By Mark Heintz
Every school day, teachers start with about forty-five minutes of professional time. The time is great for staff to learn, connect with peers, share with each other, and overall grow as professionals. The Collab Lab structures a few things each week for the morning time and creates conditions where teachers can use that time purposefully. Last May, I purchased Most Likely to Succeed through our professional reimbursement fund in hopes of showing the documentary to the rest of the staff this year during the morning time. Ted Dintersmith’s documentary is powerful; it instantly gets teachers thinking about making their classrooms better. In my district, there is support for changes to take place. District 214’s school board and superintendents support efforts of innovative practices that put learning in the hands of the students. In many parts of school that exists. Our electives offer authentic, hands-on learning. However, some of us struggle to offer the same experience and need an inspiration to make larger changes in our classrooms.
I was hoping the film would offer that inspiration for teachers to try new things. I love that “the film poses questions rather than attempts to shove a point of view down the throats of the audience. As a result, we find people across a wide range of audiences engaged and inspired by the film, with lots of energy and commitment to a future of possibility.” It’s a great way to get people thinking about school could be without feeling like they are doing something wrong. That is why I wanted to show the film. I need the inspiration just as much as others and I don’t want to feel like someone is shaming me into making those changes.
The film was shown for three weeks in January on Friday mornings. I broke up the film into three parts due to time restrictions in the morning. Over twenty-five staff members came, watched the movie, and discussed it at the end. At the end of each segment, the staff discussed what they felt, what they were inspired by, and what they wanted to try. There was an energy in the room after showing the movie. Staff members left talking about what they could try in the classroom or what they could do. It was exciting to see staff members energized about school in the middle of the year. I had the same feelings and wanted to keep that energy going.
This movie has pushed staff to what they think is possible in a traditional classroom. This movie was just one step in a larger goal of shifting instructional practices. The Collab Lab used this movie to get staff to think about what the purpose of their course and what they wanted students to know and be able to do at the completion of the course. I’ll detail more about that process in a later post.