Ms. DiDonato’s class is officially one month along with 20% Time. There have been a few pivots with project ideas, but no drastic changes from the student’s project proposals.
There have been many questions, ranging from “Now what?” to “Should I learn Python or Scratch?” to “Can I prototype this again with cardboard since styrofoam didn’t work?”
The consistency has been a commitment to research, production, writing, and sharing.
Every other week, students report out progress via their blog. The “non-blogging” weeks students must read and comment on three classmates blog posts. The commenting has been productive. Students are sharing not only words of encouragement, but thoughtful suggestions, strategies, or ideas. At the very least, these are exercises in digital citizenship, collaboration, communication, writing, and creativity.
What if we had the opportunity and choice to learn something new every day and then spend about an hour with a topic each day? Oh wait, we do . . . and our opportunities are almost infinite. It’s just a matter of making the choice or, if we’re a parent, encouraging and creating that opportunity.
It’s getting up a bit earlier, going to sleep a bit later, turning off the TV, and stopping the endless scrolling on social media. I’ve been doing the podcast and Audible book routine for about three years now, and it’s amazing. I’ve gained an extra hour and half of learning and inspiration from each day.
What if we gave our students this choice? Go learn something. Anything. Want to build an epic skate ramp? Yes. Tai Chi? Yes. Baking? Yes. How to start an organic garden? Go for it.
Go ahead, scratch the surface. Find something that interests you? No, pick a new topic. Did you find something new? Great, dive in. What did you find? Now what? Tell us about it – synthesize it. Again, now what? Create something. Inspire us, prepare a TEDed Talk. Build something. Make some art. Fail. Try again. This might be called Genius Hour, or 20% Time. This is learning and this is fun!
“People take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness. Just because they’re not on your road doesn’t mean they’ve gotten lost.” Dalai Lama
This is a quote that I hope all children (and adults, alike) think about before they pass judgment on someone else’s path, or put so much pressure on a young mind to be on a “path to success,” (or someone else’s version of that path).
Free will and choice are what makes being human and living in the free world so amazing. The ability to wake up and say, “I am going to learn black and white film photography.” Or, “I’m going to take an edX course in neuroscience.”
In school, kids really, really need to learn the soft skill of empathy. And, we must support everyone in being on a different road. The “athlete” road, the “music” path, the “not-so-advanced math” route. To the people among every group, there are insiders and outsiders. Who cares? Every path has opportunities. There’s quite a bit of talk of uninvented jobs of the future. So, the imperative is for us to help kids find their passion and have the skills and confidence to be successful on whatever path they may be on in that moment.
As educators, it’s our job to help personalize the learning for every child, regardless of what path they’re on.
Perhaps there should be less stress or emphasis on what path someone is on, and more emphasis supporting different paths, having the skills to learn something new, seeing opportunities, listening, empathizing, and taking action.
Showing up. Because it matters.
In the last few days of the school year, it’s easy to become relaxed and to “loosen up.” It’s also tough to engage our students in new content and new lessons when they, themselves, are ready for a break. Students might feel like “it doesn’t count.” And, technically, it might not for the grade book. However, we need to model that it always counts. If we aren’t engaged with our students, in reflection, in helping them set goals for the next year, in team building – if we don’t model that it matters, if we don’t show up, how can we set those expectations for life and career for our students? It’s an opportunity for making learning personal, for team and relationship building, and for students to explore something of interest. Try something new. Show up. Because our students matter.