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Choice to Change: Morning Minutes, March 10, 2016

“Hey, Sy.”


“Been thinkin’.  I wanna change my topic.  Is it too late?  I just.  Well, I think it would work better if I…”

Of course, he had me at “Been thinkin’.”  And, after a purposeful pause to marvel in the moment of “thinkin’,” I responded with, “Your speech, Danny.  You know best.”

Weeks ago, we began writing our injustice speeches in 219.  As I have mentioned before, the kids selected an injustice topic, which–above all–mattered deeply to them, a topic that created a burning in their belly.  I told them, too, to be sure of their choice, for they would then spend a lot of time with it. I just didn’t think it would be this much time, and what’s more, it looks like that time will remain indefinite, for I have yet to set a deadline.

Why so long, why so uncertain?  Aren’t there other things to get to?  Always.  Forever other things to get to, and never enough time to do them.  So why the walk?  Shouldn’t you be running?  Yes, on one hand, I frequently fret about not covering enough material, but on the on the other hand, I know that the full-steam-ahead approach can come at a dear cost, threatening that which is paramount: learning.  And as I strive to do different, I have decided to slow down and focus on learning, not covering. A risk? Probably. Regrets? Nope.

Choice is nothing new in education.  We know and have known for some time that student-choice can be a key motivator for our students.  But, unfortunately, though the intent is solid, choice often crumbles, breaking down during the process because we teachers simply dress up business as usual in the guise of student choice thinking it will be the golden ticket for our kids. But, in my experience, it often results in little more than a token exchange as we move kids along the coverage factory line towards a too-soon deadline, a rush to the next product.  Thus, choice, while an initial motivator for students at the beginning, often becomes a soon-forgotten phenomena, a cheap trick in the end.  It’s as if we think that choice alone changes the entire dynamic, but if we don’t give kids time to change their choices, we limit learning.

To be honest, I did not necessarily plan this out.  I think I thought we’d be done by now, for we do have more to get to, but somewhere along the way I stumbled and stopped, taking in that which was going on around the room as I conferenced with kids during the early stages of the process. And what I observed was students wrestling with their learning, motivated no doubt by the fact that they would be delivering these speeches to a real audience, trying to find the best fit, the best approach to get out that which was held within. So, I decided to do different.  No deadline.  No rush to the next, for there was-there is–plenty of learning going on right here, right now. My kids have found something that matters to them, something they want to get right for themselves, not the grade.  And they need time. Time to get it right. And for them, I am willing to take a risk, and give them that which rarely happens in the hurried, harried existence we live.  To be clear, I have not abandoned all the other things that “we have to get to,”  I am simply trying new approaches, juggling multiple things at once, trying to buy time between tosses for that which matters most right now, their speeches.

And while I expect to learn a lot from this when it finally does come to an end, my biggest take away at the moment is that choice matters little without the choice to change, the chance to fail, the chance to learn, and that takes time.  The light bulb didn’t happen overnight or after one try, neither did the mission to the moon, and while what’s going on in 219 is not as grand as either of these, to the kids it may just feel like it. At least, that is what I’d like it to be.

Happy Thursday, all.



One Reply to “Choice to Change: Morning Minutes, March 10, 2016”

  • By allowing your students time through this process the students are going to get these steps down to mastery because there’s no “rush.” They can all go their own paces through the work and get it all down solid. Many other countries focus on mastery of certain objectives before moving on to the next thing. Giving students mastery skills can potentially accel them through other lessons. So what I think the objective should be is teaching mastery in certain skills, over brief teachings in all subject matters.
    Keep up the good work Sy!

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