PBL: My WOW Moment of the Day!

Today was a particularly hectic, maddening day for me.  Senior grades were due at 9 am this morning, I taught three back to back classes with a meeting during second break, and my seniors had their Paper 1 and Paper 2 IB Biology exams at 1:00.  It was one of those days.  I am so anxious and distracted while my students are taking exams.  I just want to take it for them.  I would do really well on them and it would sure make the two years leading up to exams so much easier on me as a teacher. AHHHHH!!!

The seniors started wandering in at the beginning of my lunch period (causing me to miss our teacher appreciation lunch) in a last minute desperate attempt to close the loop on two years of learning after what I am sure was a sleepless night despite the fact that I ordered them all to bed at midnight.  "Lunch" ended at 12:10, and my grade 10 students filed in to continue their work on their independent projects that they have been working on for the past couple of weeks.  I had to make a choice, and I chose my seniors who were heading off to their high stakes exams in about half an hour.  So I told my 10th graders to continue their work in their groups and then proceeded to shut the sliding glass doors so that I could focus and calm my frantic seniors while walking them through as many troublesome topics and testing tips as we could manage in that short amount of time.  In fact, I was so focused on them, that I didn't notice the work that was going on outside of my classroom. 
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As a teacher, this was one of those moments that you never forget.  While hugging my seniors goodbye hoping that some of my knowledge and confidence would rub off onto them, I looked out to find my entire 10th grade class reviewing the cell membrane as one cohesive group.  Three of the students took the initiative to grab some whiteboard markers and lead the rest of them through a review of the topics that they are required to know for their independent projects.  Amazed and shell-shocked, I went outside and joined them, but not as their teacher. At this moment, I was an admirer, impressed by the fact that each and every one of them had made good decisions about their learning independent of my supervision.  They could have just as easily been playing games, chatting on Facebook, setting fire to each other and countless other things that I would rather not think about.  It was so fulfilling to join a discussion with a group of students that were prepared and determined to explore these concepts at a deeper level.  At the end of the day, if all they walk away from this project with are the skills of collaboration and taking personal responsibility for their learning, I would consider this a huge success.  Fortunately, most of them will also understand the mechanisms of cell membrane regulation and be able to apply them to specific functions of the human body such as lactose intolerance, Parkinson's disease, how endorphins work, starvation, why asthmatics need inhalers, weight loss and many other interesting topics.  I truly look forward to learning from their presentations at the end of the project.

After school today, one of the students posted the pics from class to our Facebook group via Dropbox! 

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Looks pretty productive to me! 

Looks pretty productive to me! 

At 3:30, the first wave of my SL students returned to my class to report back on their exams.  The first words out of there mouths were, "You are like magic! The two topics that you predicted and reviewed with us at lunch were essays on the test! Thank God we went over gene transfer!  We nailed it!"  

I would call this a WIN-WIN! I have to say that I am most proud of my 10th graders.  I am so thankful that I work with students who are committed to their learning and motivated enough to engage without having to have someone looking over their shoulders monitoring their every move.  I am also thankful that they didn't start any fires.  I think a little celebration is in order.