Friday, January 29, 2010

January 29th: Let Go and Let Students

I don't know why I've always been so hesitant to let students take more control in the classroom. Unless, of course, we start talking about my own control issues. But let's not...that won't be a pretty conversation!

One of my personal goals for this school year has been to work on my control issues by letting students make more decisions about their own learning and, more importantly, helping to implement those decisions...that's the hard part.

One of my weakest areas as a teacher has to be the dreaded bulletin board. I have seven of them: six in my classroom and one in the office hallway. For the most part, the boards in my classroom don't really change all that much. But I really needed to do something about one of them because it looked so bare.

There was more to the board than this; I had pictures of a few books on the board
with yarn attaching them to the appropriate genre on the poster. I just don't have a
picture of it...probably because it wasn't worth the effort of getting my camera out!

As we're getting ready for Open House this weekend, I decided to ask my students for their ideas of what should be on display for their parents to see. Several students mentioned our Hope Notes project and could we do something with that. Bianca suggested each student make a new Hope Note or two and we combine them all to form one large Hope Note Quilt. I loved that idea! Then Colleen suggested we use my pathetic bulletin board (my words, not hers) to display our Hope Notes. Awesome idea!!

Later, I asked Colleen if she would take charge of creating our new bulletin board. I had to remind myself several times that she was in charge...not me! When she first shared with me her idea, I was hesitant. I just couldn't see how it would work.

"Um, remember," I said to myself, "you're not the creative one here!"

Right. I knew that.

Colleen solicited the aid of Carrie and Sierra; she was going to need it. The project got bigger than I had anticipated.

"It's okay," I reminded myself, "they are the creative ones."

Right. I knew that.

I stopped by the back table where they were working to check in and see how they were doing. They'd come up with a new idea and were explaining it to me. My inner non-artist critic couldn't see how it was ever going to work, and I started to stop them.

"It's okay," I said to myself again, "let it go. All will be well."

Right. I knew that.

I repeated the phrase, "Whatever you decide will be awesome," several times to the girls. But I think it was really directed at me. A reminder that I had given up control of this project to those who were born with the creative gene that I was not.

And here is the finished product:

The letters in "Hope" were created by using individual Hope Notes (made on colored index cards). I need to change the border since the board no longer has something to do with literature, but I just love what the girls came up with!

"You see," I told myself as I was taking this picture, "you see what can happen when you give up a little control? Something amazing can be the result!"

Right. I know


  1. Thanks for sharing this. I laughed because I have a 6th Grade Student Aide who asked me last week if she could re-decorate one of my dull bulletin boards to highlight what we're up to in class. I have trouble reflecting our digital activities on an analog, 2D surface so I could use the help. She is currently working on making a custom border (that's creative!). I hope to show you a picture of the finished product soon.

    Best to you and your kids, @2020nexus

  2. That looks awesome! Nicely done... a good push for control freaks like me to give it up and watch what amazing things will come of it.