A few weeks ago, we started our first process paper in my classroom. My kids had just finished their unit on Design Thinking, and I had spent an inordinate amount of time on the idea that we were not going to just “do school” this year.
I felt this was especially important for the kids because they were all 9th graders, and new to the school. To be able to capture their minds during this transition year would be one way to reduce the stress that the juniors and seniors in the building become almost crippled by over the course of their high school experience.
The first aspect of the paper is to come up with a worthy topic, something that is of interest to them, and that they would be excited to do well.
I have the students fill out an interest inventory as a way of preparing for this, and then I introduce the options they have for their papers.
The students must determine what type of paper they will write, and what the topic will be.
For many of my honors students especially, the conferences that we had regarding acceptable or worthy paper topics were incredibly difficult.
When they are struggling for ideas, I typically reset the conversation, and ask a fairly simple question.
“What are you interested in, what matters to you?”
The blank stares I was recieving could only mean a couple of things, but the most immediate and consistent thought I had during these exchanges, was that no one was asking these kids those questions in the school environment.
One girl was almost in tears during the conversation because I would not simply assign her a topic.
Something is going terribly wrong when these are the questions that stun and frighten our children.
When school becomes simply a series of unconnected events, tasks and trials that a student must navigate, be assessed on, lock in a grade, and move on, they begin to develop what is commonly referred to as an Episodic View of Reality.