We all know that students, especially high school students, will say whatever they are thinking. For good or bad it is what it is. There have been some days when I was not happy about that. But I have had at least two days, one last year and again last Friday, where I wanted to hug the whole class and perhaps the whole world.
In both cases we were having a conversation about what makes this class different. Last year the students were creating a proposal presentation for administrators about our quadcopter project. This year we were just talking about what we learned from our first project, the big bubble, which would help us with our next, solar charging stations. Both times, without prompting, students described the class as one that learning and performance were most important. (This is where I wish I had a rewind button and could play it for you!) I teared up and really wanted to hug the students who said this.
I am still trying to figure out how I created this. It was always a goal, but I really didn’t have a concrete plan, just a lot of hope. Here are some of the things I think have contributed.
I’m not the smartest in the room. Students have a say and are encouraged to be the experts.
Late grades only exist if you don’t make an effort. Effort gives you the time you need to succeed.
Most activities have rubrics. Students know what is expected of them before they start, while they are working and when they are assessed. They also know what they need to fix once assessed. I do let them correct their work if they wish.
Students are allowed to choose how they show their learning.
Having students see the importance of learning is one of my goals as an educator. Students have reported other benefits of this learning environment. They include much lower grade stress, increased enjoyment of science and students choosing to perform at high levels.
I love what I teach and appreciate the freedom giving to me by the curriculum and support from my administration. It gives me the opportunity to try new things that improve student learning.