Want to avoid students as future plaintiffs?

I subbed in a grade 7 classroom last week, the first time I’d taught a grade 7 class in 28 years. I had a tiny bit of apprehension and was curious to see what learning looked like with this age group, after having spent most of my career in high school.

Wow.

The energy. No worry about students slumping in their desks. These students were buzzing all day long, wanting to discuss, share and tease each other.

In the first class, two girls asked if I had seen the video, “I Just Sued the School System.”

With little coaxing needed, I agreed to watch it with the class at lunch. This sparked rapid fire questions and suggestions for what learning could look like at school. These students already had a Wonder Wall where they posted questions such as “Do frogs get sunburned?” There was no lack of curiosity with this bunch.

As I walked them over snow-covered hills to the neighboring school, and through crowded hallways to their lunch-time band class, a group of them didn’t stop talking about learning.

I challenged them to imagine learning after wiping their memory clean of their school experiences. This was the hardest part. Things to learn and skills to develop were well entrenched as separate things (courses). To imagine what learning at school could look like if it didn’t look much the same as it is now was difficult.

While they weren’t exactly sure what their learning would look like, it was clear they wanted to have more technology and more choice and self-determination.

Based on my one day experience, I’d say many of these students are more than ready for the challenge of taking greater control of their learning.

I wouldn’t want to end up in a future court facing the student who wants to be a lawyer as she challenges me, “What did you do to support what and how I wanted to learn?”