The Recurring Nightmare 

I woke up the other night with the same recurring nightmare. It happens around once every two weeks at exactly 3 in the morning.

The dream starts out harmless enough. I’m in front of a room full of students with all eyes glued on me. I’m carefully explaining expectations for the project work they will complete in a short moment of time. I ask if there are any questions, and after seeing that there are none, I set them free. 

That’s when all hell breaks loose…

Within one minute, four of them are on youtube watching the latest music video. Two others are playing cards and placing bets. Four more are reenacting UFC moves on the bean bags in the corner.



What happened? Things were supposed to be clear! 

How many of you have had the same dream? While I’m sure it involves different student activities, I have a hunch it involves the same fear- students who have no clue what they’re supposed to do. 

Project Work 

It’s this very fear that has prevented many of us from pursuing the project work we know is most important with our students.

Leading projects with students represents a level of uncertainty that puts most teachers on edge. They involve trusting students to be self- initiated, seeking and finding answers themselves. They involve continual check- ins and re- directing, keeping students on track with their own learning. And finally, they involve patience. Lots of it

But projects also offer the greatest rewards. Projects are what inspire students to complete work that is meaningful and will have an impact in the real world. They are what make both teacher and student proud come exhibition time.

So how do we successfully manage projects? How do we avoid the 3 am nightmare and instead, dream of focused, highly engaged students? 

Following these tips might help…

Project Management for the 21st Century Leader 

Tip #1: Create a project calendar: Establishing clear deadlines with students will help ensure they are working towards milestones. It will help break the project into manageable chunks. 

Tip #2: Work on tasks via an online project management tool: There are some neat project management tools out there for tasks, responsibilities, deadlines, etc. There are tons out there, but here’s one that has worked for us:

Trello: Great drag and drop features. Allows you to move tasks as they are completed. 

Tip #3: Keep a Central Location for Project Handouts: Having one central location for project handouts will ensure you can keep students on track as you move through the project.  

Google DocsGreat way to edit students work and work collaboratively with them on project management.

Microsoft OneNoteWe have used OneNote exclusively with our students. The notebook feature is brilliant. We keep an online project notebook for every project. Easy to differentiate stages of project.  

Personal Blog: I recommend WordPress. They are super easy to create and allow for the linking of resources, handouts, exemplars, etc. 

Tip #4: Document Process: Giving students a place to document the project process will hold their work to a higher standard and ensure they are engaged in constant reflection. 

We use onenote and personal blogs. I recommend linking all student blogs/ digital portfolios to your main blog. 

Tip #5: Set goals regularly: Schedule project check- ins with students to ensure they are setting and keeping up with individual milestones and goals. Here is a sample of one we have used to assist in our current project:


Project Management Template


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