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Digilit Sunday is hosted by Margaret Simon @Reflections on the Teche as an invitation for educators to share ideas for digital literacy and learning.
This DigiLit Sunday Margaret invites us to reflect on the word transitions. At first, I was happy to reflect and write about transitions in our classroom, since that is where we are as a learning community: after all, we are transitioning from dependent sixth graders to independent almost seventh graders. But then, I thought back to Friday, and then I wasn’t so happy at the prospect of writing about transitions in our classroom…Friday was hard, and here’s why.
In my mind, we had worked hard since September and we were ready to transition into a new phase of independence and empowerment. With each passing week and month, it seemed that my students were slowly but happily building towards self reliance: our routines were locked into place, every phase of learning had been designed with scaffolds in place, and my kiddos were moving from day to day with a greater sense of autonomy in everything from what our read aloud should be to the choice of poems to unpack for Poetry Thursday. When I envisioned what transition would look like as we approached the last marking period and a half of the school year, this is what I saw:
In other words, I saw my kids ready to leave behind the old (help and guidance every step of the way) for the new (independence! assurance!). Last week’s homework was designed with this “new life” in mind – I explained, but not too much. And, on Friday (the day these assignments were due), we also sat down to write a narrative about the Trail of Tears based on a movie we’d seen, taken notes on and discussed in class, and a first person account. Here was the task: you are a journalist reporting on the Trail of Tears, write an account giving background information about the events that led to the Trail of Tears, what the experience of the journey had been like for the Cherokee, and reflect upon the consequences of this event.
First, I need to say that there had been undercurrents of unhappiness with the homework assignments, which we had spent a good deal of Friday discussing and clarifying. I was puzzled that my kids, who are not shy about expressing themselves at all, had waited that long to clarify their questions. By the time we got around to our Social Studies narrative, one I thought would give them the freedom to jump into as enthusiastic writers, there was a certain sense of unease in the air.
No one jumped in with enthusiasm. Instead, there was an eerie silence…followed by a flurry of raised hands and then a multitude of questions:
Do you mean…???
Should I say…???
What should I….???
How would I…?
With each question, two things began to occur simultaneously: my kids became more anxious, and I became more annoyed. After all, I thought, how much clearer could the directions have been? Why were my sixth graders all of a sudden such puddles of doubt? Bit by bit, I answered questions and put information on the board that would guide them as they wrote. Bit by bit, I began to understand the source of their anxiety. I had transitioned too abruptly; my students did not feel the exhilaration of “the new”, instead they felt this:
With a few clarifications, and a tiny bit of guidance, however, they were ready to rock and roll with those narratives – they were more than able to complete the task. What I had forgotten, in my haste to transition to the last phase of our sixth grade life, was that even independence requires this: