I am sitting here at my desk after a very fulfilling and eye opening event yesterday. We had the luxury of working with Angela Maiers and Mark Moran at our school to help our 8th grade students begin the journey of discovering themselves, their passion, and their genius.
This would be the first time that we have ever attempted something like this. The first time always comes with a bit of nerves due to the unknown. The day was incredibly busy and very much fulfilling. It will be one that I won't forget.
Angela had to try and squeeze about two days worth of content into one day. This is a daunting task especially with dealing with 8th graders. She did a nice job of giving students the time and space to let them begin to discover themselves.
Now keep in mind we are working with 8th grade so to have them think about personal issues as well as genius is tough for many. They have never been asked this question and many don't believe they have anything to offer. It is natural to see a wide variety of reactions. Some jumped right in and really took off with ideas. Some sat along the edges of groups to see what was happening. Others were a bit lost because they really did not know the answer. Some tried to show off by doing everything but address the issue because.....well they are 8th graders and it is not always cool to show emotion.
As the day developed students were starting to ignite and find their voice. There are so many unique examples of moments that occurred during the day that I honestly don't know where to begin. Perhaps I will come back to these stories as the students develop their thoughts and ideas.
I kept going back to the dinner we had with Angela the night before. Many of us were quite nervous and unsure of ourselves when were asked to share our genius. As students grappled with the question it was only realistic to see them struggle because we did as well and we are adults.
Now here is the key to this whole project and day. We are starting a mind-shift We are asking kids questions that they SHOULD know the answers to, but they don't. We have been so consumed with standards and skills that we have eliminated opportunities for students to develop their voice, their ideas, and real world skills. This project brings that back to the classroom. Not easy to do as you can ask any teacher involved. They are asking, "What's next?" The answer is that we have to work with students to develop a plan that meets their needs. This is not a set in stone curriculum that sits in a binder or textbook.
This is the joy and power of project based learning and in particular this project with Angela. There is not an answer key. We don't hold a binder with curriculum. We have to take steps - both forward and backward - to reach our goals. We have to learn to articulate our thoughts, adjust our ideas, be questioned, and learn to sell ourselves. Basically, everything we need in life to survive in the real world!
As students begin the path down this journey, our staff will be doing the same thing. This is causing a shift in a culture of learning.
In the evening last night I was exhausted. I reflected deeply on the day and tried to make sense of everything that happened. It was a lot to take in and after some discussion from several people it was hard to get an overall read of the day. I personally thought it was awesome, but others did not like the chaos of learning. It goes back to the notion of learning is messy. Not all of us operate this way and I get that and that is okay. It is part of the journey for educators as well. I really believe that the educators were just as much out of their comfort zone as the students.
And then something amazing happened last night. I started to check my Twitter feed and become overwhelmed with emotion and passion for my job. I was given relief that what I am striving for so much as an educator is the right thing. I started reading tweets from students who just joined Twitter for the first time. They were creating Twitter accounts for their projects. I started reading Facebook pages of students creating their messages of their passion projects online. I was reading from parents. It was more than amazing and filled my tank right back up to keep fighting for changing how we think and teach in schools.
I will post several posts over the next few days about the specifics of what I learned from this day. I think of it as planting a seed of change. I view the day as a pre-test to give us insight into what skills the kids need and what they hold in their mind and hearts. We were blasted by it all in one shot which can be a lot to take in, but extremely powerful.
Thank you Angela and Mark for one powerful day. I have more ideas in my head and more excited to engage with students than ever before. Without your help and day of passion and genius shared here in Bettendorf I am not sure we would begin to make the changes needed to prepare our students for being amazing citizens. It was truly an honor to work with you both yesterday.
Last, I leave with a message from someone who just passed away in our community over the weekend. It was very unfortunate for the event to occur and this influential person lost their life too soon. However, this was shared online and I want to end with it here because I believe it speaks to overall message that we need to have students think about as they prepare for life. This was something that he wrote and shared to people that knew him.
I was reading today and I came upon an interesting fact. The average person only lives 28,251 days in his / her life time. Even if you lived to be 100 years old you would have only 36,500 days. Not millions, not hundreds of thousands . . . tens of thousands . . . what does that drive you to do . . . . Does it revive in you something that has remained dormant, does it forever change that fate you thought you were destined upon, does it motivate you take action that you would have otherwise hadn't Don’t squander what you have left in hate, greed or gluttony . . . . in what you could have done or what you should have done. Live for the moment now . . . right now . . . Dig deep within yourself and find that drive you once thought dormant. But never . . . never forget that the one thing that remains and forever will remain the solemn and constant truth is that you will never be alone in this journey. I will always be there for you . . . through the terrible and the amazing, the horrible and the astonishing . . . I will always be there for you.
Dedicated to all family, all friends and most importantly you!!!!
It is time to celebrate your genius and begin to find ways to pursue your passions.