Lessons from Genius Hour…2 Days in

As an educator, one thing that frustrates me and many others in the profession is the proliferation of standardized testing and the stakes that seem to grow with it year after year.  Testing time has continued to grow as we look to “measure”more and more of what our students know.  The true measure of what our students know cannot be quantified by a couple hundred multiple choice questions; our students are much more than a test score.

This year to help remind my students that not all learning come down to open-ended and multiple choice questions, I decided to stick it to the man and host a Genius Hour Project for my students.  On Tuesday, my students began to grapple with the idea that they could explore anything they wanted to and present their findings at the end of our state testing window.  As of today, all students have selected the essential questions that will drive their research over the next several days in class and though it was a mere two days I have seen some flashes of what can and hopefully will come to fruition.  These are some thoughts on some of the potential impacts of creating more student-centered experiences.

  1. Chaos:  Though a bit of an exaggeration, the classroom is abuzz with activity.  Students building, coloring, voice recording, researching, creating.  This is not your traditional classroom, and logically this would be the case as the classroom shifts to focus not on what the teacher does, but what the students can and will do.  Be prepared for a bit of uncertainty and more importantly fun!
  2. Building strong relationships:  One of the best things about student-centered learning is that as the teacher, I am not required to spend minute after minute directing traffic.  In a student-centered environment, my time is spent working with small groups and individual students and meeting them where they are, and where their needs are. My focus each and every time I switch from person to person is their focus.  It allows me to interact with the students at a much deeper level each and every time.
  3. We’re learning?:  In two days I can’t count how many times I have had students say to me this is fun because we aren’t doing anything!  Seventh graders have a very unique way of saying thanks for meeting me where I’m at.  When learning is a passion, it comes very easy, and dare I say can be fun.  The reality that student-centered learning brings to the table has the potential to turn education on its head in a very positive way.

I am incredibly eager to see how these projects turn out.  In simplest terms, this project was worth the time simply for the fact that my students can find joy and passion in learning.

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