I wrote my first two blog posts in several years. Then the days during which I did not write piled up quickly. Feeling the weight of that quickly amassing time, I thought back to part of a lesson plan I used recently, about perfectionism.
I’m worried about a significant percentage of my students spending all of the upcoming summer mindlessly scrolling on their phones. During the last few weeks of instruction I’m trying to provide a Hail Mary of various activity choices, trying to get them hooked on websites and software where they make things. I’m trying to teach media literacy through critical thinking, with some practical life skills.
Because of the age of my students is around 11-13 years, the majority of websites and software that we use are free and don’t require accounts in order to be useful. Despite a mountain of cool, free software that students can use on their Chromebooks, tablets and smartphones, they seem to have trouble coming up with ideas sometimes. Recently this is what the lessons have steered towards: How to generate ideas. I have them write lists of things they like and go from there. Whenever a student is stalling out on a project, I try to say to them “Well what about Soccer (or horses, shoes, contouring makeup, basketball, cars, or that other thing you listed in your Do Now from today), can you think of a way to make this project about that?” It involves some flexibility, which I’m lucky to have.
During class we watched a video about how counterproductive perfectionism can be. The two points that really struck me were about the social effects this can have, and how to remedy the situation by scheduling deadlines. I tried to put myself on the spot in front of the kids and write out a deadline for something, but I blanked. I had trouble thinking of a finite project with a straightforward end goal. What I came to is that maybe I should schedule time: thirty minutes of writing, thirty of drumming, an hour of reading, exercise, cleaning, etc. Develop a routine as a series of mini-deadlines to create some momentum. Micromanaging my time has never felt quite right, but maybe I can use some scheduling in order to create healthy habits. There’s a sort of recursive element here of writing about making myself write, but that’s okay.
The video clip we watched and some of the curricula I use for media literacy, and other subjects, coms from GCFLearnfree. From what little I can tell, this site is highly underrated and under-utilized in schools. This is the kind of life-skills website that teaches things like how computers work, QuickBooks, Excel, and how to read a bus schedule. Some online and some “real” world basics to get you out there and doing your thing. When a sixth grader chirped at me the common critique “school should teach you how to do things like pay your taxes”, I thought of GCFLearnfree.