Inner Voices #3: “Alan”

microphone-and-red-curtainHere is installment number three of my Inner Voices series that highlights my current and former students experience in a project-based learning classroom. “Alan”, as he’ll be called for this post, is a senior and was part of our first Studio cohort. He was part of our guinea pig group, but also stayed in the program all four years including his current internship. Never being known to hold any punches, Alan gives a more critical view of the class itself and what it’s meant for him as he prepares to go to college next fall. Read on to experience his story!

“Studio wasn’t always peaches and cream, though. More specifically, it felt like in the first year a lot of kinks needed to be worked out. Unfortunately our class was the necessary guinea pig. Many kids in that inaugural class questioned Studio, and how effective it really was.”

Why did I join studio? To keep it simple, history and language arts were my least favorite classes throughout middle school and I saw Studio offered a different approach to these subjects. Instead of sitting through boring lectures and having to spend countless hours studying to pass the exams, in Studio we would be teaching ourselves through group projects. When the idea of “project based learning” was first presented to me back in 9th grade, I knew right away that I wanted to give it a try (because, in my mind, anything was better than a traditional history/english class). What I hadn’t realized is that joining Studio was one of the most impactful decisions I had made throughout high school.

Studio wasn’t always peaches and cream, though. More specifically, it felt like in the first year a lot of kinks needed to be worked out.  Unfortunately our class was the necessary guinea pig. Many kids in that inaugural class questioned Studio, and how effective it really was. Even I considered dropping the class many times because of the problems Studio had not yet solved. One of the biggest struggles of that year was the grading system (the living grade). I don’t think anyone (the teachers included) had any idea how our projects were being graded for first several months.

It took some convincing from my mom, but I decided to give Studio another try my sophomore year. This year of Studio was a lot more organized than the previous. It was more clear how our projects would be graded, and what actually was expected from us within each project. The group projects this year were much better than the prior year. This was the year that the teachers really stressed that each project must have a product to go along with it (unlike freshman year when many of us would make a website with research on it, and call it a wrap). Studio, as a whole, grew a lot this year and you could tell it was on its way to really reaching its full potential.

Junior year studio was a lot like sophomore year, with the exception that now two AP classes were covered within it. The step up from one AP to two AP’s was clearly not a commitment many students wanted to make – yet they still remained in the class, nonetheless. I think this resulted in a lot of the troubles of Studio 3. Very few kids were willing to put in the extra work, yet all were willing to complain about how little they learned in Studio, and how bad their grades were because of it. I can admit that I was one of these students, but I still managed to grind out an A in the class. One of the most exciting things about Studio 3 was that the teachers had told us about the internship opportunities we could take advantage of in Studio 4.

Now I am halfway through my senior year as an intern for North Gwinnett and none of this would have been possible without Studio and the teachers who made it possible. Sure, Studio had it’s problems early on, but when trying to change the way students are taught curriculum, problems are sure to follow. When it is all said and done, it isn’t the knowledge of the AKS that is most valuable to me, but rather the group work and presentation skills Studio has taught me. I am currently taking a Dual Enrollment class at GGC where we were assigned a group project/ presentation as a part of our final grade. Because of Studio, this assignment was a breeze for me, and enabled me to take leadership over our group and ultimately get a 95% on the assignment. After our presentation, my teacher even complimented me on how well we had presented and used our group as an example of what other groups should have done. These skills that I learned from Studio are the most valuable things I have accumulated throughout my four years in high school. Though Studio had its problems early on, if I could go back and do it all again, I wouldn’t change a thing.

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