I’ve always suffered from anxiety. The focus of the anxiety slips and shifts but like a Winton shadow it stays lurking even when it’s not seen. Last Thursday was one of those days where ‘IT’ reared its devious head.
Last Thursday afternoon I had the pleasure of running a video conference with a couple of other schools to talk about edmodo. You know already how much I love edmodo and if you don’t check out my posts on the edmodo blog here. These teachers and I ‘met’ via Yammer, which was the networking tool used by NSWDEC (now to be replaced by some other networking tool that isn’t twitter, haha). Each of the teachers are keen to bring edmodo to their schools and I offered to run some video conference just going over how I used edmodo and all of its nifty features I love.
I was particularly excited about this video conference because I could finally (kinda) meet Neil Fara face to face. Neil is a really inspiring HSIE head teacher who is running a really innovative experiment he refers to as Project REAL. You can read a little about it here at the Edmodo Teacher Hub. Anyway, long story short, Neil and I had been chatting via yammer for a few weeks leading up to the VC – Neil is interested in what I do with PBL and I’m interested in what he’s doing in regards to student voice.
So the video conference ran really smoothly … Neil and the other participants let me blabber on for about half an hour about how my students are using edmodo as the hub for their projects (see my post here for more detail) and just showing them around my crazy busy edmodo page. It was nice to have Neil and one of his teachers, Hollie, there to show what I do. They were so lovely it felt a little like a particularly special show and tell – you know the one where you’ve got the cutest little puppy/kitten/guinea pig/gold-fish and the other kids in the class are like ‘wow you’re so lucky and amazing and cool’ … yeah, it was one of those moments. I even had my two boys in the room whilst the VC was going and they were being surprisingly quiet and well-behaved. I have to confess, I was feeling a little like a tech-savvy PBL guru.
And then it hit.
The type of question that inside the classroom you cut down with a wicked glance and a kinda sly put down. (Or is that just evil teacher me?) Neil asked me this:
Do you let your students plan these projects? Do they look at the outcomes? Do they get a say in the products and investigations? (OK – that’s not one question, and to be fair he probably didn’t say it in this way – actually more likely it was an off-handed question that has been multiplied and exaggerated in my ‘I want to be the best teacher doing everything right but I feel like a failure’ kinda anxious twist on things.)
I pretty much stuttered and blundered my answer, something eloquent like ‘Ah, nah. It’s pretty much all me doing that stuff. Yeah. Hmmm…’
My debrief has been slow. I haven’t really shared it with anyone. Here’s the realisation: What I’m doing with ‘PBL’ isn’t really student-centred. Is it? If I’m in control of designing the project – from crafting the question, designing the products and investigations and organising the ‘real world’ audience to present to – then it’s totally teacher-centred. If I’m the one who allocates the points as rewards, then I’m the boss, right?
So I’m kinda sitting under the collapsed ruins of the ‘I am awesome and my PBL is king’ building just not even wanting to get out. I dunno. Maybe the building is still erect with my mind people hurrying to plaster the gaping cracks of reality. Maybe I want to prop it up with massive balustrades and forget I even heard Neil’s question.
Despite the demon anxiety that sits on my shoulder and tells me I’m a fraud, there is a voice somewhere amongst the din that says ‘It’s a continuum. They have un-learned passive learning. They have learnt to plan and reflect. They are excelling at team work. They are more motivated than ever. You now know your students better than you ever have. Next stop is student voice. It takes time.’
I really want to listen to that voice. I do.