I just completed my first #IMMOOC, and discovered another world beyond engagement. Through this 6 week process, one quote keeps coming to mind again, “You can engage students with a conversation on how to change the world, but why not make them want to go out and change the world by empowering them.” I say again, because this quote was a source of inspiration for the blog post found here.
Reflecting on my past 3 years teaching history, I’m not going to lie, it was bad. My planning focused on compliance, using a textbook, worksheets, and projects where I graded the same damn product 130 times. I kept going with it, but in the back of my mind, I knew it wasn’t right. It didn’t feel right. My problem was, I didn’t know how to get out of the rut.
I started this year by reading 2 books, Ditch That Textbook and Teach Like a Pirate. Both of these books inspired me to change my classroom to create a better experience for my students. Let’s face it, social studies gets a bad name because the content is “boring” or students can’t connect with it. But it doesn’t have to be boring. These books showed me how to get out of the compliance rut to create a more engaging experience for learners in Room 303.
From the beginning of the year, I committed to not following the structure of the textbook. Our book has some good hands on lessons, but textbooks are boring. So, I took some of these lessons and curated sites, sources, and added my own “hooks” to them to create engagement. These hooks involve mystery bags, costumes, props, music, food, etc… (pictures below) For me, it’s not just a once a week thing, it’s an everyday thing. My biggest takeaway from Teach Like a Pirate was I can’t give a good appetizer but give a bad main course and an awful dessert. The hooks and engagement can’t stop. Does it work all the time? No. Are all learners engaged? No. But are more students engaged and excited about history than ever before? Yes.
These books have helped me tremendously, but it’s the book Innovator’s Mindset that helped me see another world beyond engagement. This world was empowerment. Having students solve problems, connect with each other, and giving students a voice and choice. This was my biggest takeaway from #IMMOOC, but what’s next? How can I keep progressing?
Read More – On my list next: reading the books Empowered and LAUNCH (Design Thinking). I want to explore the idea of not only engaging my students, but empowering my students! How can I create history learning experiences where they choose and create? Project based learning and design thinking are 2 topics that have interested me, but I don’t know where to start. It’s time to start now.
Taking More Risks – I didn’t ditch my textbook and dress up in costumes without taking risks. Empowering my students involves taking risks as well. I need to keep building a culture of risk taking, transparency, and trust. I don’t know much about empowerment, but there’s no doubt in my mind that these ideas play into this concept. I look forward to learning more so I can implement this strategy into 303.
This experience reminded me that no matter how long you have been teaching or how engaged your students might be, education is constantly changing. It’s up to us to realize how fast education and the world is changing so we can adapt and grow along with it. Learning doesn’t stop. Learning should not stop. For me, engagement was great, but I quickly realized that it’s not enough.