This summer I have been waiting for that epiphanal moment where I know with confidence….this coming school year is about ________. It floods me with excitement and enthusiasm for the coming year and sends me straight to Kmart to check on back to school sales. Usually inspiration comes from the educational publications, TED talks, and research. When June came and went without that moment, I was a tiny bit anxious…but I still had lots of time. In July I attended a CUE Rockstar Teacher Technology camp, and although I left with a long list of apps and websites to try no moment came…at least not right away. My brain was working on putting together the fireworks, but I needed a little reflection.
It happened in my kitchen at 6:45AM on July 23rd as I sat looking at my yearly curriculum calendar. I kept thinking about how I want the kids in my classroom to learn the same way I learn…I want them to experience the joy of making a discovery, the curiosity I have about the world, and the pleasure I experience as I investigate the issues that matter to me and how I work to solve problems for the people I love. And then there was a cognitive explosion of color and a flood of emotion as I realized this year is not about what I have learned from others…it is about what I have learned from my own life! It is about the journey of self-discovery I share with my husband Mike.
The truth is that I am blessed to have found a life partner that LOVES to learn as much as I do. August marks 19 years of marriage, which have included a wide variety of themes and projects. Together we have investigated spiritual growth, home renovation, furniture making, and raising gluten-free kids. Along the way we have become experts in some things like nutrition, travel baseball, and visiting National Parks, while we remain lifelong learners in others like being a great parent without losing your mind and reading through the Bible.
We feed our passion for these projects with constant information. Magazines like Runner’s World, Sports Illustrated Kids, and Fine Woodworking fill our mailbox. We use YouTube to catch up with Tony Horton’s latest release, check out places to visit in the Smoky Mountains, and research the best way for a catcher to release the ball. And we are always looking for something fresh and interesting to help us answer a question, improve our technique, or set another goal. Just last week we found a free 150 pound tire which we had to lug home so we could beat at it with a rubber mallet until our lats ached with exhaustion. It is our latest acquisition in the never-ending, “Get Ripped Project”.
Of course not every project is one we share…Mike is a hunting and fishing aficionado and I am an educational evangelist. But there is shared respect and support. I cook venison chili and agree to allow our list of future big ticket purchases to include 80 acres and he built chairs for guided reading and brings home turkey feathers for the kids in my F.L.I.G.HT. classroom to use as bookmarks. We use our projects as ways to express affection, share passion, and strengthen our connection.
And so for this coming school year, my class is going full PBL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! PBL stands for Project Based Learning. It means that all year the kids and I are going to be working on learning through solving problems and journeys of self-discovery. We are going to frame our investigations into year long cross curricular projects that will produce huge learning gains. They will question, read, and research with intensity. Because the kids are going to be answering their own questions, they will have the opportunity to experience what it feels like to be a life-long learner, with me as their partner.
At a meeting with my student teachers last week, I shared that I am so excited to go back to school I am coming out of my skin. I can’t wait to learn alongside the kids in my care knowing they have so many valuable lessons to teach me. F.L.I.G.HT. is going 2.0 and I have finally found my educational platform. It more than powerful than an approach to lesson planning or a software system… it is a lifestyle of endless learning. It has the power to transform the way we view education. Because in the end, the greatest project of my life is not to learn so I can know, but to learn so I can love.