It’s week two of the holidays and having gone into school today (mostly just for Stage Challenge rehearsal), I’m starting to get my head back into it all. There’s so many things I’m excited about this term, but before I write about them, I want to reflect on the term that has been.
Term one’s are always busy, but last term felt busier than most. There were a lot of new things for me last term. New classroom (with quite a different space and orientation to be last – despite being only 3 doors away), new syndicate, new syndicate leader (who was also new to the school), and most important of all, new learners.
We had the usual things that term ones come with, camp, our 12 hour fundraising run, athletics day and so on, but those (while totally awesome) aren’t the things that stand out for me. There are two things that really stand out. One is student leadership, and the other is student voice.
I run Stage Challenge at my school – we do it every two years and this is the second one I’ve run. I started the first one as a second year teacher on a suggestion from one of our DPs (now principal). I love it, but boy is it a lot of work. The first year was hard, but this year has been so much easier (so far) though still lots of work. I have a lot of awesome teachers who are working away with various groups of students on lighting design, backdrops, and fundraising, but even more awesomely (totally a word by the way) I have an amazing group of students working alongside me to make Stage Challenge happen. These students have spent so many hours choreographing, fundraising, packing costumes, rehearsing students as well as actually dancing themselves. It’s been awesome to see their leadership grow and watch how the other students respond to them.
I’ve also seen some awesome student leadership starting to happen where a couple of my more energetic boys have taken on teaching the class Football; planning and running drills and workshops for the class and me. Imagine how stoked they were when they found out Football is one of the school sports for next term. Headstart anyone?
Student voice is really important to me, but I often find that to give student the level of self-determination and voice that I’d like to can be really overwhelming for them at the beginning of the year, especially for the year sevens. It definitely has been a steep learning curve for some of my students in learning how to make decisions about their own learning, but it’s absolutely been worth it – and that’s only after term 1!
Last term there were opportunities for student voice/choice in their World War Projects – where they could choose the topic and the creative project or action that resulted from it. And there were opportunities for student voice/choice in their 5 Minutes to Save the World actions, students also had a choice between two different maths projects depending on their interests.
All in all I think the element of choice/voice was really appreciated by my students, though at first they just saw it as more work. Once they got into it further however they were much more engaged in their learning. I think though that I could have provided a lot more supported structure around some of the necessary skills for the projects. I’d like to integrate a better conferencing/workshop structure into this to more proactive in anticipating what’s needed – and I’ve pretty much got that sorted already for next term.
I want to think more around the idea of enabling constraints too. I think some of the tasks were too open to really produce amazing things. I had really good success last year with our Geek On Projects were student could study/research/create anything they wanted as long as they produced a video at the end. The results were amazing. Similarly limiting or banning some modes of presentation (I’m looking at you powerpoint) led to Hunger Games dances (I wish I’d filmed this – it was amazing!) and Divergent board games being created in our literature unit. It was difficult to place these constraints though as it was a syndicate wide task were doing, but something to investigate more for this coming term.
I think the maths projects worked fantastically well this term, the students really enjoyed applying their mathematical skills to something practical, either designing a new layout for the classroom, or creating an orienteering course around the school. And the fact that were are putting these into practice this term, testing out the obstacle course and choosing our favourite design elements to try in the classroom really got the buy-in from the students.
So I think my two things going into next term are looking at how I can create stronger support structures for enabling student choice/voice and enabling constraints.