The seniors completed their final presentations this week. This was a series of TED style talks on subjects ranging from 3D printing and product placement to the connections between meat and cancer and the lack of women in foreign policy. I've been really pleased with how this group has developed their skills in communicating ideas, both through writing last semester, and in visual communication more recently.
We still have a couple of months left in the year, so when the seniors and I got back together for one class before spring break, they wanted to know what we were going to do with the time left. This point of the year for seniors, more so than other times, has a consistent theme of time ticking down in all sorts of ways. They keep an accurate count of the number of days left in school on a small chalkboard in the lounge. They keep track of college acceptances on a big map there as well. Keeping them in the present is much more easily said than done, so I tend to push seniors to think through big picture stuff at this stage.
So when we sat down in class this past week, I had rearranged the tables into a big family style U-shape to make. Lear that something would be 'different' from that point forward. I talked to them about my history in education. I described different schools I went to, how they nudged my personal path one way or another. I then showed them two talks, one from Ken Robinson about the learning revolution, and the other from Shawn Cornally describing the Iowa BIG school.
My questions after both of these were simple:
In what ways are you who you are because of your school experience?
In what ways are you who you are in spite of your school experience?
We had a brief conversation about this, and students had really insightful and revealing comments about it. I didn't want to give a big assignment or written reflection for the break though. This is family vacation time, and I didn't feel the need - plus my plans for the next steps are still in the formative stages. I did want to get seniors at least thinking big picture about the role of school as part of their identity. One senior said on the way out: "pretty deep for the day before spring break, Weinberg." For someone who thinks about education as much as I (and most teachers I know) do, this type of question is the norm.