I had a student last week explain the frustration that I was causing in her life. She expressed a confusion in that, “Mrs. S. you make me question everything I thought I knew about school.”
At first, I thought that I should somehow be offended, but that wasn’t an appropriate response. I understood the importance of what we are doing in that student’s very honest remark. She had no ill intention behind the comment, but an understanding on her part that what she thought was “school” was, in fact, not the best that “school” could be. Her education is just beginning. I also began to understand that her personalized education had never been taken into consideration before.
I am constantly reassuring students who are new to a TPBL classroom that what is truly important is that students learn the material–not simply finish it. In my education, I was trained to finish things. I remember taking home my 6th grade history workbook in order to “get ahead”. I was sure that would make me stand out amongst my classmates and my teacher. However, my teacher had a different response. Instead, we were punished for working ahead. I think often about that day in class. The fact that I remember wanting to learn at a different rate, as a bad thing, sticks with me even today.
I know that many teachers feel a certain frustration when approached with personalized learning. TPBL allows me to help every student approach a problem in a way that he/she can accomplish the material. It allows the students and the teachers to work in a synchronous fashion to help each student learn the material. It allows every teacher to be a facilitator of learning and not a pitcher of knowledge.
The result? It’s very simple. Students begin to understand that they have a voice in their own education. They begin to realize that education has no walls. And without walls, classes have a purpose. Their voice matters. A generation of students who understand that their voice matters can only be a generation of which we can be proud and confident. A generation that can solve a problem and make a decision without having to question whether a teacher had ever taught them how to answer that question.