Trevor Przyuski works as an instructional coach for Albemarle County Public Schools. In, “Let Them Own It,” he writes about the tension between children’s authentic engagement with personally meaningful work and their struggles with traditional school work. By sharing an anecdote from his own experience as a classroom teacher, Trevor offers a model of instructional decision making that favors following the “happy accidents” of authentic engagement over sticking with the teacher’s plans.
Trevor’s post makes a startling point: the genius of a lesson plan may be in its failure. If a plan prompts students to follow their interests and passions in taking the work in another direction, then its failure can provide more authentic engagement than its success. Indeed, to move past thinking about our own lessons as successes and failures, we need to make students equal partners in the differentiation of their learning.
After reading Trevor’s post, the big question for me is: how do we shift our mindest and planning practices to prepare for the “accidents” of authentic engagement? Even in a classroom rich with opportunities for authentic engagement, students will make discoveries about themselves and their learning that will take them in unanticipated directions. When planning for authentic engagement, what’s the right balance to maintain between familiar structures and the unknown?