One of the most difficult things I have experienced this year is trying to determine when to offer help and guidance and when to just let go of the control. It gets easier with time, but there are still moments, daily, when I quite literally find myself biting my tongue.
During our second theme, Overcoming Adversity, my Humanities classes were presented with the challenge of creating a map of the world that would span the bulletin board on the wall. I had expected it to take two days, meaning four full class periods because two different group were working on the same map. Surely that would be enough time!
When the third day came and the only thing covering the bulletin board was blue to represent the ocean, I wasn’t quite sure what I had gotten myself into. If I told you that the map took an entire week (that’s ten full class periods between the two groups) you would think I was irresponsible for “wasting” that much time on a simple map project. So, instead, I’ll tell you what happened during that week.
First, each group established roles and responsibilities that were going to be needed to complete the challenge. They then split the roles so all group members were pleased. There were drawers, cutters, staplers, labelers, etc. When the continents started to be drawn on paper, they noticed the proportions were inaccurate, and they were not happy with that. So the topic of scaling was discussed, and it was decided to add lines of latitude and longitude with string to be able to create an accurately scaled version. The continents had to be redrawn and the group was not happy unless all members agreed on the specific placement of each. Then the labels needed to go on, along with the Equator, of course. Keep in mind, the challenge I put before them was to design a world map. That’s it.
Arguments were had, and feelings were hurt at different times throughout that week – they’re still 6th graders! But I think about the learning that took place that week and the skills they practiced, all on their own, with no prompting from me, simply because they had an authentic purpose for them – communicating, problem-solving, collaborating, art skills, math skills, fine-motor skills, geography skills! Every single student played a role. Each of them had responsibilities that contributed to the group’s success in the end. And they were all so proud of the final product. To me, the learning that took place that week far-outweighed whatever it was I had planned to begin on the third day.
We are currently in our Legacy theme, and I have spent the last three weeks discussing courage, integrity, and what it means to be a hero with my Humanities classes. We have had guest speakers from the building in to discuss their own personal heroes, and we have done activities that have challenged their values and beliefs. Most recently, we did a media study on how the use of different camera angles and shots, mixed with sound effects can evoke different emotions in a video.
Yesterday was the day I handed over control to each class. Their challenge is to create a 60-second public service announcement that addresses the question, “What does it mean to be a hero?” The video will be aired on our local news station along with various social media accounts for the ARCTIC Zone.
Let’s just say – my tongue hurts. While listening to them brainstorm and discuss ideas, sometimes I just want to yell, “What are you talking about? Just do it this way…” I have a vision in my head of how the videos “should” look, but I know, if I just let go of the control, they will absolutely amaze me.