Lost already

My previous post, No Entry, ended with this paragraph:

Can teaching be approached the same way, i.e. seek different perspectivesenjoy the unusual (every student is an individual, after all), maybe inject a bit more art and fun, maybe dare go where I’ve previously not dared?

Little did I know that I would face up to it so soon. Here’s what I’m doing with years 9-12.

When I introduced each of these, all classes seemed surprised and lost because they got tasks they knew not how to approach (PBL vs doing projects). I very nearly gave up then and thought perhaps, being a new teacher in this school, I should ease in and start with traditional teaching approaches….approaches the students were used to. I had doubts, i.e. felt lost…just a little.

BUT since I’ve invested time and effort setting these up, I thought I’d keep going.

This was good because the Year 9s really stepped up since.  Though they could choose any digital media type, I insisted the first one should be text, being the easiest theory-wise and to ease them into the process of self-direction. Some students have opted – with a bit of encouragement – to challenge themselves and try new things like writing an ebook, creating a wiki and learning HTML.

The Year 10s have started to wonder why a school would articulate its purpose at all and why bother to understand it.

The Year 11s have started to wonder how data can indeed be transformed into information to serve one’s purpose.

The Year 12s have started to wonder how the current HSC course connect to last year’s preliminary course.

BUT it’s not all wins.

Today one of my year 12s expressed her (and one other’s) panic on discovering, through our PBL, how little they remember of the preliminary course AND now considering dropping the course.

While it is good “to know that you do not know”, I realise it is uncomfortable for one not used to it and certainly for one facing the high-stakes HSC exams. 

Not long after I spotted @MaryAnnReilly’s tweet that piqued my interest:

Getting lost is a privilege? An affordance of being in the classroom? whoa!  I did not intend for students to feel helplessly lost and now I wonder what to do.

I really liked the idea of making maps.  

I am feeling lost – did I push some students way out of their comfort zone? – and I’ll have to map my own. I’m not quite sure how it will look yet. I cannot promise students will do well in the HSC but I can promise I will do what I can to help them.

I seek other perspectives and writing this post, while unnerving, helps…especially if you’ve got perspectives to offer; perhaps this has happened to you before?

Aside, I find it interesting that my year 9s seem more assured, even happily challenged in discovering what they don’t know.  Some are intentionally getting lost and excited about way-finding and sense-making …. making their own maps. Year 10s are showing similar signs, though perhaps with less enthusiasm.

Anyway, your thoughts welcome. Am I making a mountain out of a molehill?

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6 thoughts on “Lost already

  1. kellimcgraw says:

    I don’t think you’re making a mountain out of a molehill, I think you are at the right end of the term to be reflecting on what is stressing students out! That is interesting, the way Mary Ann put it – that getting ‘lost’ in learning is a privilege that we have to afford our students. I agree with this view, and worry a lot about senior schooling, where the assessment pressure seems to interfere with the agenda of getting ‘lost’ in learning.

    I came across a short video today, about the difference between ‘learning’ and ‘making progress’ in lessons. You might find it helpful: http://www.youtube.com/watch/?v=MMixjUDJVlw

    This helped me to take stock of what I want students to learn during the semester, versus what I needed them to ‘show progress’ in through assessment pieces. I think I am happy with my current assessment plan, as much of the final assessment (worth 30%) is based on quality participation in a range of learning activities.

    I think it’s OK – good even – if learning sparks some progress in student thinking that isn’t demonstrated for maybe years after. As a teacher, we often want to see the product of learning straight away, but I know I am still returning to ideas covered in junior secondary classes, as an adult learner.

    Anyway, enough from me – bravo to you for constructing PBL units for FOUR different classes. In a new school, no less! Methinks PBL has brought out the side of you that thrives on challenge 😉 Keep us up to date with all the highs and lows!

    • malyn says:

      Thank you. your comment makes even more sense now that I’ve watched the clip multiple times. rather than ‘hide’ my reflection in a comment reply, I’m going to do another blog post instead.

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