Only took a day to realize I haven’t yet entered the promised land of project based learning or authentic learning or whatever you want to call it. Maybe this molecule is too non polar, too big to get across that membrane, and I’ll need the help of a transporting protein, and a good dose of ATP to motor me through. The day after my paradigm-shifted lesson, I went back to reading from the numbered list, feeling nervous about being perceived as incompetent by the para, sensing the difficulty of going both slowly and carefully enough for some and rapidly and in depth enough for others, mentally flailing about for something real to offer. What, do I have to watch that film again to get in the mood? I didn’t even have the guts to do another version of the same thing–this time with salt and water molecules, so I just showed them the dyed gelatin cubes, gave them the numbers, and walked through the math.
Still, I remember the faces from the day before, certain faces–one girl, always sour and reluctant and critical, usually talking through the lesson, but this time so much not knowing what to make of things and with others involved that she kept her nose in a book through the whole diffusion role play. Another, the boy in the hoodie quietly explaining what had to be done from his corner of the room. The girl who asked not to be called on, who has an ADHD diagnosis, up and trying things and telling fellow students who needed to move where. And the fact that just about everyone got past that “What?” stage and got to figuring things out on their own, moving others with their ideas, making mistakes and then getting it right.
So I’ll have to be patient with myself. I said something like that to each class as I explained how I wanted to learn to do things differently. It’s cool that when I bare my soul to these kids, they really listen, and though one might think they haven’t proven to be founts of wisdom so far in life, they have a lot to offer. In kindness, too. Like several, at various times, coming up to me after class to apologize for someone else’s attitude. Or the girl freshly back from a drug violation who, at some reaction I had to some crazy stuff, guffawed and said, “I just want to say that I like you.” Which I shall store in my inner cupboards, the dry ones where swelling is less of a problem.
The girl who has posed the most challenge from day to day will be in conference with staff and parent tomorrow–our feedback, as her teachers, having been solicited. As the principal said, if it’s her or three other students who are on the verge of dropping out of classes because of her, it will have to be her. I told him that I like her and hope she’ll be able to stay, but I admit that I’m a little out of tune with the strain she’s apparently placing on several of my students, one of whom asks to leave sometimes because of things the other is talking about on the other side of the room. Certainly she will have to be moved next to someone less susceptible to being fascinated, and I have an idea whom.
My solution to the problem of needing to provide meaningful content each day is also part of the problem–I plan out the details too much. When I center down and go by my gut, from a place of confidence and moral courage (strengthened by the vision of colleagues and others), I am a better teacher, less in the way of the students’ authentic learning work. I’m trying to concentrate on internalizing big principles–of biology, of environmental science, and thinking of starters that will hook the students into learning not only the most important stuff of science, but how to work together, communicate, create. It’s a distant vision, but it’s driving me.