I’d like to begin the morning with saying happy birthday to my dad who passed away in February 2006. Happy Birthday, Dad.
Back to the classroom. So, as it happens, after all my scrambling and anxious anticipation to present my blog to my students yesterday, I never got the chance. We drew cards, and mine never got drawn. So, instead, I watched and I learned. I watched kids share their genuine interests through their topics, ranging from “Why do we dream?” to “How to make the best pie crust” to “Do mermaids exist?” No, not the most academic pursuits, but they were their pursuits, and that was the point. I watched kids both struggle and shine on the stage as they confronted the very-real fear of public speaking. But, I watched, too, as they settled in and and eventually got lost in the moment, finally relaxing and simply sharing their interests and passions. I watched kids beam with pride as they shared carefully and cleverly crafted projects with their peers. And finally, I watched kids reflect on the process of their projects, and this is where I believe I truly learned about their learning.
Nearly to a kid, as my students reflected on their projects, they intimated, in one way or another, their discomfort with the process, and while I believe many of them worried that I would take offense at such remarks, their fears were misplaced, for I was not offended. I anticipated and appreciated their candid remarks, mostly aimed at the uncertainty of knowing what to do when placed in the driver’s seat of their own learning, seeming to seek instead the comfort of what has been the default setting in most classrooms–teacher-led learning. Of course, that is not to say that teacher-led learning is somehow wrong or unnecessary–we have to lead. It is to say that we need to share the lead at times. We need to relinquish the wheel and let the kids drive. Yes, it’s scary. Yes, it’s uncomfortable. Yes, it’s different. But it’s also necessary if our kids are going to navigate the roads of the world as we hand them the keys for good after the few, short years we have with them.
So, as I sit in the audience today, and I again watch and learn, I will relish the students’ and my discomfort with different, for I know that we grow not in comfort. Today, I will do different. Today, I will grow.