Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Empowering Students

     Onward in the reflective blogging challenge. Today's topic is how to "curate" student work. Confession here: I had to look up the meaning of curate. I knew it to mean a reference to the clergy but didn't know how it fit this definition. It means to organize, select, and look after items. Honestly, how do I empower kids to work on their own? To help them do it themselves?
     That is the nature of my school, so for me this isn't nearly as reflective as it would be for someone else. For most of the day students work independently with help from me in a one-on-one teaching scenario. I've reflected on this before so no more. Instead, I want to focus on empowering students.
     I had a terrific idea for a group actitivity that I was certain would captivate my students. I thought listening to the Serial Podcast and having them take notes on guilt or innocence would be a cool idea. There's more to this "winning" idea, but I won't bore you with the details. I spent most of yesterday boring my students so I don't need that trend to continue. I had my very own learning opportunity yesterday that, hopefully, will morph into a growth opportunity for us all today.
     Although not a total failure, the podcast held my students' attention for a while...like 10 minutes. After that I could tell I was losing them. We had animated discussion after nearly listening to all of the first podcast but it was more on social issues, racial profiling, etc. than the podcast itself. I knew when I walked out the door this idea was mired in the bog of terrible ideas. I decided to let this one sink to the bottom of that bog.
     Last night I joined our local edchat which was discussing genius hour (GH). And then I knew. I wasn't empowering kids enough and decided then to dump the podcast and give students the choice to generate their own idea for a project. This is dangerous for a few reasons. One, it's our last block and I know kids are going to be working hard to get done. Will I get buy in from them on this? How long will it take to generate ideas? With a finite time frame that is shorter than most teachers deal with, how will the project work in conjunction with them doing English for part of the class period?
     I talked to a friend of mine last night about a mutual project we developed with different implementation plans. As much as it pains me, my friend is taking the better approach. Which only reinforced my idea to dump the podcast and open this last block up. I may not be able to cover as many talking points or give as much time to work on it as Boy Wonder (my buddy), but I'm more confident with this new plan than I was about the podcast plan.
    So first thing this morning I plan on making my kids' days by admitting my failure and pitching the new idea. Empowering students to direct their own learning, even for part of the period can be powerful. It can make all the difference. I'm going to watch and learn.

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