Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Learn Like a Pirate: Student-Led Classrooms and Concerns

Ahoy mateys!  Every summer I read at least one professional development book for school.  This summer I was very excited to see that there was another book in the Teach Like a Pirate family: Learn Like a Pirate by Paul Solarz.  I absolutely adored Teach Like a Pirate, so how could I not love this one?!  As I read this I realize it is PERFECT for the Leader in Me model at our school!  Paul in fact even mentions it a few times in the book ;o)

I'll be joining some other amazing teachers for this book study thanks to The Primary Gal!  Click on the images below to see what everyone else thought about these sections! I am going to try my best to condense these as much as I can since I combined them into one post.

What is a student-led classroom?
"A student-led classroom is one in which students make decisions and choices throughout the day without consulting the teacher."  Everyone in the classroom appears to have equal power and equal say in what happens, although they understand that you, as the teacher, have the final word.

For the most part, I thought I had a good chunk of my day as "student-led."  Even reading through some of the concerns, I didn't feel like a lot applied to me so I thought I had this in the bag!  I. Was. Wrong.  I'm on the right track for the most part but it is not as amazing as it could be and that is my goal for next year!  Paul gives you some really great tips, ideas, words to calm your nerves (lol) and videos to help you through this process.

Is my classroom a student-led classroom? Eh.

Yes, my students make decisions but they aren't always the best choices (GASP!) and they don't always think about how their actions will effect themselves, their peers, or even me.  Reading through this book has shown me by taking control they are really starting to see things in a new light.  They are actually taking control of the class (interruptions and all - this makes me a smidge nervous as there is a fine line between teaching moment and bad manners, but Paul says it works so I'm going with it!), teaching each other, helping each other and learning from one another!  I've got a lot of work to do but I'm very excited for the journey and I think my kids will be too!

Don't worry, it's not a free for all!  You still have teacher led time (mini-lessons) and there is also collaborative work time and time to reflect or synthesize.  This is a scary endeavor to embrace wholeheartedly though, let's be honest.  We're teachers.  We're perfectionist and micro-managers by nature usually.

Here are some of the main concerns (not all mind you):

  • "I'm worried about giving up control to my students." (Let's be honest... WHO ISN'T?!)
  • "I can't do this.  I'm definitely going to make a lot of mistakes and fail." (Yep!  We sure are!  But that's okay because we can use them as teaching experiences and if your kids see that it's okay to fail and try again, they won't be as hesitant to embrace this experience with you.)
  • "There's just too much at stake.  I can't risk this not working." (If you fail at a student-led classroom, you end up with a teacher-led classroom! At least you tried!)
  • "This will be too much work.  I can't take on another thing right now!" (Hopefully your kiddos will take on most of it after a while.  That's the whole point.  Consider this the epitome of the "work smarter, not harder" saying.)
  • "I'm overwhelmed.  I don't know where to begin." (Begin by getting this book! It's amazing!)
  • "But won't my room get loud?" (I have a love/hate relationship with my loud room.  Love that they talk and collaborate and really, they are a little family because of it.  That being said... they talk and collaborate about things that are not necessarily academic or even what were working on sometimes.  You probably don't have kids like this in your room, lol.  I need to find my happy medium.  All in all, I'd prefer talking to no talking.)

There are many other concerns and Paul addresses them all beautifully in the book.  By the end of the chapter you have this wonderful self-confidence that you can do this... and you can!

This won't necessarily be easy.  It will take LOTS of practice for your kiddos to be comfortable making decisions without you.  They are used to "perfect classrooms."  Where the goal was to make the perfect choice, the perfect grade, etc.  Here, you want them to make good choices and do well, but you want to see improvement, growth, thinking, taking risks all while being comfortable enough to make those decision and feeling safe with their choices.  Make sure to show praise for making an effort, even if it didn't go as planned.  For this to work, your students need to feel safe with you (and not in a "I got your back in a fire drill" kind of way).  They need to know you care about them as people: how their soccer game went, what their hobbies are, working one on one with them throughout the week, etc.  If they know you care about them, they will strive to make this work.

Every day you'll want to provide learning opportunities and show them what a student-led classroom looks like.  Because as new as it is to you, it's definitely new to them too!  Some things, like the interrupting, you are going to have to show them when and what is appropriate to interrupt for and what isn't.  And this will take you more than one day.  More than one week even, but you can do it!  You will have some push back from your students, co-workers, maybe even admin.  It's going to take work but by the second semester, you'll see a student-led class in action (Paul says so, so I'm taking his word and keeping my fingers crossed)!

All in all I'm very excited for this journey and I hope you continue along with me and the other fabulous teachers over at The Primary Gal's blog.

1 comment:

  1. I absolutely loved Teach Like a Pirate. Our school is a Leader in Me school. It sounds like this is a must read book for me. Thank you for sharing thoughts on the student-led classroom.

    Fit to be Fourth