Saturday, November 19, 2016

November Reflection: Gathering Momentum

When I first joined the What's the Story team two summers ago, I viewed the course primarily as a space--quite distinct from the traditional public school classroom--where students could pursue their own interests. To a considerable extent, that's precisely what the course is, but what's changed is my perception that the kind of work students do in WtS needs to be so different from the rest of their educational experiences. In my personal life, I go out of my way to learn about topics that interest me because they interest me. As a teacher, though, I've often been reluctant to allow my students the same freedom for all sorts of reasons. How will I ensure they choose an appropriate topic? Manage their learning? Assess them? When will we get to the rest of the curriculum? The framework WtS provides has helped make these questions seem much less daunting, because, through it, I've been able to see firsthand the possibilities that exist when students are given the tools and support to discover and inquire into what matters to them. This isn't to say that all classes should mirror WtS, but the structure of the course (which Bill and Tim have refined this year) has a lot to offer educators who wish to reap the rewards that come with providing students the freedom to explore.

Perhaps one way for What's the Story to continue innovating is to do what it's doing now: tapping the educators involved for their insight. Based on the changes made to the course since its inception, another effective way to keep improving it is to monitor what works and what doesn't and adjust accordingly. Bill and Tim have proven extremely adept at this so far. After only a single overnight weekend with students, I already have the sense that this year's course will run more efficiently than last time.