Monday, August 4, 2014

Thoughts on Student Ownership

I follow a lot of smart and reflective educators on Twitter.  This past year, I have noticed several of them have discussed the idea of student ownership of learning.  A lot of people have written about personalizing learning for students to increase motivation.
Intellectually, I agree with a lot of what these educators have written on the topic. However, I have had trouble visualizing how I might do that with my own students. Until today.
Last week, several players from our high school volleyball team performed service projects around the school. One group wanted to "decorate" my classroom. The coaches talked to me and I said I was fine with it. To be honest, I took posters down a few years ago because I thought the custodians were going to paint the classrooms that summer and never got the posters hung back up, so my classroom has been quite the drab space for a while.
What has amazed me is that despite being "done" with the service project time they were asked to do by the volleyball coaches, these kids are still coming back to do their work, which has transformed my classroom into a cheerful, colorful classroom. Why have I not thought of doing this before with students? Why don't we as schools, teachers, administrators, custodians, and community  members let our students put their stamp on their classrooms on a regular basis?
I have spent several hours scouring Pinterest for ideas to update my classroom. I now think that I should turn this task over to my students on a regular basis. How much more excited would students be to attend school in a place where they have added their own mark? How much more pride with they take in their school? How much fewer behavior issues would schools have if kids feel like the space is a joyous one that they've had an opportunity to design and decorate?
The pride, the energy, the amount of time these kids have put in has amazed me. I have thanked them countless times because it has been so enjoyable for me to watch them take control and ownership of the space.
I am still working out how to give more ownership of the learning to my students, but I have learned this week that the students will own the walls of my classroom from now on.