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, Genius Hour, Why Unlearn?

Continuing to Unlearn

The countdown is on and we are T-7 school days left until the much needed Christmas Holidays.  We are working really hard to stay motivated – students and teachers alike. We have had a lot of time to be working on our projects in all of my classes which gives me the opportunity to chat with all the different groups and see where they are at and what they need from me.  This can be exhausting but very uplifting at the same time. Today in my grade 11 class I did what I normally do and made my way around the classroom checking in on all the projects to see where they are at and if they needed any help. After a bit I decided to just sit back and observe the class.  To most onlookers they would have seen a bunch of teens lounging and laughing either on their phones or engaging in light hearted conversation. But what I heard and saw was this: two girls researching on their phones looking for schools around Canada to connect with to start a pen pal program, two other students yelling across the room trying to get people to sign up for a potluck that they are organizing for the class and the GLPs (students with disabilities) that we work with once a week, another two talking about how they can get their gender stereotype podcast out and redefining roles within their group, students discussing their former projects, some students just having a discussion about what…I am not quite sure, another one watching YouTube clips, one studying for a bio test, another one working on putting together tweets to make people aware of OI and finally another group brainstorming / chatting / procrastinating about their next project.  What I also didn’t see but trusted was happening was three other groups that were out of the classroom, one group was vlogging about their progress, another one was in another portable recording a song and the last group was working in the school painting a poster for their big event that is happening this Friday.

Below is what our classroom looks like, it is not just within the four walls of portable 10, it is everywhere and anywhere!
Our PBL classroom is not traditional so it should not look traditional.

Part of my internal struggle in our PBL classroom is that I have been conditioned along with everyone else in society to believe that school looks like: students following instructions, everyone working on the same projects with the same deadlines and of course being productive for the entire 60 – 75 minutes a day that they are in each of their classes.  I have to continually remind myself that if I micro manage them and am continuously telling them what to do they will never learn the skills of self regulation and time management. I continue to listen to podcasts, watch videos, read articles and have conversations with people out in the real world about how this generation lacks in every “soft” skill that exists.  I am happy to be the wiser person in the room to remind them every now and then to get going, but ultimately they need to learn to be motivated, to stay on task and to get stuff done. They need to have the opportunity to fail and learn from those failures so that they can learn coping mechanisms for when things don’t go their way. They need to be able to set goals, create steps to achieve those goals and have control over how they implement them on their own.  They need time to chat and brainstorm for their next projects so that they can learn patience and truly figure out what they want to work on.

I would have to say that I struggle everyday with the idea that I am allowing my students too much freedom and that they aren’t doing school “properly”.  However, when you as the “teacher” can unlearn what we have all been conditioned to believe school is, it is liberating for both you and your students.

Thanks for unlearning with us 🙂

Cheers, R

Posted in Classroom Examples, Genius Hour, Why Unlearn?

I feel so out of control, but it is so worth it.

Screenshot 2018-11-24 at 1.04.35 PM

There have been amazing things happening in my passion project based classroom, but there are also things that don’t go so well.   As the teacher / facilitator of a project based classroom I constantly struggle to feel like I have control of my classroom. Everyday I feel pulled in so many directions.  My students fill out proposals that have completion dates, we file them away in their individual files and we input them into a database that connects to a calendar and I feel like I have finally found a system that will allow me to keep track of all the projects.  However, I still go home feeling like I have failed somehow or someone. Every period I am on, I try to talk to those who are working on projects and need support, I try to talk to those who are finished their projects and are reflecting and negotiating points, I try to talk to the ones who are brainstorming their next project and I try to talk to the ones that need some motivation.  At the end of day I am exhausted and feel that I haven’t done enough to get to everyone. I feel teacher guilt that some students weren’t working on anything. It is hard when you don’t see or are not able to manage all the behind the scenes.

Feeling out of control sucks, but I have to continue to remind myself that it is important that I don’t talk to all students all the time.  The whole point of a student lead class is to teach them to become more independent. I want them to learn to manage their time. I want them to fail (so that they can learn from it), and I want to provide a safe place for them to do this.  I have to remind myself that they get out of it what they put into it.

When I am feeling out of control I check out their twitter feeds, vlogs, blogs and podcasts and I am usually blown away with what I never knew they were working on. These updates are crucial to a project based classroom.  It is from these posts that I usually find out that they have done way more than I thought they had.  It is at this point that I talk myself through my feelings of inadequacy, guilt and lack of control and am reminded that it is all worth it.  You can check out some of the things that make it worth it in my previous post PBL in Action or below.  You can also follow along with us @ #jmsshpa11 #jmsshpahhg #jmsshpacgw on twitter.

Screenshot 2018-11-24 at 12.52.27 PM

 

 

For anyone thinking about trying this out you need to be prepared to be uncomfortable, it sucks but it is so worth it.

Thanks for unlearning with us 🙂

Cheers, R