Tuesday, June 30, 2015

What would you choose?

Did you ever pick up a book, and start talking to its author out loud in agreement?

That happened to me today, as I cracked the cover on AJ Juliani's new book, Learning By Choice.  This is not the first time I've been a fan of AJ's -- and I'm not really sure when we first connected.  We follow each other on Twitter, and I frequently nod in agreement to his <141 characters there.

(If you happen to be a Kindle app fan, the download is quite reasonable on Amazon... but the reality is that you'll want to write in the margins and underline and highlight, and well, probably have something tangible for AJ to autograph, should you ever bump into him on the street.  Yes, it's that good.)

I know I listed a hefty list of books I'm perusing yesterday -- and I'm still actively reading every word of The Death Class, while scanning the Disney and qualitative observation books while mapping curriculum.  All of that came to a sudden stop with the arrival of Juliani's book, which gives me street cred to support what I've been doing in my room for several years.

I've seen it.  I've done it.  And I totally agree with his statement:  "Ultimately, choice consistently led to growth in the classroom."  

It's difficult as a teacher to watch as kids find their way, assuming the role of a tour guide in a foreign country.  Sometimes all visitors need are a few questions answered, and not the audio tour cassette, to truly immerse themselves and discover the unknown.   Traditional educators may look at choice as something out of their control, and to that I say, "Yup!"

Take the risk.  Talk to the kids as they travel through the process, and offer suggestions when they're asked for, and ask for reflections on the metacognitive process.  Because when kids control their learning, the biggest thing they learn is to take risks to satisfy their own curiosity, becoming more confident in the process.

While I was writing this entry this evening, I received a Facebook message from a student, which, in part, confirmed the value of choice:

"Thank you for supporting me and encouraging me, even when it came to Chemistry and Physics.  I am so excited to go on this trip! I feel the time I was able to be myself in your class has given me confidence and if I wouldn't have had that, this trip would be terrifying."

Certainly, unsolicited testimonials are the heart warmers of every teacher.  And the fact that allowing choice in my classroom has resulted in self-efficacy for this kiddo is research enough to prove student-choice is worth the risk.