My students had to complete a survey put forth by our school division. This data drives what we as teachers and administration sense as weak areas according to our students. This survey was administered by our principal and assistant principal, so I got some much coveted “free time.” And by “free time” I mean a chance to do some extra prep. I managed to get an assessment built in a Google Form.
When I was called back to my classroom forty minutes later, most of my students had completed the survey and were working on unfinished assignments. Some were writing a story, others were practicing their basic math facts online. I came in and my students continued to work. My class received positive reviews on their behaviour from our admin. I always celebrate with my students when others note their ability to follow classroom procedures and stay focused on a task.
I did not interrupt the work that my students were doing as I monitored who had completed the survey and who was still working on it. This class this day was pretty much a right off from the perspective of curriculum covered. We didn’t cover any new curriculum that day. However students did get some much needed working time on projects that they had already started. At one point I mentioned that they were just going to have “free time” until the end of the period as there wasn’t enough time to start something new. When I mentioned “free time” I had several students shout, “What? Free Time!” I quickly had to rephrase my statement and told them to continue working on what they were working on.
My perception was that because I had not given instruction and introduced or reviewed a concept with them that morning that the work they were doing was indeed just “free time” work. However my students looked at “free time” very differently. “Free time” to them means just that - the freedom to choose what they wanted to do.
So now the question is does “free time” have any place in my classroom? I had been giving my students “free time” in gym. It was very cool to watch my students playing and having fun without my guidance and instruction. They played very well together something that does not happen much in our society today. I understood (I didn’t ask and I should have) that this was the culture of the school. My students seemed to be well acquainted with “free time” in gym. However I had quite the discussion with a Physical Education major as to what curriculum outcome was I addressing. She had a good point - I would never consider giving “free time” in my classroom, why would I allow it in the gym?
So...now no more “free time” in my PE class, but they will be given more choice and responsibility. Two students each week will be responsible for planning our Thursday Gameday games. They will have to choose, plan and instruct on those days.
Now I have to allow that type of “freedom” in my classroom. What does that look like, what am I comfortable with my students taking over and what am I comfortable giving up. I need to work on the process of student choice, student driven learning and teacher directed.
That’s my view from the 86th pew. Michelle.