Posted in Why Unlearn?

Introduction to Unlearning June 23 – August 17.

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Over the past 5 years, as an educator,  I have been on an unlearning journey. I have gradually transitioned from a traditional classroom to a more modernized classroom that reflects our ever changing world.  In the last year I have had the opportunity to share this experience at a few conferences via workshops, through my blog and twitter. I have been fortunate to be contacted by people who are interested in what I am doing. The most consistent comment / question that I get is, I love what you are doing, but where do I even start?

Everyday I challenge my students to seek out problems and find solutions. Therefore, I am going to walk the walk and will be taking the leap into the edupreneur world.

I am excited and nervous to announce that I will to be offering an online course / workshop for teachers who are interested in modernizing their classroom but just don’t know where to start.  The course will run for 8 weeks and will include the following:

  1. Why we need to unlearn.

  2. The importance of a Professional Learning Network in our unlearning journey.

  3. The gradual steps taken to let go of a traditional model to a more modernized approach to the classroom. (5 Steps to leaving the traditional model)

Each of the Step modules will include:

  • A video overview of what change was made to my traditional classroom.

  • Student Voice / examples

  • Links to the people / educators / resources that influenced the change.

  • Changes in assessment from traditional to reflective / gradeless.

  • Discussions: networking / brainstorming with other participants and myself.

  • 30 min one on one consultation with me / module.

You can check out a promo video here if you would like a little more information.

The course will be $299 CND / $249 USD.

The first session will run from June 23, 2019 – Aug 17, 2019.

Come and unlearn with me, register today here !!

Any questions please feel free to ask. Please share with anyone else who might be interested.

Cheers, Rebecca

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Posted in Why Unlearn?

Why not more Destreaming?

Screenshot 2019-06-18 at 4.04.45 PMhttp://www.thereckoner.ca/op-ed-is-grade-nine-too-soon/applied-academic-jeffrey-liu/

In the Ontario high school system we stream students in grade 9 and 10 into either academic / applied or locally developed and in grade 11 and 12 into either university / college or workplace / essential designated courses.  When we stream our students, we create an “us” versus “them” mentality. We (school system, parents, society, students) create a hierarchy, which in turn makes students who are not at the top feel that they are not smart or not good enough.  Why are we ok with this?

This past semester I had the opportunity to work with students who have many different post secondary destinations.  Some will go off to the workplace right from high school, some will come back for another year, some will take a gap year, some will go to college and some to university.  As a result my class became a de-streamed classroom and it was amazing.

Destreaming is often a bad word at the high school level.  In the traditional method of teaching (the way it has always been done), teachers find it a necessity to work with a group of students who are similar in ability, who are working on the same content and assignments and who are all capable of working at the same pace.  However, if we shake things up in the classroom and personalize learning, find out who our students are, what their strengths and weaknesses are the destreamed classroom can happen.

What happens when you destream a classroom?

When you put a wide range of abilities and strengths in a classroom, so many amazing things can happen.  The incredible things that I witnessed this semester are proof that when you provide personalized learning, have students recognize their strengths and weaknesses and work to those strengths, extraordinary things will happen.  

A.N.D. (Abilities NOT Disabilities)

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Over the semester my class teamed up with another class at Woodroffe high school.  Both of our classes had a wide range of abilities in it. My class was a grade 12 destreamed class, who were studying child development and gerontology and the other class was a Junior General Learning Program.  Together we created a social enterprise called A.N.D. We focused on everyone’s strengths and worked as a group to raise over $400 and spread awareness about different cognitive disabilities. They had booths around the city, they made compost bags and fire starters to sell by donation, they made friendship bracelets and friendship beads to hand out and they spoke to younger students about the importance of kindness.  Each person in both classes contributed in the best way that they could. The different roles included:

  • Creating a logo
  • Creating a brochure
  • Creating a twitter page
  • Creating a website
  • Creating a video
  • reaching out to community
  • Making the compost bags
  • Making the Fire starters
  • Making the friendship bracelets and pins
  • Giving a presentation
  • Creating slideshow for the presentation
  • Organizing booths at malls, outside of stores and at City Hall
  • Talking to people at the booths


Focus on growth vs comparing students

If we look at each student as an individual and celebrate their strengths and weaknesses everyone can be successful.  For example, in my classroom each student comes to the table with different skills and abilities. Each student learns in a different way and should be allowed to flourish no matter what way that it is.  My philosophy is to focus on the growth of each student rather than comparing them to others in the classroom. In order to achieve this, there is a lot of ground work that needs to be laid for students to buy in.  The students who have not been successful in school still struggle with this, even though it allows them to feel good about who they are and what they can accomplish. Unfortunately, they have always been made to feel that they are not good enough because the do not fit the one size fits all “school” model and have always felt inferior to those who have had success in school.  On the other hand it is just as difficult for the students who have done well in school. They struggle with not being at the top, their identity depends on it and are not ready to move over and let those “below” them have success. When we are able to break that cycle and celebrate everyone’s strengths magic happens.

The goal for me and the students is to look at where they are at the beginning of the course and track their growth.  All students can learn about child development and gerontology in their own personalized way. I can meet them where they are, figure out what skills and abilities they bring to the table, where they want to go in life and see how we can work on and refine the necessary skills that they will need.  For example, for one student, just coming to class and being a part of something might be where they are at right now. They may need time to build the confidence that was stripped of them over the years of feeling inadequate in school. If they are able to show up on a regular basis, participate and even do some work, then they have been successful and have grown. Whereas, another student may come to the table with a whole different set of skills. They may know that they want to go off to post secondary and will require certain skills once they are there. They can do projects that push them further in their own growth and work on skills that will allow them to be successful in their future. Both of these students can have success, it is not compared, it is about personal growth.

If we were to get rid of labels and hierarchies we will create an equal playing field for everyone.  For some reason some people are not ok with this, it challenges their idea of what has always been and some how demeans their own value.  I would argue that three quarters of our students / society have felt this way in school at one time or another, so why do we continue to value only a quarter of our population?

Thanks for unlearning with me 🙂

Cheers, Rebecca

Posted in Why Unlearn?

Disruption is necessary, who’s with me?

The lake and the mountains have become my landscape, my real world. (2)

The Breakfast Club

In my last post Dreams do come true if you persevere, my vision of an experiential passion based classroom have come true  I gave an overview of the two credit course that I am facilitating called The Experiential Passion Based Study of Child Development and Gerontology.  This course is a mish mash of bits and pieces that I have taken from the Independent Project, Iowa Big, Don Wettricks Innovation and Open source learning class and Blue Sky school.  If you want the day by day on what happens, check out the last post.

Everyday I am so thankful that I get to work with these students.  Each and everyone of them has their own unique story and it is amazing to watch them all shine in and outside of the classroom.  Since we are a two credit course we spend a lot of time together. We do a lot of reflecting, discussing, podcasting and supporting of each others passion projects.

The other day we were having one of our informal discussions and one of the students said, “I really feel like this class is like The Breakfast Club, we all come from different groups and backgrounds but we are getting to know each other and we are talking to people that we probably would never have talked to if it wasn’t for this class”.  He had no idea how much of a compliment that was to me, I had goosebumps.

Disruption is necessary

However, on the daily I hear about the rumours and discussions that go on behind closed doors about me and what is happening in my classroom. My normal is not everyone’s normal – I get that. I understand that what I am doing challenges people’s identities as educators. I know that I am relentless in getting my way and that I am a disruptor to “how we do things here”. I understand that change takes time, but here’s the thing – we don’t have time.

According to an article from Global News, “While Canada’s economy is on track to add 2.4 million jobs over the next four years, virtually all of them will require a different set of skills than young people are currently learning. According to the study, a growing demand for “human skills” will be more crucial across job sectors. In particular, critical thinking, coordination, social perceptiveness, active listening and complex problem solving — described in the report as “human skills” — were identified as being key characteristics Canadians should develop to prepare for changes to the workforce.”

Unfortunately many educators still believe that rote learning, direct instruction and testing are what is needed to prepare students for the future.  The more I research about the future of work, it is evident that simply put, they are wrong.

A recently published article How to make high schools better for students outlines research conducted by Jahl Mehta (associate professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education) and Sarah Fine (High Tech High Graduate School of Education).

“Our research in 30 public high schools across the country found that great high schools share something essential in common: They cultivate mastery, creativity and identity. In other words, students in these schools are given regular opportunities to develop significant knowledge and skills, to use their knowledge to produce something original, and to connect their learning to who they are and who they seek to become. The presence of these qualities produces deep engagement — the thing that educators so often struggle to foster.”

Unfortunately, these qualities are fairly rare in American high schools today.” (this would go for Canadian schools too, in my opinion) In most of the schools we observed — even those with reputations for being innovative — students saw little purpose or meaning in what they were doing. Some were defiant; others made sophisticated attempts to “play the game of school.” Very few, however, described their schools as places where they could thrive. National studies confirm that the bulk of high school students are bored at school daily.”

The Call to Courage – Brene Brown Netflix Special Brené Brown

Sometimes I give too much time to the naysayers, according to Brené Brown it is only human to want to be liked.  However, after watching Brown’s Netflix special called the Call to Courage I am going to try and focus on and surround myself with positive people.  I am going to live by the three things she learned from doing her TED Talk on Vulnerability.  NOTE If you have not seen this yet, it is a MUST!!  Thank you Logan for suggesting I watch it!!

I vow to live by the following and never feel shame because I do:

  1. I am going to live in the arena, I’m going to be brave with my life, I’m going to show up and I am going to take chances.  I am going to fall, fail and know heartbreak.
  2. I am going to be vulnerable, it’s not about winning or losing, it’s about having the courage to show up when you can’t control the outcome.
  3. And finally to the critics, if you are not in the arena getting your ass kicked on occasion because you are being brave, I’m not interested in or open to your feedback about my work.

It is time for all educators to be brave, vulnerable and courageous for the future of our students and society in general.  Who is with me?

I can promise you this from my journey, it is messy, it is chaotic and it is scary.  But on the flip side I get to hang out with The Breakfast Club and it is so worth it. 

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Thanks for unlearning with us.
Cheers, R 🙂

 

 

Works Cited
Mehta, Jahl, and Sarah Fine. “How to Make High Schools Better for Students.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 26 Apr. 2019, http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-mehta-fine-education-high-school-excellence-20190426-story.html.
Vomiero, Jessica. “Half of Canadian Jobs Will Be Impacted by Automation in next 10 Years.” Global News, 26 Mar. 2018, globalnews.ca/news/4105713/automation-workforce-canada-human/.

 

 

Posted in Classroom Examples, Why Unlearn?

Dreams do come true if you persevere, my vision of an experiential passion based classroom have come true.

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As mentioned in many of my previous posts my desire for change in education was sparked by my own educational experience and my introduction to trailblazers such as Sir Ken Robinson, and closer to home Dr. Peter Gamwell.  They have been fighting the good fight for years (in a time when it was even more controversial than today) and paved the way for today’s educators to start making some changes.

I am motivated to make change for my students, but even more so for my daughters in grade 1 and 6.  I am on a mission to change the way we do school and have been experimenting within our current system to make some of these changes happen.  As a part of my experiment, over the past 10 years I have been busy researching about different learning environments and different ways of doing things that reflect our ever changing modern world.  

In 2014 some colleagues and I went to visit Westmount High School in Hamilton Ontario who are one of eight schools that belong to the Canadian Coalition of Self-Directed Learning.  

I have read articles and watched videos about places like the Independent School, The MET, Iowa BIG and High Tech High.

I have learned to use Twitter to connect with others out there and have become a part of a Professional Learning Network that I never knew existed.  I learn so much from this network, whether it is seeing what they are talking about on their blogs, podcasts or vlogs, joining in Twitter chats / discussions or meeting up for virtual hangouts with educators from around the world.  I get so much energy and strength from these people.

Every year the research has inspired me to try something new in my classroom.  Each year I slowly let go of the traditional and move to a more modern style of teaching. However, there have been huge obstacles. Working in our archaic system can be challenging, but this semester some of my visions are starting to come true.

My vision starts to come true: Experiential, community connected and passion project based learning in action.

At the beginning of February my students and I embarked on a new journey of experiential learning with our new two credit course that the ministry calls Child Development and Gerontology TOJ4C paired with IDC4O.   We have altered the name to The Experiential Passion Based Study of Child Development and Gerontology.  All my research and the experimenting with my other classes has lead to this course.  I have learned what works and what doesn’t work, what some of the obstacles are and how to overcome them.  Over the 10 years of trial and error this is what I hope to have as our focus in the classroom.

  • Student Driven
  • Exit Outcomes (Essential Life Skills)
  • UN Sustainable Development Goals
  • Technology
  • Entrepreneurial Mindset
  • Social Media
  • Authentic Audience and Community Connections
  • Course Content as a vessel to work on all of the above

Now that we are a month and half into the course we are starting to get into the swing of things.  Generally this is what a week looks like:

Monday

The first ½ of class is dedicated to “Monday Meetings” here we get into randomly selected small groups, play a silly ice breaker game and then we have a very informal discussion about “course” related stuff.  We talk about what has been going on with their projects, we talk about issues that they might be having, the students support each other in solving those problems or brainstorming for new projects. They discuss the outings that they had in the previous weeks,  they share where they went and what they did, what they liked and what they didn’t like. And finally each student fills out a weekly form that helps them plan for the week. They jot down what they are going to work on, where they are going each day (because we are out in the community a lot) anything I need to know about their week and how they are feeling.  I am supported by our Student Success Teacher and our former VP (she’s retired) to help run these meetings. I am SO fortunate to have the support of these amazing ladies to make this happen!! We will refer to them as mentors from here on in.

*Nerdy Teacher Alert* I’ve learned how to use a chrome extension called DocAppender and it has been a game changer for keeping me and my students organized in a PBL classroom.  Message me if you want to know more and I will tell you about it!!  

During the second part of Monday’s class we have a guest come in from the field of Child Development and Gerontology.  These guests give students a look into different careers but also to hear about different issues that they may want to get involved with.  So far we have had amazing people come into our classroom to talk about topics such as: Elder Abuse, Children on the Autism Spectrum, Adult programs for people with cognitive disabilities and an amazing Social Entrepreneur Lindsay Barr who has set up an organization called World Changing Kids (WCK).  

So far we have had two students get hired to work in a one to one Autism program and another one is working with WCK’s on a podcast.  My goal is to provide the students with some inspiration for projects and connections to the community by having these guests in.

Tuesday

Our whole class goes to Woodroffe HS to work with their Junior GLP class.  This group of students are between the ages of 14 – 16 and have a variety of intellectual disabilities. They are in a specialized program called the General Learning Program.  Every Tuesday we meet up with the students to support them in their learning. For our first two meetups we have worked on building trust and relationships between the two groups of students.  Below is what one of my students had to say after their first meetup.

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Our last visit started our first “structured” learning experience together.  We started a 3 day workshop (given over three weeks of Tuesday’s) by Parkdale Food Centre on how to become solutionaries.  We will continue these workshops when we return after the break.

 

Again, I am hoping to provide my students exposure to different career paths, meeting new people and potentially ideas for their passion projects.  So far we have a group of two students who are interested in spending more time within the Woodroffe HS General Learning Program and they have paired up with the Senior GLP class and will be joining them on outings every Friday.

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Wednesday

I have arranged for my students to rotate (every three weeks they change placements) around six different places.  In their rotation there are three different retirement homes right in our community and three different elementary classrooms (grade 1 EFI, grade ⅔ English and a grade 5 English) at the elementary school across the street.  We have been through one full rotation and started their second rotation the week before the break. These placements are hopefully giving them more exposure to different careers, but also an opportunity to learn about who they like to work with and who they do not.  Just like our connection with the WHS GLP group I had hoped to find more ways to inspire my students to organically find real world problems that they might want to try and solve. Like Don Wettrick I want my students to become “seekers and peekers rather than moaner and groaners”.

So, I got goosebumps when one of the groups came to me and said….

When the guest from NROC came in and talked to us about Elder Abuse she mentioned that one of the biggest issues for seniors is isolation, and when we visited the retirement home we really noticed that this was a problem.  So, we want to do something that will bring people together.

After brainstorming with one of the mentors about what they could do they came up with the “Mapping our Roots” Project.  The girls set up with the activities coordinator for them to have a slot on the weekly calendar. They went in for an hour after school one day, explained their project to any resident interested in listening / participating and then they chatted with the residents, asked them their names and where they were born.  They compiled all the information, bought a map and other items and brought it back to the retirement home at the end of the week. See what they had to say about it below.

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Another group is in the process of setting up a learn to curl activity for the grade 5 class that they visited.  These two girls took something that they are very passionate about and are working on sharing their passion with others.

Thursday and Friday

These two days are Passion Project days.  This is where the students choose projects related to the course that they will work on.  The project criteria follows Don Wettricks rule of three. Are you passionate about it, will you acquire new skills as you work on it and how will this project benefit others.  There is a lot of brainstorming and planning that happens for these projects. Once they have figured out what they want to do they must create a project proposal. In their proposal they have to create a detailed step by step process with short term goals (including dates) along with a final due date.  They have to connect course curriculum to their project and then they have to have it looked over and signed off by myself or any of the community mentors. Examples of some of the projects have been mentioned above. The projects are definitely not limited to working with people that we have worked with as a class.  Some students have come up with some really amazing things after a lot of brainstorming and soul searching. Some of these include:

  • Podcasting with Grandma and Grandpa.
  • Q & A style youtube channel about what it means to be a Muslim teenage girl in Canada.
  • Sean who wrote The Fault in our Education blog is going to accompany me to talk to a large group of teachers about his thoughts on education.
  • Organize a toy drive for two different organizations.
  • Working with Grandma to wash and style wigs for cancer patients.
  • Making students in our school aware that we have a gender neutral bathroom.
  • Creating a diversity calendar.
  • Creating a presentation on body positivity for middle school aged girls and going out into our community middle school and giving the presentation.
  • Selling clothes on Instagram to raise money for a charity.

The students are asked to chronicle their learning on social media everyday and then rap the week up with a weekly blog, vlog or podcast. (You can check us out at our class hashtag #TOJ4C). As well throughout the course they will complete quarterly reflections. They completed their first reflection right before we headed out on the break. I haven’t had the opportunity to go through all of them but if you are interested in hearing what two of the students have to say click below.

I am so pleased with how this course has unfolded.  There are so many things that I have dreamed about for my students that are now becoming a reality.  Don’t get me wrong there are still obstacles and keeping everyone motivated is not always easy. But, if I had given up on this 10 year long experiment when I hit roadblocks, this course would not exist.  So if you are trying new things out and feel like it’s not working, keep going, don’t give up because you are making a difference even if you feel like there are always obstacles, perseverance will get you where you want to be!!

Thanks for unlearning with us 🙂

Cheers, R

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

Posted in Classroom Examples, Why Unlearn?

Going gradeless but are we really?

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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

Posted in Classroom Examples, Genius Hour, Why Unlearn?

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

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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.

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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