Failure to Launch

by danielagins

It seems that I only write things when I am troubled by as issue that will take slightly more than 140 characters to complain about. I should work on that, maybe. However, I have today’s dilemma to hash out in this space first. My problem today was a failure to launch. I’m not talking about the romantic comedy, either. Today I was attempting to launch a major independent project for my 8th graders. The project will be a significant part of their final trimester, and it is rooted in openness and choice. I did a similar project last year with amazing results and although the openness of the project is limited by the curriculum, it was a fairly motivating project for my class last year. I fully understand that what works one year does not automatically transfer to other classes, as kids are different and group dynamics plays a huge role, but I was shocked by the antipathy I was met with today. Let me be more specific: I began by showing this short film as a launch into a discussion about student’s driving their own learning, as opposed to passively sitting on the K12 conveyor belt. This was meant to be empowering and affirming and it appeared to be effective. They loved the idea of taking control, and the problems arose when I began to actually explain the project. Suddenly they did not care. When I asked what happened to their interest, one student said he lost interest the minute I started “actually talking about it.”  So my question here is how can one launch a project in which the launch is not teacher directed? Is that possible? I am honestly curious.