When I started as the ‘Innovative Arts’ teacher (a title I made up), I had to decide if I was going to start with a traditional class or an open-ended project class. I knew the traditional class option was safer, easier, and definitely do-able. I also knew that the units, grades, set projects, and baggage of a traditional class was going to be a problem. I thought that it would be nearly impossible to break away from that framework from the inside.
So I decided to invent an open-ended projects class. It was definitely not easy. Most students appreciated the freedom and choice that came with this class but there were definitely some growing pains too. Having to invent this website, all the resources, supports, and classroom routines to support that vision was grueling. And now, at the mid-way point of this journey, I’ve found myself developing the set projects and units that I was avoiding.
As much as it seems like the long way to this point, it was the right decision. I could not have invented the creator cycle, our check-in process, or mostly ditched the CNC (and other) machines with a traditional classroom setup. The more authentic reflective process was the result of so many trials and errors. The projects that have been developed are way more customizable and extendable. The vision for richly engaged students wouldn’t have seemed possible.
I am ready to call the first half of this journey completed. The next step is to fully realize the vision that my 5th graders are experiencing in class right now. I have no doubt, though, by next year I will have improved and refined it, so it is fair to assume that it’ll be five years before that next class exits 8th grade. They’ll be the first to speak to the success or failure of the big vision. Halfway there.
It just turns out that next year my boys will be entering 5th grade next year. I said since they started kindergarten (4.5 years ago) that ‘I have five years to figure it out.’
It’ll be the class that I want for them to have.