Fearless Learners: Student-Led Learning with a Little Fear Added In!

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As the book states, "How can my evaluator click all those boxes if I am not standing in front of the class teaching?", my journey begins with my evaluator.   Three years ago I experienced for the first time a "ding" in my classroom evaluation.  I passed out post-it notes at a very well timed place in my lesson.  I purposely withheld my post-its because it was a key point in the lesson and I didn't want my teams of students moving ahead without a check-in by me.  Great right, they were controlling the learning but I was controlling the pace.  That meant "DING, NEEDS IMPROVEMENT!"  I was told that the students were NOT in control of their learning and that I needed to be more student focused in the classroom!  WHAT!!  This about someone who was known for their differentiation!  Known for their ability to let students work through Project Based Learning modules that were created with them?  WHAT!

Needless to say, this spurred me into investigating the Student-Led Classroom.  To my dismay, there isn't a lot of easy to find materials.  I used what I could and worked in many strategies others found successful.  Then, I came across this!



This summer I am embarking on REALLY changing my classroom and this is the book that is taking me there, FEARLESSLY  and with FEAR all in the same moments.  Let's jump into the first section, shall we!


Authors Christy Sutton and Kristin Westberry come from two different levels of teaching, one middle school teacher and one elementary teacher.  So, that answers the first question many people would ask, "What grades does this work for?"  They jump fearlessly into justifying through examples EXACTLY why this works-from their stories to student examples.  Plus, it is a simple read that won't take you lots of time to get through!   One of the key things to remember is if "I allowed myself to fail, I allowed students to fail, and that is a HUGE success!"  This doesn't mean fail a paper, grade on a report card, etc. This means this is going to be a success/failure/success driven system where students and teachers work together to create it and celebrate together when it works.  It is a system that means teachers and students go back to the drawing board when needed and create together a classroom that is joyful to be in and where self-paced learning beats the current system of "move it or loose it test scores!"

One of the key components of this system is to start with a class survey.  Sutton and Westberry break it down nicely into a scale model.  Then, from  this survey, you can take the students input and develop systems within the classroom-both with curriculum and with behavior management-where students grow and learn with a self-motivation that is greater than any road map or curriculum guide out there!  They also provide a picture of what it looks like that can actually be used in any classroom at any grade.

Ironically, this Section awakened many things I've done many moons ago but with the advent of high stakes testing,  I put away.  I put it away in fear of loosing kids to these tests and setting them up for failure.  I've step away from best practice to teach the test-without thinking about the realities of how student led learning can FIX most of this, if done right!  So, here's my plan of action so far!

1.  Look at my district's roadmaps and make a decision about how to monitor the standards taught but also how to give kids the BEST mode to learn them in, which is self-pace to the mastery that should be attained!

2.  Design classroom roadmaps for units in Math, Science and Social Studies that allow students to explore the topics and create their own outputs for learning-to the mastery level!  This is actually the easiest for me to see!  I've already done some of this in these areas, so I can just adjust the ideas to flow into self-paced modules with DEEPER extensions.

3.  Design my surveys for student input for the beginning of the year.  Design how I want Morning and Afternoon Meetings to look after I have input from these surveys.

4.  Think about systems for schedules and tracking of learning goals that can be contained by the student.  This doesn't mean I will design them.  I just need a classroom tool that I know I will follow through with.  That's the big thing for me-what I know I will do, not the kids.  I have to manage myself so they will manage themselves!

5.  Decide how Language Arts will look!  There are so many components there!  I have no idea how I will manage this part yet.  This is my black hole!

There it is!  That is the majority of my fear laid out right there!  Big black holes too!  Yet, one fear remains.  (Who am I kidding-many fears remain! Good thing one of the sections is named "Let it Go!")  The one fear is THAT kid ! THAT kid who will, no doubt, have every excuse for not doing anything.  I've had THAT kid-who sets out to just, plain, be lazy!  What do you do about THAT kid!  So far, no answer-but I'm only on Section 1!  The best thing is, there's some support out there too!  One of the nice things about this text is they also offer a "support group" online!

Overall, this is a refreshing, easy read that can be practically applied to any level classroom-if you are willing!  And, that's the key!  If you are not open and willing, you will drop out (as one of our small group members did before we even started!)  So, I offer you this...How willing are you to turn your teaching world upside-down, inside-out, and all the way around!  If you are ready, go for it!  I will be there with you!

Feel free to comment with your thoughts and ideas!  Also, join me over at my blog, The Best Days, to read more about each section and my thoughts and ideas!  I'll be posting all year with how things are going and truths that I have seen and learned!  Can't wait to see you there!


For the Whole Series, start HERE!  

by Julie from The Best Days

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2 comments

  1. You will love it! It is easy to read and very insightful. Even if you try just a little bit, it can change your classroom dynamics!

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