I received word this past Friday from our administration that we’ll be able to continue as we had intended with our project-based classroom. If you remember, I posted several weeks ago about playing the waiting game as our county, like most, is experiencing financial issues that has put additional strain on our classrooms. (There is no such thing as doing more with less; at this point, we’re looking at our situation truly affecting student learning!) I stayed hopeful throughout the process, and thanks to the support of our students, parents, and admins we’ll be able to continue with our junior level course. This will hopefully set us up to continue with our senior plan of connecting our students to very real, very hands-on internships in fields of their interest.
Although we still face criticism, some from our own colleagues, I think it has become clear that PBL has a place in large public schools. I still imagine it will take years before it comes anywhere close to mainstream, but it feels good to be at the foundational level. I have come to understand why most successful PBL programs are a part of small schools with small class size numbers, but it is a mission of mine and others to prove it can work in a large public school setting. If this truly is one of the more valuable ways for our students to learn and prepare to be future leaders and molders of society, then we must find ways to give students across our nation an opportunity to take part in such learning. I’ve stated this before and I’ll state it again here, PBL is an option, it is not the final solution. I’ve seen students thrive in this environment, and I’ve seen others fall victim to mediocrity and procrastination. The difference is and always will be motivation. (Which I still feel firmly begins in the home.) The same student who does little work in a traditional classroom will also struggle with PBL unless he or she is more motivated by the challenges of self-learning and independent study. I think it is important to remember that PBL is an alternative. That being said, I do feel strongly that students who take advantage of the PBL classroom learn a great deal more than how to score well on a multiple choice test.
I’m looking forward to next year knowing that we are moving forward. The best part is that a new teacher will be able to be brought into the mix with new ideas. It has always been my hope to pass this concept down to other teachers to use and help progress the course. Here’s to next year!