It is almost hard for me to remember now just how lost we all felt in September when we launched “Fab Fridays” at our school. I was excited but totally out of my comfort zone and had no idea what to do or where to start. I knew that my role would/should be that of facilitator as our students began exploring student driven learning. But they felt lost too. They lacked understanding of what that even was or might look like, stamina to work through challenge and skills to identify areas of interest and figure out what to do next. We teachers knew we had to lay a foundation and teach a few skills that would allow students to begin their independent learning adventures. In September we all stumbled along. Early topics were limited. Initial projects were not pretty. First presentations were disappointing. And for every glimmer of hope and success and every nugget of possibility and moment of excitement and exploration, there was also stress, frustration and fatigue. Some Fridays my co-teacher and I would look at each other and say, “Last Friday went so well. What happened today?” We’d meet and brainstorm ideas and try to troubleshoot by looking through students’ Friday folders.
But now… now… I can hardly remember all that. Students are on a roll. Topics are interesting and projects are becoming thoughtful and thorough. Yesterday I learned about the mystery of Oak Island from a Third grader who put together a Keynote presentation to share his research. His classmates were so engaged that they asked questions for nearly 10 minutes after he finished presenting. And I overheard more than one say, “I’m going to go look for more information about Oak Island.” I also learned all about preparations people who live in volcano prone areas make. The presenters not only made an iMovie, but also distributed a pamphlet in which they included key information. Last week I learned about migraine headaches- the causes, symptoms and treatments. Third graders have taught me things I never knew about each of these topics. How exciting is that?
Fridays aren’t perfect, but I don’t think they are meant to be. They are rich and interesting and full of learning explorations, twists and turns. The conversations I have with Third graders leave me in awe. Yesterday, as one student was exploring ideas for a new topic, she looked at me and said, “I’m not sure yet what I want to learn about this topic. I think I need to do some reading first to figure out my questions.” Yes! And she is in Third grade. Wow.