Every year, I overemphasize something different in my teaching, and it typically makes my job more difficult at the time. So far this year, I’ve taken project-based learning to one of its ends, and perhaps spent a little too much time having the kids write. It’s an important goal to get them writing, and I finished last year feeling pretty excited about using projects that begin with some sort of analysis of a lot of information and culminate with a writing assignment. I’ve been through two such cycles this year already – and I’d like to debrief those projects here soon – and there has been a lot of great thinking going on in my classroom. But as the glow of my initial excitement about steady use of PBL wears off, I’m left seeing a classroom full of kids who are kind of dying to do more math. And, I guess it refreshes me to say that I’m feeling the same way.
Literacy and analysis and inter-disciplinary thought are great, and have led to some really interesting conversations so far, and I think kids have a really great idea of what to expect in class*, but this all comes at the expense of spending time solving problems. Of course, I’ve over-emphasized problem solving before; I continue to watch the pendulum swing. Someday, it will be nice to find that I’m relentlessly pursuing balance.
* They have a great idea of what to expect structurally, but if I’m really assessing my work, it seems like they’ve missed out on some of the richer mathematical ideas that I’d hoped they’d see.