A year and a half ago, I went through a radical change in the way I am as a teacher. The whole foundation of what my classroom was was discarded and re-born, all on the basis of my gut instinct. It told me that to increase student motivation and increase buy-in that my method of teaching and, indeed, the whole feel of my classroom had to change. That to see motivation increase and excitement build that the old method I was using was so far away from what I wanted that it simply should not exist anymore. So instead of dismissing what some may have viewed as a crazy whim, unsafe territory if you must, I pursued, I went there and I took the chance of implementing it into my classroom and my unsuspecting students.
I trusted my instincts and my own desire for how my schooling should have been; projects, team-work, choices. And now in the second year into this implementation I am the proof that it works. I am the proof that if you believe in your students, if you believe in their ability to make great choices, to work together as teams rather than as individuals their learning will benefit. I have students who love coming to school, and not just those 50% that love you no matter what they do. I have kids that had given up, that believed that they could not succeed, that they were not smart enough to go to school, now tell me that they love coming, that they cannot wait to learn. That they cannot wait to be challenged. They may not ace every single assignment but they try and they grown. They may not get the grades that others get but they participate, they share and they know that their voice is just as important as those who used to be the top-kids, the stars of the room. They smile, they belong, and they own the community. School is a place they want to come to, not somewhere they have to go.
I cannot take credit for all of this because the students trusted me as well. They trusted me with their dreams of school and of learning. They trusted me with how they want to learn, how they see themselves as individuals and the paths they want to take. That speaks a lot of the relationships we have created. Those children trusted me enough to let me in, and to make our classroom their second home. So my classroom is the proof that these strategies work, even if you do not know that is what you are doing. My classroom is the proof that sometimes following your gut is more important than following any college class on classroom management. My classroom is the proof that even though your mentor does it one way, it is ok for you to do it completely different. We can change the way we do school and we can make school all about the children. We just have to be willing to change ourselves.