. I will discuss this further in another post.