I’ve wanted them to organically develop a set of norms. But it appears that no one has been willing to speak up when the conversation gets too loud or when the singing is too much. Herein lies my problem: I can shut down distractions. I can take control. But when I do, that doesn’t look so much like student-directed learning anymore.

As I sent in my sub plans, I held my breath a little after writing:

This class is student-directed by design; they should know what they need to do.

What they needed to do was conduct a writing workshop on narrative drafts scheduled to be finalized by Friday. They’d conducted a workshop exactly once before, and then when at least half of them were still planning or early drafting stages. This was the first major writing project, and I wanted to be there to facilitate the workshop.

One week in and--if I’m honest--colearning feels a lot like regular school to start the year. It has some of the hallmarks of a regular class, with regular students, in a regular school; so we have to do things like hand out syllabi, talk about norms and expectations, and send home forms to be signed. They sat. I talked. They listened. I asked questions. They didn’t say much. I talked some more. They listened some more. They sat some more.

So we’re calling it “colearning,” like a coworking space, but for kids at school. It’s just one section of one class for one year--47 minutes a day, 5 days a week--with the same required standardized testing at the end. It’s a small bet and a small step. But I can’t help but wonder if it might change the way these kids think about learning. What if it changes their whole approach to school?  What if it works?

School starts tomorrow. We’re about to find out.

I wanted a coworking space for kids. And I taught the perfect class in which to make it happen. But it would have to happen without any changes in policy--not in Virginia’s laws, nor the district’s or the school’s policies. It would have to exist within all the original parameters: a class, for credit, with high-stakes testing attached, and a student population more or less reflective of the diversity in the building.