There is a wonderful moment in the life of a theme when I am no longer in charge. Students have ideas and act on them. They no longer wait to be told what to do -- they know what they want to do and, unless it involves the paper cutter, they know they have permission. I become a go-fer and consultant. I find bits and pieces students need to fulfill their plans, I brainstorm ideas for solutions.
These are the days I live for as a teacher. It can't be every day. It takes a lot of learning to get to this point. Students need to really know what they are doing to be independent -- they have to have confidence in what they are teaching. They have to have a vision and that takes time. But then, once we're there...it's amazing.
So many times in the past few days I was reminded of how much more there is to learn in school than "the facts." Sure, we've learned a lot about the Elizabethan period - the social structures, the science, the culture, the technology. But, as we've prepared to teach the school, we've had to work on many different skills. Students had to break down the big task of developing a living museum experience into smaller, manageable goals. They had to coordinate with other students about what they were teaching. They had to problem solve -- everything from where they would get the tables they need to how they would build a bed. They had to prioritize. Then there were the practical skills of getting things done -- if you don't have paint but want to paint, how do you get paint? What if you want to make 2,000 pence to pass out to the school - what's the most efficient way to do that? How do you make a table to organize your information? How can you make black lemonade (to give someone deficient in black bile)?
And, as they get deeper into their work, I become less relevant. Ideas are percolating. Plans are getting bigger.* The classroom expands into the hallway and beyond. Students begin to help each other as they complete their work -- not because I tell them to but because there is so much to be done. We need to work together. That imperative is at the heart of the progressive classroom. There is a lot of work to be done and we know just the kids to do it.
* (Note from last paragraph) It was at this point in a theme a few years ago that a student came up to me and said, "The Merchandising Committee has decided to make T-shirts." I hadn't even known there was a merchandising committee. Again, these are the days you live for as a teacher. You see your kids learning to make things happen. mm