I just finished what is becoming an annual tradition, reading my blog posts from the previous school year to reflect on what I want to accomplish, where I fell short, and what I want to be mindful of as I begin the new school year. I highly recommend the practice. For reflective writing to have a long term effect, I think it needs to be revisited with the perspective of time.
What I discovered was overwhelming to me. While I do not think I was like a broken record (showing my age with that analogy), the common thread was obvious. True student-centered learning is at the core of what I want in my classroom. I avoid things like Understanding by Design because I want my students to shape where they go. I want less planning and more agility in the curriculum. Students need to create for the wider world, and they need to call on others to help them. I have to encourage them to connect with me, with each other, and with people beyond our class. Precious little of value in this world is created in complete isolation. The classroom space should be comfortable and dynamic, a living learning environment, to facilitate this type of learning.
I need to ask the question, “What do you want to learn?” more often. There is a lot of buzz about 20% projects (even though Google is abandoning it) but what if 20% represented the common learning and 80% was customized? There would surely be overlap with kids sharing similar interests within a particular topic or theme. But how much greater would the learning be if the students were pursuing answers to their essential questions and not mine? There is a lot of history to learn. Why do they have to follow the paved road when the beaten path or the untrod grass may be more meaningful to them? (Thanks to Beth Gryczewski for the concept of Desire Lines that led me to the last idea.)