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Reflections for the week ending Sept. 10

posted Sep 13, 2010, 4:33 PM by Michael Reilly
Always making progress, although it may not seem like it sometimes.
Like many people, I have a few phrases of the "life principle" style.  While not an exhaustive list, a couple of them are "Winners do the boring stuff", "Project planning is just who does what by when", and some other one that slipped my mind.  Oh yeah, it's "Your greatest strength is to know your weaknesses". We had a week of those phrases last week, over and over it seemed. 
Why?  One of my weaknesses has been assuming the capabilities of my students.  They aren't dumb, it's just that many of them have been taught how to manage their time, take notes, focus (or avoid distraction), and more.  I've spent too many years with 12th grade AP kids, and the 9th grade general population is so very different from them.  But I like different.
We've taken the Buck Institute's Beginner's Toolkit Project Management Docs and simplified them.  Those docs were meant for teachers, and we need to use them more.  However, we wanted a student version, which is what you see in our most recent assignments.  We need to step back to independent projects for a bit too.  This will help us to identify who delivers on time, where levels of talent lie, and unhealthy groups can get a respite and possible break.  The simplified project sheets are more of a daily journal for our students, and require just a few full sentences with correct grammar, etc., each day.
Students don't know that project planning is just a guess, and hopefully you get better at it.  Each day's reflection is a refinement of that guess.  If we can get them to guess with more confidence, what a great accomplishment!  If we can get them better at this project guessing (should we just call it that?), then we've leapt forward!  It's would be at that point we would be able to give them even more independence. 
I feel so fortunate to have the diversity of personality, gender, race and maturity in our PBL classroom.  While it would be easier to teach a homogeneous group the same lesson over and over, it would only be easier in function.  I'm a passionate, interpersonal learner, and I think we're getting somewhere.  Watch for the online newspaper of our school, due out Thursday, primarily produced by 6 of our "CDAT girls"!!