Building on the previous year’s theme of building future schools, and using the
Italian concept of Autogestione, as inspiration, students create their own 21st
Century school and run the School for a week. Students had to re-imagine education and explore the question: What could learning be like in the future?
Students focused on independent learning, the importance of genuine, purposeful collaboration, public speaking, giving and providing feedback and criticism, making interdisciplinary connections between subjects, and creative and computational thinking.
Context: Yr 10 (whole school experience)
Time: 2 weeks
Learning objectives: To re-imagine education and explore the questions “What could learning be like in the future?”; independent learning; collaboration; public speaking; taking and giving criticism; making connections between subjects; IT skills; overcoming challenges; time management; working in a team; creative skills’
Product: Building on the previous year’s theme of building future schools, and using the Italian concept of “Autogestione” as inspiration, students create their own 21st Century school and run MLC for a week.
Exhibition: Following one week of intense preparation, Yr 10 students manage Yr 7-10 for an entire week.
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Adapting to other subjects and contexts
This project involves all or most disciplines as the week of self-management inevitably involves “lessons” or experiences in a variety of subject areas.
I led this experience in 2012, and yet I still cringe every time I hear the word “Enlightenment”. I loved my initial idea, but I allowed the fears and close-mindedness of others to gradually choke and suffocate the concept until it became completely distorted. It turned into a super-structured, super-controlled project where student choice and freedom had almost entirely disappeared. There was nothing creative about it. We had turned students into mini-teachers and micro-managed every single aspect of their project and structured every single minute of their day.
The Year 10 Enlightenment Experience was the brainchild of the Head of Senior School. She designed a different project each year and had been doing so for over 4 years. When I took over in 2012 the only brief was that it had to build on the previous year’s theme of designing future schools (learning spaces).
My initial idea for the project was for Yr 10 to run the school for a week; however, giving students so much freedom was considered high-risk, and teachers simply did not trust that students would do a good job. I knew they could, and I had proof as the inspiration for the project was the Italian school tradition of autogestione, whereby high school students typically self-manage their school for a week. As a hook I had used a YouTube clip from a very successful autogestione at a school near Naples. I had contacted the students and they were willing to collaborate with us and guide our students through their experience. They had even written an article about our collaboration in their school magazine.
Unfortunately, I was soon dragged into a game of people pleasing and numerous restrictions and structures were placed onto my project, until it became completely unrecognisable.
The day my project started I received what was meant to be a compliment on behalf of the Head of Senior School’s PA: “You must be doing a great job – there haven’t been any complaints at all. Last year teachers were lining up to complain”. I wasn’t able to appreciate the “compliment”, but I wasn’t sure why.
I soon concluded that I received the compliment not because the project was better than the previous years’, but simply because it looked like something all teachers were used to and comfortable with, whereas the older projects had created controversy and opposition because they were “disruptive” in the good sense of the word.
I learned many valuable lessons from this “failure”. I learned that many teachers, like students, fear change. I learned that innovation makes people uncomfortable. I learned that many teachers prefer structure, as it gives them a sense of control. I learned that many educators struggle to recognise any learning that looks different to traditional teaching. I learned that if you want to innovate, you need to accept that you will be challenged and you won’t be popular, at least not initially.
I promised myself that I would never ever again compromise my learning philosophy to avoid confrontation and appease others. I am going to respectfully fight the battles that need to be fought, because the alternative is much uglier. Cringe-worthy, in fact.
What were some of your cringe-worthy moments in your teaching career? What did you learn from them? Have you ever experienced or witnessed discomfort as a result of a disruptive or innovative idea being implemented in your context? Click here to share your experiences and ideas to the comments section.