Look, I know we many of us want that perfect room where anyone could walk in at any time and see peace, hard work and learning evident on the focused faces of our diligent students. When I started teaching that’s what I thought I wanted, but the reality is so much more than orderly information dissemination. In my classroom these days, the only time my students are quiet is when they are reading, and only because they can’t do that any other way.
Learning is messy stuff, and the best kind of learning requires some noise and movement to occur. Think about the times when you really felt involved; either in learning, planning or at a meeting. Were you sitting passively learning, or were you passionately debating, yearning for your ideas to be incorporated, arguing fiercely for your perspective? I am inclined to think the latter is where most of us fall. So how can we argue that students will learn better with a litany of rules and a passive learning structure? I would argue that the best learning is done on one’s own terms, and with as little direct guidance as is required. Enough background to understand, or know where to look, read, watch or develop the ideas, but also enough freedom that a student can go ask another student for support, can change the assignment to fit their interest, and a path to learning that can light a fire, not cause narcolepsy.
Take the time to ask what you can do with the curriculum, not how to cover it. I would rather have my students take a step back from 200 lines of ‘must do’ items and tackle one ‘could we’ item that keeps them up at night thinking of the possibilities.
Like lighting a fire though, you must have suitable materials for learning, including a solid relationship with and knowledge of each student, otherwise you will have no idea what will strike a cord with them. Also, you must know your curriculum, the expectations on you and your students, so you know how big the ‘dream project’ must be to encompass it. Finally, you must let go of your fear; you won’t do it all right every time, but I can guarantee that quiet kid at the back who never gets in trouble because he is too busy with something creative in his desk didn’t get everything his teachers put out there either!
Thanks for reading!