Students at work


Students at work
Originally uploaded by anselm23.

The first day of classes, I put up a scroll of paper and let the kids put sticky notes all over it. Post-It® Notes are wonderful. You can shift them around, you can engage with other people’s information, and you can draw links between them, just like they were pages in a WWW. They put up only 19 for the entirety of the Stone Age: 1.8 million years ago up until about 3000 BC and the first pyramids. It’s an appalling length of time, and we/they knew virtually nothing about it.

Fast forward to day 12 of school. Here’s some of my students at work. The first week they got bored of the Post-It® Notes, and groaned every time I pulled them out. But look: instead of 19 Post-It® Notes, we’re talking 75. And today was only ‘rough draft’ time. Tomorrow is going to be ‘final draft’ time in class. They’ll be experimenting, documenting, discussing. And the discussions they’re having!

Here’s the really cool thing. They’re not listening to me. They’re talking with each other about what happened when, and where. They’re arguing with each other. Sometimes they use words that aren’t appropriate, but they’re learning. They’re being respectful with each other. They’re learning to respect one another’s academic opinions, and manage content together. It’s a classroom of people networking.

And I’m not doing very much beyond facilitating any more. They’re doing a lot of hard work to understand the tools and skills, and the content that I’ve put into their hands, but I’m not droning in lecture formats, and they’re learning a tremendous amount. It’s a tremendous evolution in how I teach; not what I teach, but how.

I haven’t been this happy as a teacher in years.

6 comments

  1. As for the assignment, well.

    Do you remember Brian Wade? He built the lean-to, and started Outdoor Adventures? He once said to me, “Andrew, you can’t think outside of the box if you never. get. out. of. the. box!” Think of those periods as thigh-slaps and markers of irritation, and you’ll be able to capture exactly the sound of his voice and attitude.

    I think we all try hard. I think we really do. And to her credit, the teacher who’s doing those assignments has her kids sit in a circle or semi-circle every day, and engage with each other, as well as her. She doesn’t use the blackboard for anything anymore. It’s all face-to-face communication and contact. At least, it is, if it’s whose handwriting I think it is.

  2. I’m struck by the irony of the assignment on the left-hand side of the board, visible in this picture:

    http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3111/2884254866_341de73bac_o.jpg

    It’s not for your class because it’s not in your handwriting, but it looks to be a “Literature and Language” assignment, no? And a fairly pedestrian one (read these pages, answer these questions) at that.

    I also discovered a way (helped by the Harkness method and Dr. Bob Greenleaf’s workshop) to both teach AND facilitate, and it’s changed my life. As Bob says, “The students are the ones who should be going home exhausted at the end of the day, not the teachers!”

  3. I’m struck by the irony of the assignment on the left-hand side of the board, visible in this picture:

    http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3111/2884254866_341de73bac_o.jpg

    It’s not for your class because it’s not in your handwriting, but it looks to be a “Literature and Language” assignment, no? And a fairly pedestrian one (read these pages, answer these questions) at that.

    I also discovered a way (helped by the Harkness method and Dr. Bob Greenleaf’s workshop) to both teach AND facilitate, and it’s changed my life. As Bob says, “The students are the ones who should be going home exhausted at the end of the day, not the teachers!”

    • Teachers are still going home exhausted at the end of the day around here. But that has more to do with how many things we do, and not necessarily how we teach.

      • As for the assignment, well.

        Do you remember Brian Wade? He built the lean-to, and started Outdoor Adventures? He once said to me, “Andrew, you can’t think outside of the box if you never. get. out. of. the. box!” Think of those periods as thigh-slaps and markers of irritation, and you’ll be able to capture exactly the sound of his voice and attitude.

        I think we all try hard. I think we really do. And to her credit, the teacher who’s doing those assignments has her kids sit in a circle or semi-circle every day, and engage with each other, as well as her. She doesn’t use the blackboard for anything anymore. It’s all face-to-face communication and contact. At least, it is, if it’s whose handwriting I think it is.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.