Monday, February 16, 2015

Pure Genius Week 3: Creating a Culture of Innovation and Leadership

Could you relate to Don's story about giving his students freedom to decide what to study, but a majority of the students not knowing what to do? I think I would have been one of the students asking for a topic and research paper in high school. Have you given your students opportunities to have some freedom in your classroom? What about opportunities for students to be leaders? Or what ideas do you have for doing this in the future? Do you think freedom and leadership for students in your classroom will lead to innovation?

If you know of others who would like to participate in the book club, it's not too late. Just remind them to start with week one so we all have a chance to meet them. For next week, please read the next chapter, "There Is No Plan."

44 comments:

  1. Thinking freely and how we go about it is a great mystery to me. As very young children, we seem to be quite capable of exploring on our own. Then, as the structure of school takes over, we depend more and more on others to tell us what to think. Some of the limitations on our freedom may be necessary as skills are drilled and we need a foundation on which to build our free thinking. At some point it seems we may lose our confidence in our innate capabilities to be innovative, and we need to be patient in cultivating the return of this style of thinking.

    I noticed Wettrick was selective in choosing the students to be in his 'innovative' course. I understand why he didn't favor those who might drag their feet and bring down the morale of the class. Some of us do not have this luxury in compiling our class rosters. However, this distinction in which students might be successful at innovative thinking lets me know that when I try this with the general population of the school, I should not be surprised or dismayed that not everyone will respond favorably to the freedoms offered. As the students in Wettrick's first class of '20% time' struggled with the freedom, I will meet with resistance, yet every student needs an opportunity to pursue their own strengths and interests. As a math teacher with a long checklist of topics to cover, time is a crucial element to consider. I have not yet figured out how I might justify setting aside a block of time, but I have an inner voice telling me that students need freedom. I am open to ideas.

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    1. So true, Tammy. My response for last week and your response for this week echo the same themes. In our defense, when we became teachers we were handed a textbook and the goal was to cover as much of the content as possible. With so many items competing for time in any given day, I frequently think that I'm not covering as much as I used to ten, fifteen, or twenty years ago. I was not asked to remediate, collaborate as much with my colleagues or my students, to have students use laptops, or to create my lessons without a textbook in previous years. I think every teacher is still figuring it out, and honestly, so is the state of Indiana and every other state. I do worry that my students won't pass the English ECA in 10th grade because I didn't cover enough content in favor of projects, collaboration, and having less time overall. More testing is being added all the time, and teachers aren't sure of what is most important to cover. When worrisome moods strike me, I try to remember the best two teacher examples I can remember - my piano teacher and my high school French teacher. I ask myself why they stood out and try to incorporate things they did into my classroom.

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    2. Agreed, students can get so conditioned in school to find the "right" answer, we lose the most creative answer. We had a teacher in our building, after reading a story about wishes, ask his students to write about one wish they would make. A student opened her Chromebook and searched for the best wishes, because she wanted the right answer, or the best answer. We must get our students out of this type of thinking, it is not good for education and it is not good for their overall development. Pushing creative thinking, giving questions that have multiple answers, or allowing students choice in research projects can help revive some of this free thinking.

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  2. With being a music teacher, I am in with general classrooms as well helping with math and reading. I have seen some teachers and heard stories about how they try to give their students "20% time" to work and think freely. Some just sat there and begged the teacher to tell them what to look up. It was a struggle at first but was a huge realization that in today's world....students are so teacher driven that when given time to think freely (20% time) they just don't know where to begin. It would be beneficial for all students to have that amount of time, but I know some schedules are not flexible to allow that or that it may be too scary for a teacher to try. I wish that administrators and teachers would figure out some time for this to allow all children to experience 20% time. I have put some thought into how I could do that in a music class that meets once or twice a week for 40 minutes....still working on some ideas.

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    1. Music and art classes lend themselves to creativity and freedom, and you are right, the schedule does not! It would be so tough to give freedom to students when limited to 40 min. of time a week. I have also experienced students who didn't understand why I was turning more control over to them. Some students do not want to think for themselves and prefer the teacher to provide step by step instructions. I find this nerve-wracking when it is a challenge in the first place to allow myself to loosen the reins. : )

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    2. It's scary to see students not wanting to think for themselves. Many times the just want to know exactly what needs to be done--there is no looking beyond, finding information for information's sake. I find I want to learn more about topics as I read about them. I would love to see the majority of students seeking to learn more as well.

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  3. In my former job as a classroom teacher, I worked with my students to develop a 17 week, problem based class in Environmental Science. On the first day of this class, I split the students into groups and they determined the class. They decided what question we would study and how we would do the study. I directed them and facilitated the study, but the students ran the class. At first, they were reluctant to voice opinions or ideas, but once they realized that the entire focus of the class was on what THEY wanted to learn, rather than what I wanted to teach, they were excited and engaged. It was only when I gave my students the power to make their own decisions and choose the course of the class that I saw true innovation at work. This wasn't about the technology, these students had very limited access to computers and this was before everyone carried smartphones, but they were able to create authentic learning experiences with the resources they had available. This class was one of the most rewarding (and exhausting) classes I have ever taught.

    For the last few years, I have had students in a “Library Media” class. This year, I decided to make a change and allow my second semester students more control in writing portion of this English Elective class. I gave them very open ended goals, and left it to them to figure out how to reach the goals. So far, I have been impressed with their progress. The Sophomore students are writing books to be read in the Elementary library program and the student have come up with a wide variety of ideas (including a Kindergarten version of The Time Machine). My Senior students are producing videos. I have given them total control of the process (with instructions to come to me with questions) and I can’t wait to see what they produce. I created timelines for both groups to help keep them on track, but their final products and process are up to them. I have been very impressed with their progress so far and have high hopes for the coming weeks.

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    1. What great examples of student leadership in the classroom. These all sound engaging for students and very memorable pieces of their high school academic experiences.

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  4. Whenever I've tackled problem based learning or give students creative based questions, problems, or assignments, I'm always shocked at how little they have learned to be creative and think outside the box. Students are very used to being told what to do, the format it is to be done, and what questions to answer. Out of 20 students, usually 2 or 3 creative minded students can tackle creative writing prompts or projects. As the year has progressed and I have forced students to think outside the box, I see the number growing and changing. Unfortunately, our education climate is not growing or changing to allow this to happen more.

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    1. I agree wholeheartedly with you Megan, our education climate is not growing and changing to allow students to be more creative. The students are so scared of making a mistake they are hesitant to try something outside the box.

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    2. Yes, I agree that we must work harder to foster creative thinking in a setting that is not receptive to this freedom. We spend so much time drilling. It really would involve retraining the students to think more creatively,as it seems you are doing, and it's positive to hear you are making progress. I only wish the climate were more receptive.

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  5. I have experienced something similar to the story shared in the book. I was teaching a research unit to a group of 11th grade English students who were reading The Scarlet Letter. Needless to say, they weren't excited about the choice of text so the classroom teacher and I decided this would be the perfect unit to spice up with a project. The project was simple; each student had to present something during the final day of the unit and tell why their “something” was significant to the book. Well, the first two or three questions were “what should I do,” “can I just write a paper and read it,” and the best one, “how much will it affect my grade if I don’t do the project piece of the unit!” Anyway, we worked through it together and it was so worth it. I had a student who loved to sew and hand-stitched a beautiful embroidered A, an artsy student who re-created the entire village with legos, and an aspiring chef who made food samples from the time period. Even though the students were a little freaked out when they were given the freedom to choose, I think in the end we all learned a lot about each other. There were a lot of hidden talents in that classroom which would have been kept a secret had the students not been “forced” to leave their comfort zone.

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    1. Great idea. It is wonderful to discover hidden talents in students! It helps to see them as a whole person instead of just the student they reveal in a particular classroom. I always wonder why students don't let "more" of themselves be revealed to a teacher. Then I have to ask myself how much I've let my students see different interests of my own.

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  6. The last couple of years that I taught, I worked on slowly "flipping" my math classes. Although this didn't give the students a chance to chose what they wanted to study, it did give them a lot of choice in how fast to move through the material. I think over time, the student appreciated being afforded this freedom. It got to the point of when I did get in front of the classroom, students were actually annoyed that I was teaching them directly. Many of them had already taught themselves the material and waited until I was done so they could get back to work. This certainly didn't happen over night and it was a continual work in progress. I did not approach the level of having the students choose what to study, but I like to think I would have gotten there eventually.

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  7. I taught kindergarten for 5 years before moving into a tech position at my school. While my 5 and 6 year olds were of course more willing than some older students to come up with their own topics, I found that some still struggled with this... a lot.
    In a world where students (and the general population) have access to unlimited amounts of information on nearly limitless topics, we can sometimes find ourselves no longer branching out to learn about new things because of time restraints, the overwhelming list of choices or even just the ability to be so deeply involved with just few interests. In today's world there is so much we don't know that we don't know, and unless we are exposed to new things (often by others who are passionate about them), it is easy to go through life and school focused only on the things we already know and love. I think of all the things I know about because I once had a teacher that was passionate about them and shared that passion with the class.
    It's easy to join groups online and make friends online that already have our same interests, but when do we meet or interact with people that have different interests - interests that we may too enjoy, but have never been exposed to?
    Thinking outside the box and exploring new topics has to start with the realization that new topics exist - topics that excite or intrigue us. Perhaps one way to start a class or project like this is to have students make a list of things they know about and then share them with the class or compile them into a class list. You could have students interview each other, their parents, neighbors, friends, teachers, or relatives about their interests or passions. What may start as "borrowing" an interest or idea from someone may spark a true curiosity.

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    1. You are right: students lack exposure to a variety of interests or underestimate their own capabilities and talents. We have access to the www, but can make this resource as narrow or as wide as we choose. Personal sharing remains one of our best resources as well as an enhancement of communication skills.

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  8. My final year teaching I did a project with my middle school math class. It was called the big event. I told them they were going to be creating a big event to be held in the cafeteria of the school. They had to figure out what it was going to be, what they were going to charge, if they were going to have concessions, etc. The students had a difficult time with it from the stand point they did not know what kind of event they would want to have. Once I got them past that hurdle they did well on it.
    As a school (460 students) we are currently trying something out very similar to this. We had all the students take a survey telling us what topics they would be interested in learning more about. From there we narrowed the list down to about 40 and had them do it again. We then narrowed it down to the top 25 and had the students sign up for a group. We are holding our sessions everyother Friday and have had two so far. So far the kids are loving it. We are not doing any grades for it and still trying to figure out how the kids will demonstrate what they have learned at the end of the year. We are already in talks about how to change it for next year. Right now we have to alter the schedule everyother week so we are looking at how to do it and not have to change the schedule. We ran into the same issue with kids saying they were not sure what they wanted to learn about. Kids get so used to us "doing school to them" instead of "doing it with them" they are not sure how to handle the freedom of choice. I do believe through doing this though it helps to create those student leaders. When they learn how to learn on their own, I believe it will carry over into other aspects of their life.
    I am not real sure I answered the original questions or if I went off on a tangent.
    I am a firm believer in giving students choice though. I think we produce better learners and better citizens when we do that.

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    1. I did an activity like this in my high school (as a student 20 years ago) and I still remember it!! Things like this are what teaching is really about! These are the types of activities that they will take with them. Great job!

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  9. Freedom to chose a topic or project is hard. Last tech training I facilitated we provided time to create something and most T's struggled with where to begin. Allocating time for innovation and the freedom to chose projects and ideas is something I plan to explore. I love the concept of devoting 20% of our PD time together to create & innovate.

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  10. Giving the students in our life skills class the freedom to choose topics is VERY challenging for them. Even when we ask them to come up with a question or sentence on their own it is extremely difficult. Many students that struggle academically have always been taught that their thoughts are not good enough or aren't "correct" which leads to them not wanting to come up with original ideas.
    In thinking over previous teaching assignments I have had, I think the 20% time would be so beneficial for students. Unfortunately I agree with many others that when there are so many standards to cover and programs that need followed through on, finding that 20% time can be daunting. Freedom of one's own ideas and thoughts is a concept that many students feel they are denied in the classroom setting as they are constantly being told what to research, what project to do and exactly what work to produce. Imagine the possibilities if we allowed some original thoughts to shine through?

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  11. When I taught at the high school level, I had the opportunity to build my own elective course called Advanced Topics in Modern Science. I had the luxury of not worrying about standards and state assessments in this class, and I ran with it. Students were able to explore different topics that they chose. They had challenging research papers to complete once a semester, but they selected the topic (within reason).

    I love hearing about schools where students have several options before they leave high school that tap into their personal strengths. For example, I think that all schools that have a 1:1 program should strongly consider having a Help Desk / Tech Team ran by students.

    Also, I strongly encourage teachers to give students several options when demonstrating their learning. In this day and age, it doesn't make sense to have all students complete a PowerPoint when they could explore different tools, even if your school isn't 1:1.

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  12. This prompt is so timely for me! I have been co-facilitating Genius Hour-type projects with a teacher in my building this year. We started with sixth grade honors Humanities students over the course of one quarter, and the majority of them HATED the freedom. I think it was a combination of being fresh from elementary school (maturity) and kind of having that honors mindset of, "just tell me what I have to do for the A." This quarter we switched to her eighth grade honors Language Arts students, and we had fewer students panic. The eighth graders have really embraced the freedom and it has been amazing to see what they have come up with for their projects.

    We are actually getting ready to give the sixth graders another shot at this, because now that they have gone through the process once and reflected, they have started noticing that the eighth graders are doing what they did and a few have asked if they can try again. I am so interested in seeing how it goes with this same group a second time around.

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  13. I had this exact issue in a few of my classes the other day. I gave students a mini project to come up with a way to compare and contrast some civilizations we had been studying. For an example, I showed my students a few good projects from last semester. Well when all the projects were turned in I received a lot of work that mirrored the example. I really do believe the culture in school is "what do I need to do to get an A". It seems sometimes the brightest students are the ones who lack the most creativity because they are only concerned with the grade. Moving forward I'm hoping to design projects where I just ask "demonstrate to me that you know this skill" and then see what students come up with. No directions and a very vague rubric just to see what kind of creativity will come forth with that freedom. Also, I am really excited about the idea of passions class or 20% option for my school. We are moving to a new schedule next year and I could definitely see using some enrichment time to foster that type of class. I'm looking forward to reading more about how to create this type of classroom innovation and creativity.

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    1. You just described me as a high school student. And a college student. And maybe even as a teacher. :) I was the one who always wanted an exemplar to follow. What does an A paper look like? My 11th grade AP English teacher was especially frustrating for me because he wouldn't give me the examples I wanted. He still teases me when he sees me that he is the only teacher who ever made me cry. But I remember his class, and now looking back, I enjoyed being challenged in his class. For those of us with a massive fear of failure, creative freedom is SCARY. Slowly but surely I am learning to be brave, and I hope that by beginning Genius Hour with my six and seven year old first graders that I am teaching them to be brave, too. Maybe by the time they get to you, they won't be afraid to try something new.

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  14. Student "voice and choice" as the PBL crowd would say, is one of the pillars that make a highly active class run. I practice it to a degree by allowing for the overall theme, topic, concept, or standard to be applied by the student/group and then expanded. In a PBL setting that means choosing an issue or instance that was of the group's own decision. I have found that works very well because the students are energized by the idea that this would not have developed as a project without them. Ownership is an important component to curiousity.

    I teach AP U.S. History and we are really restricted in the amount of "voice and choice" we can employ with the tight content/skill guidelines that absolutely have to be covered by the national exam in May. However, I just introduced a project where the students get to choose how their assigned topic/key concept can be applied to other 'fields of inquiry disciplines.' Students appear to be very excited to step out of our routine and craft an understanding based on their own interests and experiences. I really hope I get projects that link the cultural changes of the 1920s to a play of musical arrangement being practice in our performing arts department, or technological innovations compared to concepts from our pre-engineering or physics classes. Students will present their projects in video or podcast form after fulfilling the usual 'primary source-thesis-research' type requirements. We are only one day in but I am always shocked how little direction my AP classes need when given some freedom and opportunity to be creative.
    I realize this isn't total freedom but it seems the best I can do given the circumstances.

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    1. Your careful pairing of concepts and inquiry assures a better education for all types of learners. I hope that circumstances in education continue to be short of total freedom as long as we have classes with labels like algebra, Spanish 1, AP U.S. History, etc. There is a much broader opportunity for choices when the course is an elective. Many students (and teachers) would avoid particular topics and details entirely if there were not directives and constraints on the reins. Some of us have concerns that students show a lack of motivation to be self-directed in their choices and interests; in contrast, successful educational freedom presumes that students want to learn about a wide range of ideas. Having put a couple of my own children into college in the last few years, I can attest that their success has been based on rigor, enjoying a smattering of creativity along the way. I do not want my physician to have 'chosen' his way through medical school, yet medical advances come from freedom of thought. As in many arenas, balance is best.

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    2. Several excellent points to consider, Tammy, balance being the strongest with which I agree.

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  15. As a "Type A" personality, one lesson I learned early on in my career was that students will do things differently than I will. Does it mean it is wrong? No. As long as they are accomplishing the task, they are achieving the goal. I like the idea of letting students do some exploration. I do not know if I would have been as open to it 20 years ago. I think that this is a great opportunity for students, but as has been echoed in many of the comments, some students are into the "game of school," looking for the "right answer" instead of being creative and trying to come up with a unique perspective on something. Some students want so much "hand holding" when working on a project. How does this idea tie into the "millennial mindset"?

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  16. I think it is hard to initially give up the "power" of the classroom, and let students choose what they want to do. I teach special education. Probably 80% of my students would want some guidance on where to go or what to investigate. I have given my students choices in some of the lessons that we do. I have given them choices when it comes to cumulating activities after reading a novel. I've given them choices on research papers. I do have some opportunities for freedom in the classroom. However, I always have to be very cautious about freedom. Some of the students would like to take advantage of it. While reading Lord of the Flies, I gave students the freedom to create their own tribes, their rules, and waited to see if a leader emerged in each tribe. Each tribe was interesting. Some leaders emerged right away and some tribes never had a leader. I think freedom and leadership are great ideas to foster in the classroom. I would love to give my students more freedom. They just need guidance along with that freedom.

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    1. I do a very similar simulation with my students while reading Lord of the Flies. As a result of working with their tribes, the novel becomes one of their favorite reads of the semester.

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  17. The students I work with in middle school have such great ideas and ask really funny, interesting questions. Sometimes they need help taking their "random" thoughts and turning them into questions that could really work for something like a genius hour. Just the other day a teacher of mine was talking to her students about what questions they had about life...one wanted to know why a tv show was so popular. With enough drill down, that could be taken to a lot of deep learning about marketing, target audience, and many other issues that could apply to students in their professional lives...not to mention create an awareness of how they are targeted by marketers every day.

    I really love the concept of Genius Hour and allowing complete freedom for students to delve into their interests and inquiries...Ultimately, many of our standards can be tied into the topics they are interested in with enough support on creating and developing the inquiry and questions they investigate!

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  18. A colleague and I started a Genius Hour after school club a few weeks ago. The process has been a wild roller coaster ride. We are ready to begin the research phase, and I am nervous. "Do you think freedom and leadership for students in your classroom will lead to innovation?" I think that I am about to find out.

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  19. I have always held the belief that if students are interested in whatever it is they are learning about, that the learning outcomes will be much greater. Just as several others have said in their posts, I always allow students to select their research paper topic; however, I give them parameters. For instance, if we've just finished reading a novel that was set during the 1940s, the students must select a topic for their papers that relates to that time period. I learn a great deal from these papers, too!
    I started something this year with my A.P. English students that required them to work with a partner and identify an aspect of our community that needed attention or support. From there, they identified the problem in the community and developed a three tiered plan to improve this condition. They researched their topics thoroughly, wrote a research paper, and then created and gave a 15 minute presentation to their peers and a panel of adults that included beautifully done visual aides. Their project ideas were amazing: "Heart for Art" (providing art supplies to elementary schools to enable them to have an after-school art club), "Protect the Herd" (encouraging and bringing education to the public about the importance of vaccinations), "Serve the Vets" (working at the IN Veterans Home with veterans - includes becoming pen pals with these vets and planning appropriate social activities for them on a regular basis, "Don't Be Trashy - RECYCLE!" (increasing the number of recycling containers within our school and adding recycling containers to city parks in our area, "Take It Outside" (creating an outdoor learning space for our students on our school's campus...I could go on and on. I was AMAZED at their passion and excitement regarding this project. We decided as a class to follow through with one of the project proposals. The class selected "Serve the Vets". We are currently working with the IN Veterans Home and will be assisting with an Honor Flight out of West Lafayette in the spring. The kids have become incredibly passionate about our veterans throughout this process, and I truly feel that their passion has developed as a result of this project not being something that I mandated to them, but rather, one that first developed in their minds and has continued to flourish.

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    1. Alicia,
      Those are some awesome ideas! My father-in-law, a World War II veteran and the proud recipient of a Purple Heart, got to go on an Honor Flight the year before he passed away. He enjoyed it so much. Your students will remember assisting with the flight the rest of their lives.

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  20. I do not have a "classroom" but present classroom lessons on various topics and work with students on service learning projects. During lessons I try to give students opportunities to pursue their personal interests and passions as they relate to the topic or project. Sometimes this has worked very well and other times not so much. It seems in my experience when students develop a passion for something they are more willing to take risks. I have long been a fan of Carol Dweck's work on closed and open mindsets and how this influences a student's behavior in the classroom. I hope to learn more about supporting and facilitating students becoming leaders in the classroom.

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  21. I certainly can relate to giving students the freedom to lead, seeing their eagerness to do so, and observing their reluctance to grasp the reins. As band assistant to the Salem Marching Lions, it is my job to lead the physical, breathing, and playing warm-ups at the beginning of every rehearsal. This year I decided to change it up and have the seniors lead the physical and breathing warm-ups. I discussed this with them in advance and they were excited for the opportunity to take the lead.

    At the beginning of rehearsal, the band forms a large circle to do the exercises. I had the seniors form an “inner circle” facing outward towards the band. As we do the same routine every rehearsal, it was not surprising that the body warm-ups went well. The seniors just needed to start the band. The breathing warm-ups were a different story. We have at least 20 breathing work-outs from which to draw each practice. I usually chose 6 and since there were 6 seniors I told them they could each choose a different breathing exercise to lead. When it came time to actually do this, these zealous seniors seemed to forget every breathing exercise we ever did. I was determined to let them lead and impatiently stood silent on the sideline. Eventually one of the seniors took the lead and ran the breathing warm-ups by himself. The next day I gave them a little more structure and called on each senior to select a warm-up and this worked a bit better. The next day they were on their own. As the season progressed they became pros and I think this exercise planted a leader seed in a few minds. A couple of juniors came up to me before rehearsal one day and asked if they could join the “inner circle” since they were upperclassmen. I kindly informed them that they would have their chance next year as seniors.

    I found this chapter very interesting, especially the intrinsic versus extrinsic rewards. I see the results of this daily in band class. When a student finally achieves a technique they have been working on diligently, there is nothing more rewarding to the student than the feeling of success.

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  22. After reading this chapter and watching Dan Pink's TED talk "The Puzzle of Motivation," I reflected on the five principals I've worked for during my teaching career. I was being paid while working for all of them, and yet, it is true, I have felt like some principals pushed me to do more, and to like doing more, and at least one of them held me back and made me resent a particular leadership style. Reflecting back to different teachers I've had, the same is true. By trusting that students are capable, interesting, and creative, the students became more capable, interesting, and creative. Of course, some students live up to autonomy, mastery, and creativity more readily than others. I can still remember which teachers stood out as making me feel that they "liked" teaching, and which ones didn't. I wanted to work harder for the teachers who exuded good feelings to students, and I didn't want to work as hard for teachers who didn't. Going along with Dan Pink's theory, the payment I was receiving was a grade in each class, so whether I liked a teacher and his or her class or not, I should have been working for the grade, right? Only partially true; I also worked more diligently when the rewards were intrinsic, like feeling like I was allowed to be creative, feeling more alive and interested in a particular teacher's class, and feeling like the relationships with the teacher and my classmates were developing into something memorable. It is hard to find 20% time, but if I let my students have more freedom, if I encourage diverse thinking, and if I emphasize relationships, it will eventually pay huge dividends. I currently give my students some freedom of choice, but I need to give them more choices when I can.

    I loved the part of the chapter that discussed going over classroom rules on day one. This has always bothered me, and this chapter hit the reason why. Rules are necessary, but maybe I can spend less time on going over them on day one. Maybe this can wait until students get to experience some positive feelings. This year my students did "Snapple Facts" on day one, sharing a snapple fact from a lid they drew from a container, and then writing ten facts about themselves and choosing one or two to read out loud. It was fun for me, and the students seemed relieved to be doing something different than going over rules most of the period.

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  23. As a PE teacher it is difficult to allow that type of freedom. It is not just having them for 40 minutes per week but the space for them to work on different physical activities. When I was a junior high classroom teacher we did the 20% creative time. Students did have a difficult time coming up with what they wanted to study. I found that starting small works better. I gave the students as the first project the subject, Civil War. Students could pick anything from the civil war to research and study. The second project was any subject from 1900 to 2000. The third project was anything they wanted. I still had students who wanted to be assigned a topic but a lot fewer then with the first project.

    We need to have more creative time in the classroom where the students come up with the topics from time to time. Not just once a year.

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  24. Being an intense intervention teacher, this chapter provided interesting information, such as the student's not knowing what they are interested in and the worst, thinking they would fail the assignment, because they didn't know what really interested them. Almost every year, I have a transition student, peer tutor, or school to work student assist in my class. All of them didn't know their passion or interests, or what they would do after graduation.

    I concur with the author, that "helping students find their bliss is one of the greatest gifts we can give". As a parent, and grandparent, I take this quote to heart. My husband and I continually have conversations with my grandchildren on how they see their future and what they want to do in their lives. In reading the above comments, I came away with the thought of success breeds success. The same concept works with my students that are severely cognitively and physically challenged, building on their successes one at a time.

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  26. I love the idea of student choice, but at the middle school level, I think structure is needed to guide them toward personally-motivated discovery. Creating lists or choice boards promote decision-making while encouraging project completion. I have learned so much from my students who researched a topic that I did not have time to include in our daily lessons. If I can have my own classroom again, I would like to thoroughly integrate technology into the basic lesson to free our time to delve into some new, exciting activities which will make the lessons more "alive" and pertinent to our times.
    I completely agree with the TED Talks video about motivators: teachers only take on this career for the passion of guiding our children through their developmental phases, not because the reward is great. The merit pay concept should have been researched a bit more based on the video. Some of the best educators I know come in early, stay late, or both to create engaging lesson plans or to tutor their students toward greater classroom achievement.

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  27. Many of the students I had in my classroom were like the ones in the book. By the time they had made it to my middle school reading class, they hadn't been given many opportunities for choice. When given the simplest choices to make with an assignment, they didn't have an idea of what to do. But after experiencing it and learning what it meant, they liked having those choices in their assignments or topics to study.

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  28. I teach Algebra I so feel very constrained to the ECA curriculum. Still, I would love to try flipping my classroom next year. Maybe placing more responsibility on the students for learning and hence offering more choices in how my students learn the material will help make my students more leaders than passive learners. This summer I want to stretch myself a little by creating more opportunities for choice in my classroom. Currently, I have 3 projects where students have choice in topics and how they choose to present their material. This year especially my students are loving the projects. The students struggle with finishing their daily problems. But they are all over the projects. More opportunities for students to be creative in how they demonstrate their knowledge is the key!

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  29. I enjoyed this chapter a lot and the idea of taking a class myself such as this one is something I would enjoy, though I might start to wish for more guidelines. I think the concept is great and would love the chance to see this in action. However, I am not so sure that this concept is AS feasible for my class. I teach students with severe disabilities in middle school and they literally NEED structure and guidelines. However, I am enjoying the idea to rise to the challenge and find some ways to incorporate this for my students. I was also inspired to think of this concept with my paras and how that would work. HMMMMMMMMM...........

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