This week in Grade 9, we started to dig into #ProjectSpeak. An inquiry-based learning opportunity where students identify a topic they want to discuss and share with others based on their feeling that it is important. I have two grade 9 classes, and for the sake of exploration, I have one with an essential guiding question, "How can we make school better?" and the other is more Free Inquiry identifying their own topics entirely. As expected, many of the school-related topics include
No homework (they don't get much)
Personalized learning based on interests
Starting the day later
No Friday School
Make options optional
Honoring neurodivergence in the classroom
Class assignments based on skill
There are a few more ideas, but this gives a picture of how the structured inquiry with the essential question helped to develop ideas.
For my Free Inquiry class, the topics had some of the expected issues like
What I was not expecting was the interest in discussing teen mental health. About half of this class of high achievers asked if they could share with adults the importance of recognizing and understanding student mental health. Some of their specific topics include
What impacts mental health
Social media and its negative impact on mental health
The pressure on student-athletes
Overscheduling of kids and the anxiety that results
In a room of 33 at least two-thirds shared their concerns about their own mental health or that of their peers. One student proposed the topic of mental health in boys, and we had a great chat about how important that is to share and how toxic masculinity makes boys and men shy away from sharing their struggles. Today he decided that he was uncomfortable sharing that topic and shifted to something a little less vulnerable—I get it.
I love #ProjectSpeak. I love the opportunity it provides students to explore what they care about. We explore ways to present our message and draw attention to the topic. Research-Write-Create-Present, these are the steps to the project. As we move through researching and finding answers, more questions will guide us further. Learning is inevitable, and you can feel it in the room.
I am grateful for my students and their willingness to explore and learn with me. This year—ok, the last three—has been hard. This morning I started wondering if it would be my last year teaching. I don't know what I would do but know that I have never felt so tired. So unsure of myself and my ability to meet my students' needs. As the class bravely shared their concerns for mental health, they inspired me to talk to one of my admin team about my struggles. I didn't let all my concerns out, but I did share some, and the weight is less. I could breathe a bit more today and hopefully more tomorrow. Trying to find the source of my uncertainty is not an easy journey. I am unsure where it will take me, but I am on that journey.
I have been told posts like these maybe should not be shared. That folk will judge me as weak or a complainer. I guess that might be true, but as the kids say, "Mr.Gilson, it is important we need to share it."
Lights in the Dark
We are unsure where we are going
feeling around in the dark looking for something familiar
An indication we are on the right path.
It is so dark.
Then just off in the distance a little
The path, while not clear, becomes visible.
Hope tells us to just keep swimming
Wait that was Dory.
We walk the path the light provides.
We might not end up where we wanted but we have a path.
And that is
I need to write more.
Move with the light.
If you want ot check out a website I amde for #ProjectSpeak for a University course here is a link.