So the school year is off and running again, wow! Where did the summer go!! Now that my summer is in the review mirror and my school year is the interstate in front of me, its time to put my focus back on the kids. The question that I have for myself this year is “How do I get out of the students way?” I want to take a backseat to where their learning will take them. Don’t misunderstand this – I love teaching kids – but are there times when I am in the way of a natural progression that they would have chosen without me trying to steer the bus?
The first day of school was yesterday (I LOVE the first day), back into routines, getting to meet the new students, seeing the excitement/nervousness/curiosity in their eyes. But this year, instead of diving into class right away: open book, do these problems, here are these notes, use this worksheet, double check on your calculator, lecture, lecture, lecture…We took on the Marshmallow Challenge. My colleague (partner in crime) Kristina and I are trying something out this year that neither of us has done before. Four days of team building to start the year, followed up by intentionally built in days throughout the school year. We are not sure how it will work out and as always we will change/tweak/fix/drop things that did not quite work out like we planned. But today, I had a revelation that put me where I belonged – in the backseat. After setting up the challenge and turning the kids loose with some great music (18 minutes: Poker Face, Midnight City, ET, Seven Nation Army, Radioactive) something fantastic occurred. The students took over! Outside of a couple of questions over instructions, there were no questions about building the spaghetti tower. No questions about how to use the tape. No questions about what the string needed to be used for. Just the students exploring and trying to figure out how to earn the Edmodo badge for tallest structure. Teaching PreAP Precalculus and regular Calculus, let me just tell you, produces an extraordinary amount of questions. But after today’s work – my mind is wondering…How can I move out of the driver’s seat and into the backseat. More of a map reader, able to answer questions, while the students become the drivers and choose the routes. Finding those things that are interesting to them, using me for some guidance along the way, but not as a crutch to just get thru the class. What needs to happen for me to instill in them that they have the power to do it? That they can do it? That if they will bring a little curiosity, mixed with some collaboration, tossed in with some hard work, that hey – they may surprise even themselves!
I know that relationships will be a big factor in that, one that can be difficult sometimes to foster. Students come in with different bias, backgrounds, and friends. How can I teach them to trust each other enough to work as a collaborative group for the greater good? After the challenge today and talking about the relationships that were being built, I showed the Jeff Gordon Pepsi Prank. (Too bad I didn’t think of this early on in the day, but I’m always thinking…what could be better and can I change it right now.) Back to Jeff: He takes a very surprised car salesman on the ride of his life! If you haven’t see the video follow this link: Jeff Gordon. The thing is this, by the end of the ride (which looks extremely dangerous to me) the car salesman says something along the lines of “I gonna kill you!!! Pull over and stop the car!” Jeff parks it back in the parking lot, is threatened with having to deal with the police, then reveals himself to the car salesman. The environment changes completely! The last thing the car salesman says is “Let’s do that again!” Why? Because he trusts Jeff Gordon to drive! Can I teach my kids to trust each other in that way, except with within the bounds of precalculus or calculus? I don’t know…But I do know that students who take these classes are bright, smart, intelligent people who desire to learn more than most other high schoolers. Can I start with this? Will this be enough for the kids to trust people they normally wouldn’t? Do I need to show them more?? I’m not sure – but if today is just half a clue, there is a strong possibility that maybe, just maybe I can reach them in ways that I never planned for.
I am really super excited about this year! I am really looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish in my school! And if you would like to see a little movie trailer from today follow the link Marshmallow Challenge