Make Mistakes, Get Messy

So, about two or three weeks ago I introduced my class to Genius Hour. I’d been putting it off because I wanted everything planned out and just right.  I made the Prezi from some great resources  from a great blog, Runde’s Room. The students were excited, they’d generated their lists of ideas, we’d even posted them on what was soon to be the Genius Board. Ok, I was ready…or so I thought.

So what happened? It never did get planned out perfectly.   I got distracted by all the other projects, ideas, and commitments I had going on. I dropped the ball, pure and simple. I thought time was running out, so why bother. I’ll tell you why, the kids. Even if just one kid is excited by the idea, that’s good enough for me.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. This is going to get messy. We may not even finish before the end of the year in May. I don’t even know if I’m even doing Genius Hour the right way. But you know what? I don’t care! I’m embracing the unofficial theme of our building this year. We’ve been encouraged to try new things, even if it doesn’t work at first. Like Ms. Frizzle says, “Make mistakes. Get messy.” Well, let me tell you Ms. Frizzle would be proud. You see, I’ve already made plenty of mistakes and it’s about to get messy.  I realized I should have spent more time teaching my students how to develop a good question that could be researched, starting earlier so they’d have time to create the projects they are so excited about. I have students who want to learn how to animate, create their own board game, write a picture book so little kids can learn how to become a defensive end (I’ll need to read it myself as I pretended to know what one is) and the students wanting to create their own websites to get people interested in saving wildlife and marine animals.

What do I do? I really can’t give up now (I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that idea hadn’t crossed my mind several times.). I’ve decided to just breathe and do the best I can for what’s left of the school year. I’m keeping notes of what I need to improve upon for next year. For starters we’ll begin much, much earlier. I’ll develop a lesson on writing an essential question (maybe even read Runde’s blog more closely (she’s done a lot of great work on this). Of course, more clear cut directions and expectations. I want them to have a notebook or binder to keep their materials in, as well as their reflections on the process. I think a timeline would help keep them on track and motivated. This kind of project, and the responsibility that comes along with it, is so new for most of my students. Really, it’s new for me as well. Instead of assisting my students with one project, I’ll be advising on so many more. It’s all going to be worth it, especially as I think back on the excitement of one of my most reluctant writers.

So, next week will be scary. Over 20 different projects going on at one time, some kind of mandatory standardized testing, an assembly, and probably only one computer plus my iPhone available for research. What could possibly go wrong? Everything, and that’s ok.

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