That’s me above- admittedly struggling to let go.
I was in the middle of the MakerSpace with one eye on the calendar and the other on the student hammering.
I was visibly stressed.
The next day a grade 3 class was expecting a visit from the year 6 students my team and I were tasked to lead. Their project- finding a way to ensure the health and happiness of the year 3 class pet. They were at work constructing an animal habitat for the bearded dragon.
But they hadn’t even constructed the walls of the cage or rendered the 3-d design of play toys. (see them working on those tasks in the picture above).
I told the students not to worry. Anything they didn’t have complete, I would finish myself.
In essence, I was asking them to let me take over the project.
Do you have a hard time letting go as well? Do you end up ‘taking over projects?’
You are in good company. It’s hard letting go. It means entrusting students to make mistakes- which they most certainly will.
But it also means watching a project unfold in a way in which you never would have imagined. It means empowering students to take the project to a whole new level.
It rests on a simple principal: If you have provided a solid floor, students will EXPLODE through the ceiling.
Here are five strategies that help control freaks like us began to let go.
Strategy #1: Provide a Beginning, Middle and End to Project Periods
Believe it or not, kids like a certain amount of structure. Don’t be afraid to give it to them. Divide project periods into three nice intervals; the beginning, middle and end. Just as the beginning will set the stage for learning in a well developed lesson, it will also help establish a foundation for productive project work. Work with teams to establish goals and divide tasks. Then back off.
Strategy #2: Allow Students to Pivot
There is no way you can predict everything that will happen in a project. If you could, it would no different from traditional schooling. Allow students to pivot if a particular idea doesn’t work. In the case of the pet habitat project, two groups elected to join forces in building the cage since they had similar ideas. The result was a highly functioning group with clear division of roles. Some worked on 3-d design, while others started prototyping the build. Finally, ensure there is time at the end of the project period for the group to reflect on why they pivoted and HOW it benefited the overall project
Strategy #3: Shorten intervals of time
I have found one of the biggest misconceptions people have about projects is that they are indefinite with no benchmarks, structures for feedback, or milestones. This could not be further from the truth. Work with students to divide projects into clear chunks and tasks. Create short, focused intervals of time for students to dive deep with scheduled ’share outs’ at the end of each project cycle. This will help them stay on task, and keep you from losing your hair.
Strategy #4: Reflect, reflect, reflect
Learning only takes place when students reflect on experiences. Make sure to structure scheduled reflection time at the end of each project cycle. Circle students and have them use fingers to represent productivity of the day, and then share with a partner. Use journals to help them document their progress/ process. This will accomplish two things: One, it will help develop reflective practitioners and a culture of high expectations; and two, it will provide you a chance to breathe and re-direct.
Strategy #5: Don’t Bring Your Work Home
This is a universal principal within and outside projects- and it refers to more than just physical work. You may have project periods that go horribly awry and all you want to do is ruminate on missed opportunities. Paradoxically, this will make successive project periods even worse. Work or talk it over with a mentor or trusted teacher friend; develop some thinking routines or scaffolds for students to ensure it doesn’t happen again, and then move on. I guarantee your kids already have.
Got Ideas of Your Own?? Would love to Hear Them!
Would love to hear strategies that help you let go. Share them with me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be sure to share them with my tribe.
Remember to breathe deep, kick ass, and let go.