22 May 2015

Can Your Students Hide?

The schools that we need demand different. They need to support the open and transparent world that is exploding around education. This begins with pushing students into the center of the ring. In the center, there is no room to hide. It is a place of full engagement where real questions about real issues are being addressed with real solutions that will impact real people. - Dr. Robert Dillon, @ideaguy42

I was reading the preface in my friend Bob Dillon's first book tonight and was struck quickly by this paragraph. 

I've attempted several different ways to make this school year we're wrapping up next year the most student-centered, project/problem-based, and driven by student collaboration and conversation. What I found out quickly (and continued to observe) was that its been more evident than any of my 7 years teaching this year what students can or cannot do, which students are putting in the work, and which students are waiting on me to do most of the work of learning.

I think its safe to say I've had the most real conversations this year and talked about more "other" things beyond math (in the midst of projects) this year in the midst of communicating rationales and learning objectives and developing hooks for my students. 

I think its also safe to say I've had the most cries this semester that I "never teach." That "[the students] don't do anything in this class." That "[some students] haven't learned anything in here." A lot of the time a kid makes these complaints about not doing anything or not learning anything, that kid is more right than he or she is wrong. Particularly if their idea of "learning" is that I go through examples at my SMARTboard, give them a worksheet, and then expect them to regurgitate the process on a quiz a few days later. Things get messier when you try to push students to the center because things get less predictable. The importance of relationship (or lack thereof) in learning becomes more evident.

When you can't hide, you feel uncomfortable if you're used to living in the shadows, right? You're vulnerable. Your weaknesses are exposed and you can only survive on your strengths for so long. Coming out of hiding and thriving is only something that happens if you are in an environment safe for risk and vulnerability?

How do you model this?
How do you get your students to buy-in to change?

Even if students were not particularly successful in traditional lecture-homework-quiz-test/project classrooms, I've found they still might prefer that model because although they have more autonomy in a more student-driven classroom, they also have more responsibility (and accountability) for their learning. The more I've allowed my students to dictate what we do in class, the more I've seen this push-back from some of my students. 

This post has become one of those more-questions-than-answers type of discussions, which I guess is reflective of where I'm at with it practically. I WANT a more student-centered classroom, my students NEED a more relevant, responsive classroom, I know how learning like this looks for MYSELF, but I'm got several challenges I don't yet know how to address in my CLASSROOM.

What do you know, readers? Can students hide in your room? What's your student-centered classroom go-to strategy?

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Thanks for sharing!