What if….

students engage in conversation about the course material as they are entering the room?

students tell me why they were learning what they were learning instead of the other way around?

students are comfortable AND awake during the class time?

students check the clock hoping for more time, not less in my classroom?

students read different things, share their insights, learn from each other, and teach me?

students do work outside of the classroom because they want to learn more?

students engage experts beyond the classroom to test their ideas and stretch their thinking?

students share their gained knowledge and ideas with others in service of problem solving or furthering understanding?

students set their own learning goals and evaluate how well they are reaching them?

students share what they find that might help others in their work, while pursuing their own research on a regular basis?

students exceed, instead of meet my expectations?

we all leave the classroom with more energy than when we enter?

we build reflecting time into our routine, so we spend as much time thinking about information as gathering it?

this is actually attainable?

I have been thinking about what my ideal classroom would be like, and this is where my thinking is now. It really comes down to one fundamental goal – creating a community of learners, teachers, scholars, citizens.

Here are my plans for making this happen in my senior elective on Modern Asia. The first day will be one of inquiry where students will crowdsource what they know about China and India, generate questions about what they want to know, and start to work on ways they might be able to begin to answer their questions.

For the first unit on China, I am letting the students choose among three books to read. I am hoping that they will make different choices and be able to help share insights, even passages from the books with each other. I want to avoid the dynamic at first where everyone is reading the same thing and the discussion is rather narrow, other than the occasional interpretive disagreement.

Projects will be of their own choosing and development, and I will expect them to articulate goals and progress. One component of their work will be to identify outside experts and try to engage them in conversation about the research. The individual projects will be open to any topic related to Asia in the 20th or 21st century, which is not part of the core work of the course.

Blogging, on class and individual blogs will be a regular expectation. All written work will be public – they will not submit any assignments that only I will read. The class blog will be a space where they can share articles and comment on articles posted by others. Individual blogs will be more about process and reflection.

My classroom has a few comfy areas where I will encourage students to sit if they want to avoid the traditional tables and chairs. I do not have enough comfy seating yet, but maybe as the year progresses, I can get more.

Everything else on the list will have to come from the students. I hope that I will create the right environment for them to thrive and grow, but I cannot do it all. I can set the tone and the example and if I am right about the kind of class they want to be in, they will follow. To be continued…



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