Transparency as Authenticity Round 2

Had another chat with 7th period.  Things had been going downhill for a while.  Attitude issues, compliance with getting work turned in and things of that nature.

In particular I’ve been pushing a project-based approach with government and yesterday I introduced a new project: a mock legislative session.  I’d planning it well, students we taking issues that they’ve already chosen, researched, and written about.  Then they’re going into committee and they’ll have discuss, debate, and compromise in order to write a bill.  Sounds great.  Model the legislative process instead of talking about it.

Oh man did I get pushback.  Kids were off task, many of them just completely canned the idea out of hand, and in general I did not get the benefit of the doubt from the class.

So today we had a talk.  We talked about attitude, we talked about graduation requirements, and we talked about providing constructive criticism.  In general I was really pleased.  Many of the students really went to bat for me honoring the hard work I put into the class and thanking me for making the class more than just lecture, notes, and tests.

In particular my two newest students took the chance to be vocal about their views on the class.  On international student mentioned that in his home country you can’t ask teachers for help, or ask them questions.  All you can do is taken notes during lectures, and take the tests.  He mentioned rampant cheating and the general feeling that no one learns anything.  He said that he was really happy to be here because now he knows how to do real things like write a proposal, research, and find solutions to problems.  The second new student mentioned her old school in Pennsylvania where her entire grade was based on four tests, telling my students “you shouldn’t complain, you don’t know how good you have it.”

I hope that these comments coming from students will help to add weight to them.  I gave students the opportunity to voice concerns in a constructive way and the feedback was largely positive.  I’m sure some students are still upset, but maybe they will at least see that others do find value in the work we do.  Maybe it will give them cause to give the class another shot.  My hope is that my transparency can continue to lend some authenticity to the class and let the students feel like they have some agency.

I also told them that if they don’t feel comfortable talking to me or the class they can write me an unsigned letter, write a note to our principal, or put a note on my car.  We’ll see what happens.

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1 comment
  1. Ben said:

    Gabe! First- would you post this to the context forum? (Mainly so I have a record of the ideas. I think this is fantastic reflection!)

    Second – Let’s plan to plan! We are both looking into project-based learning and I think it has a lot to do with context and authenticity etc etc. I’d like to know more details about your project and how it is going to work.

    I got the PBL starter kit from the Buck Institute and I am trying to work through the details of setting up a powerful project. I feel like I’m a long way from really doing my first one.

    Part of the authenticity piece is validating push-back in a reflective way… I don’t mean telling the kids you hear them, but instead trying to figure out the source/context of the push-back and what ways you can address that.

    What are you doing on Tuesday, Dec 14?

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