The past two years has been quite a ride for teachers across the globe. With the pandemic and moving learning environments all around, I can certainly empathize with educators. Change has been constant… even overbearing at times.
Too much change will drive anyone to burn out.
Challenges emerged within the system. Speaking as a secondary level educator, we saw grades became unimportant for many stakeholders. So many students became apathetic in their studies. Kids learned to stare mindlessly at their phones and check out of reality in the classrooms.
What better time than now to try something new?!
As Tom Cruise’s character Joel Goodsen said in the movie Risky Business, ”Sometimes you have to say what the fuck and make your move.” I made my move this year around the final exam. I took it out. I have never liked the idea of a final exam. Frankly, I think they are stupid. There had to be a better way to review and improve learning outside of a multiple choice test.
My failure is where I started.
I had a few units of study in my Entrepreneurship course that failed to engage a majority of the students. That was it! I would break down the entire semester units and have the students give feedback on them. They would come in for the final exam period and we would work together to review and rewrite the entire curriculum where needed.
I had major hesitations that this would work.
I mean, c’mon we just finished a school year with apathetic and unengaged students who we fought every day to move kids forward in learning. Why on earth would they want to do this?! I had to remember Joel Goodsen. “Make your move!”
You can make excuses and assumptions all day long and until you try it, it’s all just words.
So on the last day of finals in the last period of the year, I tried it. The period was 90 minutes. Seniors had already graduated and left their K-12 careers behind. Many other students were constantly asking if they had to come to the final. Well, almost all the students who needed to show up did.
Even two seniors came back AFTER graduation to participate.
The period flew by. We did a huge whiteboard session with high engagement. I asked the students not to hold back their thoughts and opinions. They didn’t. I appreciated that! I learned more in that 90 minutes from my students that any professional development I’ve attended in over 20 years of teaching. The students helped build an engaging, exciting, experience filled course that I can’t wait to implement next school year.
As the period came to an end, I couldn’t believe the learning that happened. I thanked each student personally who came in to help. I had a board of notes in front of me filled with gold in terms of curriculum design. It was the best decision … to make my move.
As one student left the classroom, he said, “I liked this year’s class, but I wish I could take the class we just designed next year!”
Perhaps I can convince a counselor to make that happen.