During parent/teacher conferences each year, we alter our schedule and release all student, K-12, at 2:00 to give the teachers time to prepare for the conferences scheduled for that day. Tim, one of our teachers, came to me after conferences were over and said “what if we altered the schedule like conferences every Friday. Not to send the students home, but to allow them to learn about something they don’t ordinarily study.” Always open to doing something new and different, I said, “let’s take it to the teachers on Wednesday at our meeting and see what they have to say.” I brought it up that week and talked a little bit about the book I was reading at the time, Genius Hour by Don Wettrick. The discussion just took off. I would not say that what we came up with would resemble a genius hour or a 20-time, but it was unique.
We started by polling students about what they would want to learn. We had topics like military strategies, website design, cake decorating, cosmetology, mythology, auto mechanics, zombie apocalypse, etc, etc. We also asked the students if they would be willing to facilitate the learning and some were willing to do that. We then took the list of ideas the students gave us and asked the students to select three, in order of desire, they would want to be a part of. From there we took the top 25 topics and posted them for the students to sign up for. We had at least one teacher sign up for the different topics so there was a supervisor for them. After the students signed up there were three topics that were eliminated because of lack of participants. All of this took place between the middle of November and February.
So now it is time to start. I told the teachers I was apprehensive because I did not know how it was going to turn out, and I like to have some idea of what it would look like before starting. We started anyway. I visited every room on that first day to see how things were going. It was amazing! Students were leading discussions about topics they don’t normally get to study during the school day. Middle School and High School students were working together on how to gather the information they needed. Students were making suggestions on what route they wanted to group to take. We did our “Fun Fridays” every other week (for the most part) until school was out. After the first few weeks, we did have some that wanted to change groups, mainly stating the group they were in was not exactly what they thought it would be. We allowed them to do that.
Looking back on it now, I would have to say it did not go the way I had envisioned it. But that is ok. I feel like we need to make some tweaks to what we were doing. One teacher told me that a lot of the students commented that they learned more about how to be organized in a task. They learned how to break a big task into smaller chunks to make it more manageable. They learned how to work together and collaborate with a common goal in mind. Even though it did not go the way I had imagined, it was still worth doing. The majority of the students were excited about learning new things. Isn’t that what school is supposed to be about? Getting our students excited to learn new things.
One of the biggest things I learned from this experience is that when we give students more choice and get out of their way, they will respond with a higher level of learning. Maybe we cannot always give them the choice of what they must learn, but can’t we give them some choices on how they will learn it, and how they will demonstrate that learning? When we give our students choice, they will choose to do amazing things. Some of the cakes our cake decorating group produced were awesome!
Here is a picture of some of the cakes produced
Until next time…….May all your Fridays be Fun Fridays