What happens when you have highly motivated students discover their own secrets to learning? It happens occasionally in the educational world when our always-meaningful audience collides with meaningful practice and purpose. As educators, we cannot simply cross our fingers and hope these moments arise; we must engineer them audaciously into the daily goings-on of the school day.
As the English & Humanities (throw foreign languages in there, also) Learning Coach for three remarkable student-athletes who all practice with the Philadelphia Union U-14 Soccer team, I have created a learning environment that fosters metacognitive skills and literacy through Collaborize, an online-learning classroom. Collaborize is essentially a “walled garden,” a place where students may dig and play, plant and fortify, cultivate and question their own orientation to learning. I want them to be lifelong learners, so I have proposed the questions: 1) What drives your learning, 2) Where do you want to take your learning, and 3) How will you know when you are finished?
Two of the students are currently 9th graders and one is an 8th grader. My hypothesis with this experiment is that the students will gain confidence in taking charge of their own learning, come to value the importance of autonomy and risk-taking, and learn various ways of presenting their gift to the world. The intent of this experiment is to have the students know they are critical explorers. I find the poem “INVICTUS” by William Ernest Henley to be representative of the students’ journey.
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
–William Ernest Henley
This blog will be an ongoing journal of the journey. It will be self-reflective of my practice, of what I say and how I say it. Of course, there will be unexpected twists along the way. In order to show that the students are learning, I will collaborate with the students to create checkpoints that may be administered by an authentic audience. These checkpoints may reveal themselves via journal entries in the Collaborize space, via oral presentations, and they may reveal themselves on accident.