A guest blog written by Judy Timmins, a 2011 Gold Star Teacher from Cedar Falls High School.
Hindsight is 20/20. That is true for all of us, including students and their learning. As teachers, we try to challenge our students to critically read, think and write. The students work to meet these demands. And through these struggles comes the academic growth. In my class, as students select an individual project to study and develop for the semester, they must become autonomous learners. I serve as the support—helping them find mentors, encouraging them to push the limits of their learning, etc. However, they must choose the initial direction for their projects and then devise a plan for completing them.
A mentor provides guidance, but it is the student’s responsibility to seek the help and put it to good use. Logging their progress, meeting with mentors, and researching requires commitment and time management. Then as obstacles arise, students must become problem-solvers. Altogether, this project requires students to read, write, think, research, cite sources, work with a mentor, log progress, and present their learning in a meaningful way. Studying a career, hobby, or topic of interest are all valid choices. Novel writing, photography, law, engineering, architecture, and poetry writing choices balance with animal training, earning a pilot’s license, web cartooning, fashion design and music videos. Because the students must juggle classroom work with the outside projects, finding time in their busy schedules takes a concerted effort. Despite the demands, after the students have completed their projects and shown off their learning in a presentation to their classmates, they beam in satisfaction. They realize the value of their efforts. They realize the value of their struggles. Hindsight tells them the challenge was all worth it.
Are you challenged enough? Whether it be in the workplace, classroom, or in your home, let us know how you “push the limit of learning” in your life!