The Spring of 2017 was the time in my professional life that I started hearing yes many times in a row.
Take Down the Wall
The first yes that I heard was by asking my administrators if I could co-teach with a passionate professional and my friend, Mr. Eric Terrell. I have a room that has a removable wall. The wall was folded up and pushed away only a few times in my first four years of teaching and this bugged me. I, along with Eric, started to question why we teach math, social studies, English, science, computer science, art, music, PE, family and consumer sciences all in separate areas so that the students get the sense that they are separate. The obvious answer for some of the classes is because of the resources involved, but that still is not a good answer to me and I will address that another time. The second yes, I/we heard was that Eric would be switching classrooms so that we could take down the wall and have a large space for our students and start changing the thinking that subjects are separate because they are in separate rooms.
The third yes happened as a result of consuming my Twitter feed and coming across a tweet promoting #Grow17 organized by TeachThought PD (#Grow18 is happening July 9-12, highly recommend attending). I was interested in project-based learning but I had no idea how to implement it. I knew I needed to learn and talking with Eric we were excited about what this learning could do for our plans for the 2017-2018 school year.
We had no idea what this learning would do!
We submitted a plan for professional development funds from our district and received approval for the registration and our Airbnb in downtown Louisville, Kentucky. We viewed this event as essential to help us be successful in our vision for the students and were okay with paying for the travel expenses and food. We decided to drive the 17 hours because we both enjoy seeing different places and knew that we had too many things to discuss to jump on a plane and have the learning end because of the convenience of a short trip. On the way there we were talking about big, extravagant plans to create this whole world that our students would navigate and level up throughout ancient civilizations and thinking about how we could dress up and make ancient history relevant for the students.
I took away so much from this professional training from Dayna Laur (@daylynn) and Drew Perkins (@dperkinsed) and knew that what I was going to be asking the students to do would be looking very different. This was essential because I did not want to fall back into making changes cosmetically but not changing what I asking the students to do.
Project-Based Learning Components according to TeachThought:
1. Rich inquiry
4. Meaningful Assessment
Each of these components play into each other and are constantly going through a cycle many times within one unit. This opened my eyes to creating something that would actually build up the skills that students will need as they get older instead of going through information that they may or may not use again in their life.
An Abbreviated Yes List
****I am counting not being told no when observed by my administrators, as a Yes!
1. A yes from every expert that has been contacted about presenting to the class about their specific knowledge.
2. A yes from every expert when asked to evaluate the students work at the end of the unit.
3. A yes from Rapid City Public School Foundation when applying for a grant for resources that students were asking for.
4. A yes from administration when talking about working with students schedules to get as many back to back classes for our students.
5. A yes from administration to take students off campus to present their ideas to experts.
Hearing "Yeses" turned into Student "Yeses"
I have heard yes so much from my administrators and I am truly thankful. It is really is true for our administration that if what is being asked is for the students there really is no limit. The transition to doing project-based learning has been really special for my educational career.
All the yeses that I have heard have had a direct impact on all the yeses that I say to students when they ask if they can do something. I am still trying to get my students to challenge how far I can come through on and how far out we can go for what can and can't be done because it is "school."
I am not at the end of the trail of yeses yet!
Mr. Dylan Wince
I am not a writer but I am writing.