I used to want to always set my students up for success. If a graphic organiser or two was needed to push them in the right direction, I would. If they needed to review, review, review, we would. If we needed specific tools to do an activity successfully one way, I had what we needed ready. It's not that I've stopped supporting them where they need it but now it's what they want, when they need it and how they want it.
What my students like to remind me every day, they (collectively) outsmart me any day of the week. So when I give them a task without a lot of parameters, they find a way to make it happen. Just like they did when they took over my class site or took it upon themselves to build class lessons or how they built their courses or support each other through their obstacles.
Today was no other. First thing on a Monday morning I told my students they needed to figure out a way to brainstorm different building materials for buildings and structures around the world. They could sort, write, create this brainstorm however they wanted but I was not going to be involved and they had to do it as a whole group activity. More than anything, it was a way for them to come together as a class to start the week but of course, they didn't know that.
We have worked really hard as a class to develop our abilities to work as a team, create diverse teams and try out different roles. We have talked about not always working with your friends, highlighting each other's strengths and supporting each others' areas of growth. We've talked about planning, process and final products. Most importantly we've talked about how their voice as students matter.
So today when I said go. I had one student tell me they needed time to discuss and brainstorm a strategy before they could begin. I asked how long they needed and got a response for 2 minutes. They discussed as a class of 15 different strategies to achieve the results building on each others' ideas. At the end of the 2 minutes, they had lined themselves up in numbered order, markers in hand and asking for 15 minutes to complete the task. In succession, they each wrote one idea on the paper and also shouted it out so others could hear before the next person took their turn. Fairness was a top priority for them and each student had 3 turns. In the last 2-3 minutes, they then asked for any other additional ideas that had not already been shared.
I could have led that discussion. I could've facilitated who was able to share their ideas and in what order. I could've asked them to write their ideas on a post-it or just raise their hand to share. But I didn't have to. It was fascinating to step back and watch them work.
It was certainly not the way I would've done it but what I've come to find is that they will figure it out. Whether I'm there or not, they will find a way to get through the challenge - independently or collectively. Sometimes you need to just trust your students, let there be tension, friction, moments of chaos and blurred lines. The clouds will clear and what you are left with is a result that was created by the students, that they are invested in and they can walk away from knowing they had a part in constructing their own learning.