I'm working with several teachers this year on what I'm calling a Go Beyond Challenge. It's about stretching rather than getting back to normal. I am sharing more about the ongoing work on my other blog.
For purposes here, to focus more on inspiration, I wanted to share some general principles I've keyed into while working on the projects. These are three things I hope to do for students, regardless of the class or the project.
- Reveal their strengths - When I'm in the classroom, I'm looking for the chance to say, "Wow, you have a real talent for that!" I don't necessarily mean a talent for the course content. I'm looking for things like a student who has a good speaking voice in their podcast or the one who makes an impressive graphic for their video's title image. I am looking for examples of quality work I can share beyond the classroom.
- Give them confidence to work through weaknesses - I once read somewhere that efforts to improve employees' weaknesses are not as effective as letting those employees work in areas of their strengths. Of course, in school we're focused on learning, so I hope students will do a little of both. When it comes to weak areas, though, I want to show students they can still succeed in spite of the weakness. Whether it's a skill they struggle with (math, drawing whatever), a work habit, or even a preference ("this stuff is boring"), I want to help them see that with extra effort and proper tools they can press past it and still do quality work. They don't have to rise to the top of the class in that area, but I want to make it clear to them it doesn't have to hold them back.
- Show them they can learn - Most importantly, I want students I work with to feel confident that they can learn. Confident, competent learners have an edge in our changing world. I want them to understand that and experience it. My usual way to do this is to provide ample time for reflection throughout the project. Good questions allow them to think about what they knew or thought before and after an activity. They also give opportunities for them to connect the content to their own experiences and opinions.