Sink or Swim
I was hooked after my former principal, Racheal Rife, provided me the opportunity to attend PBL training at Region XI in Fort Worth, TX a few years ago. Racheal inspired me to transform my teaching practice and continuously improve with innovative practices. I will forever be in debt to her for leading me down the path that is now my passion. It would not be an exaggeration to say the first year implementing Project Based Learning that I ate, breathed, and dreamed PBL. Racheal supported me in my trial and error implementation of PBL in my classroom. Her support allowed me to fail, reflect, and improve my craft resulting in my students truly knowing the standards. It never fails while presenting or promoting PBL I always am asked about standardized test scores. The first year of implementation our class average on the state exam was 95%.
Transparency is how we learn and reflect best, therefore I am about to be very transparent. My second year with PBL was not as successful. There are many excuses I can come up with but ultimately I am the reason my state test score fell from the previous year. Coming into the second year of PBL many changes took place on our campus. Racheal moved into an executive position within the district and I now was under new leadership. Our new principal Lorie Bratcher was not new to our campus, she was are former assistant principal. We all love Lorie, she motivates our staff through her fun-loving personality that is unbeatable. Lorie was no different than Racheal when it came to encouraging transformation in our school. Having a new leader was one of the many changes that took place that year. For whatever reason, I struggled with the consistency of teaching through PBL and falling back to traditional practices. Again I have many excuses or reasons I may have fallen back in, but ultimately it was me. I was not standing up for what I was passionate about for my students or myself. I continued to use PBL here and there but no consistency. I was broken, my spirit, my passion, and my will had somehow become blurred through all the changes. I quickly realized the bits and pieces of traditional teaching were not what was best for my students and jumped back into PBL. I only tell you all this to let you know we all go through trials and tribulations, but we have to persevere especially when it comes to what is best for our students.
Rewind back to my first PBL, I will be the first to say it was horrible. I found a PBL already planned out on bie.org and thought I would implement it immediately. We were going to solve world hunger in third grade. You can laugh, because I laugh now thinking about what a disaster it became. My students were interested in the topic but knew it was much greater than them. I sat down and reflected with my class and they expressed a desire to relate a PBL to something more real to them. What is more real that world hunger?! I then realized many of my kids were hungry themselves. We began looking at ways to help hunger in our own community. The PBL was off and running. I wouldn’t say it was a success but it sure was a start. After that we continued immersing ourselves in the learning and loving every minute of it, see some examples here:
What I have learned over the last two school years is students thrive in PBL. I learned to keep my head above water no matter how big the waves are. Change is often hard, but it is only a new chapter. I learned that I know what is best for my students and I will continue to improve my teaching practices to offer the ultimate learning experience for every third grader that walks through my door. So no matter what life or in our cases your career throws at you keep persevering. Do not ever let your passion be dimmed because you feel that you are the lone nut way out there in left field. I am right there with you continuing to learn and implement the most beneficial learning opportunities for our students.
Don’t fear change. You may lose something good, but you may also gain something great.
— Think Different (@LifeLimits) July 24, 2016