Posted in Classroom Examples

Another Year and The Unlearning Continues

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We are now a month into school and I am feeling like I need to write.  It has been a busy three months since I last posted. Two months of summer and a month of start up.  This summer I took a stab at trying to be an entrepreneur. I offered an online course to teachers who were interested in learning to unlearn.  We had a very small cohort, but overall I think it went well. I really enjoyed working with the teachers and I really hope they got something out of it.  I hope to continue with these courses – there will be a few tweaks to this summer’s course but I am hoping to relaunch later in the fall. Stay tuned if you are interested.  

Now that we are back at school we are full on into a passion project based classroom.  I am currently teaching grade 11 Intro to Anthro, Psych and Soc, grade 12 Human Growth and Development and grade 12 World Issues.  We spent the first two – three weeks learning about the course material, getting ourselves organized with all the tools / housekeeping items we will need (twitter, research skills, google classroom, excursion forms etc) and we listened to guests talk about their passions, about different not for profit organizations and about what it means to be a social entrepreneur.   Now the students are in the process of creating their passion projects for the semester, it is chaos and I love it.  

Throughout every semester I keep a running document of things to change for the next year.  Before this years start up I went back to those documents, looked at what went well last year and what needed to change and made some tweaks to this years structure.  After teaching the dual credit course I realized that having specific days for specific tasks brought back some of the structure into the classroom that I seemed to be missing.  Therefore this year this is what our day to day looks like.

Mondays – Get Organized

  • Twitter Time – prompt to help them stay on top of tweeting
  • Fill out weekly planners
  • Create a weekly update via a vlog, blog or podcast
  • Class announcements and sharing

Tuesdays – Content Day 

  • These days are reserved for lessons and guest related to the curriculum
  • Research Days – work on research for their issue that relates to the curriculum
  • Tweet about what you learned

Wednesdays – Community Outreach

  • Twitter Time – prompt to help them stay on top of tweeting
  • For my grade 11s we are working with a group of students in the General Learning Program who are going to visit us every other Wednesday for the semester.
  • For my grade 12s students can go out into the community and do a placement that is related to our course.
  • Grade 12s class podcast – run by students.

Thursdays & Fridays – Passion Project Days

  • Twitter Time – prompt to help them stay on top of tweeting
  • These two days are to be scheduled by the students.  Many of them are out working in the community, having meetings and phone calls.

Since I have about 95% of the same students in my grade 12 classes that I had last year, it has been an adjustment for them.  They were used to a little more freedom, but are learning to follow the day to day. My grade 11s don’t know any different and seem to have settled just fine into it.  Overall I am super excited for the semester – there are some really cool projects that the students are working on already. Follow us @MrsRChambers and  #jmsshpa11 & #jmsshpa12 if you want to see what they are all up to.

Thanks for unlearning with us 🙂

Rebecca

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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