It is that time of year when I spend a lot of time in my classroom without anything to do. I have successfully moved from the front to the back; the students are in charge. I am watching, commenting on work, editing when asked, but basically I am just there as a resource. It is not about me; it is about them. I love it, and it can leave me with time on my hands. They know what to do and are doing it! It is just what I planned for, starting in September, and it always amazes me when it happens so completely in the last few months of school.
Yesterday, my 7th graders were working on their Black Death project. They were researching, using mostly primary sources, to understand the impact that the plague had on the people of Europe. It is an introductory study for a “Change in Europe” unit that we do at the end of the year. They had been previously studying trade networks and the interactions that occurred along them: Silk Road and Indian Ocean networks. They are writing two diary entries: one from before the plague arrives and one after. They are also creating an image for a woodblock, based on images like the Dance of Death.
They had a 90 minute period to work. I reviewed the tasks and took any questions. Then I reminded them that when they felt the need to move around, get a drink of water or simply chat with a friend, they were free to do that, as long as it wasn’t disruptive to those around them. Then I let them go. Some sat in the desks; some moved to the cushions in the Reading Corner; some went to sit in the hall – a regular extended learning area in our Middle School. And I began my wandering.
There was silence, a few whispers, but mostly focused and concentrated silence. They had no need of anything but their own minds and hearts. They flipped through their resources and typed diligently away. I sat down; I wandered some more. Every now and then, there was a question or a request for me to proofread a section, but for the most part, they just wanted to work.
It wasn’t actually boredom, because I was focused on them and engaged in supporting their efforts, but it was far more passive than when I am directly the lesson. It felt great! The time was about them, and they knew what to do to make it happen! That’s a Spring Success!