We are all learners…and teachers

This year I have the privilege of working with a group of MYP 4 students to usher in our fist media class ever. Up to this point, we have spent the majority of the year setting the table for things to come – generating ideas about what we’d like to learn, building our course outline, inquiring into our assessment objectives and what we might to to reach those objectives and identifying the ATL Skills we will probably need to focus on developing over the course of this year. 

As one of the topics students expressed interest in learning was a bit of film history, we have started our year looking at some of the earliest forms of cinema. This included a one-class filmmaking challenge, where students had to attemp to recreate any scene from Georges Melies’ 1902 classic A Trip to the Moon. Not only was this a fun and humbling project (“I thought old movies didn’t have any effects”, one student said), but it was a great diagnostic tool for my students to see what they knew about using video editing software and what they still needed to learn. As we were showcasing our work, it was clear that two of the students in the class were advanced. Like really advanced. Like using green screen effects to create life-like explosions advanced. Cool.  

After our showcase a student asked me, “Can you teach us how to do that kind of stuff?”. I looked at him, laughed and honestly replied, “No way man. But I bet those guys can.” 

So, while the rest of the class continued to inquire into basic editing skills, two of my students worked to create a lesson on using green screen effects. Yesterday, the first student showed us how to add a smoke effect to our film.

The lesson was amazing! He had: 

  • A game prepared to get the class settled in 
  • An exemplar to show us 
  • Prepared footage for us to download off our Google Classroom page
  • Time to allow us to do some filming and explore our own creativy 
  • The support of our other advanced editor as his TA

I made the choice to join the class as a learner. All control was turned over to the student leading the class. I sat on the floor. I played the game (and won 💪). I felt nervous wondering if anyone would want to be in my group. I joked around with my students on a level I hadn’t found yet this year. And best of all, I learned a skill that I previously didn’t have…check it out: 

Me (as a Dragon) breathing green smoke in the hallways.

Beside the obvious leadership opportunity for the student leading the class and the skill acquisition of the learners, there were some amazing side effects to turning over the teaching to my students. The vibe in the classroom was so relaxed, so communal, so…non school like. Power dynamics between me and the students were gone and, as someone new to the school, it allowed me to really connect with the young men and women in my class on the level of a learner, rather than an “expert”. We were all vulnerable, all making mistakes, all growing our understanding together. 

This has provoked me to turn the teaching over to my students for future classes – but not in the common, inauthentic practice of students teaching each other things that I already know, but the authentic practice of a person who has the expertise leading the entire group of learners. I’m excited see the community that develops during these experiences and I’m especially excited to flatten the dynamics in my class and be one of the learners. 

Have you tapped into your students’ expertise and allowed them to lead the learning? How did it go?