Monday, September 6, 2010

The Calm Before the Storm

The room is clean, the posters are hung, the chairs and instruments arranged neatly around the room and it's quiet. Too quiet. As if the room itself is holding its breath in preparation for the storm of students who will lend their energy to this space tomorrow morning. For this moment, though, I breathe in and imagine the possible:

Students smiling and being genuinely excited about being in the music room again with their friends... that rare moment before the teacher has made demands of them that make the light in their eyes go out. My hope is to feed on that initial excitiement, and dive into the new philosophical ideas that are informing my teaching this year. Specifically, letting go and allowing the students to own more control over the decision making that happens in their learning.

I'm talking about more than the first day and having students help decide on fair rules for the classroom. I'm talking about inquiry-based learning. Asking them, day one, "What do you want to learn?". And instead of filing the answers they write for me on little index cards, putting them in a drawer, and then forgetting about them, I will follow through day after day with more questions:

Based on their interests, we'll discuss what goals they have for their learning. How will they get there? What tools will they need? How can they best demonstrate that learning? What is a fair way to assess their learning? From the first day to the last day, I will be a partner in their learning, exploring the possibilities that co-constructing curriculum can offer.

Even now, I don't know exactly what to expect. I know what I hope for and what I imagine for my students, but what I really look forward to are the surprises along the way. The ideas they come up with that I never would have thought of. The chance to learn something from a student that I didn't know before. Collaborating and feeding off each other's energy and experiencing learning as the exciting, creative activity it is meant to be!

I'm even welcoming of the challenges, frustrations, and disappointments along the way so that I can continue to examine my teaching and their learning processes. To show, through example, that this is a life long pursuit for all of us, teachers and students alike. To slog through the tough times, draw on each others' strengths, use our resources, and move through it towards personal success. And upon reflection, we can all appreciate the satisfaction of a job well done and celebrate a worthwhile and meaningful experience.