If you’ve been reading the blog for a while, you know that the spring semester around here means 20Time, a passion project where students spend 20% of class time for 12 weeks working on an individual plan approved by their peers. (A whole bunch of free materials, including handouts, to explain the project can be found here.)
One of the cornerstones of the program is that the teacher also completes a 20Time project, serving as the ultimate model for our students. This will be my third year using the project and I’m incredibly nervous about announcing my plan, one that will be – by far – the most difficult I’ve undertaken.
But first, let’s revisit the path that led us here. In January 2015, I was frustrated. My students were obsessed with their grades and there was little interest in learning just for the pure joy of learning. (Click here to read about the dark Thursday I just snapped.) Knowing that I need to be the one to solve the problems in my classroom, I built my own version of 20Time, a project that forced the grade-grubbers w-a-y out of their comfort zone. I wanted to model for them that learning’s supposed to be fun, so my first year’s project was to learn to play a song on the ukulele and perform it live for my classes. To meet the project’s language arts requirement, I built a series of blog posts reporting our progress and published a packet of 20Time materials at the end of the semester.
Since I’m not naturally musical and still can’t carry a tune, I was successful only because I found a mentor, a new teacher across the hall who played ukulele for a hula dance team on the weekends (yes, an eerie coincidence) and graciously became my before-school jam partner. My marching band students encouraged me to keep practicing and, after 12 weeks, I joined my school’s Ukulele Club members and performed at the spring assembly. A brief video from that day:
I also performed “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” for each of my classes. Yes, it was awkward. Yes, I messed up a lot. And, yes, it felt great to accomplish that goal.
Last year (Year 2), I decided to make a 10-part YouTube series on classroom management to help encourage my fellow teachers. This was a challenge because I pretty much hate my voice. And my face. Still, I persevered and posted all ten videos. A year later, the series has more than 17,000 views, a figure that feels pretty successful. Through the process, I learned a lot about video editing, received some gratifying emails from teachers, and realized I really prefer to write blog posts than film them. (Er, I haven’t made a single video since the series ended. That sorta says it all, right?)
So this takes us to 2017. My family made a big change this year, leaving the San Francisco Bay Area for slow-your-roll Idaho. As a unit, Team Randazzo is now calmer and happier than we’ve been in many years. We’re putting family time ahead of work (you may’ve noticed I’m blogging quite a bit less this year – something had to give) and all of us have even lost a few pounds since we arrived six months ago.
My family and our new healthy focus led me to this year’s 20Time challenge. By the end of this semester’s project, I will be able to…
(Ready for this?)
…at least one…pull-up!
Gotta admit, now that I’m writing this, it feels rather anti-climatic. A pull-up seems so basic, but you need to know that, right now, this feels like an impossible task. You see, I have the arm strength of a gummy bear. I’ve never – ever! – been able to lift my own body weight. Curiously, a career of sitting on my butt reading novels, grading mountains of essays, and making cute stuff for the blog hasn’t improved my ability to pull myself back up into an overturned kayak. But this is about to change.
I actually decided a few weeks ago that “From Zero to Pull-Up” would be my 20Time goal, and because I can’t sit still with an idea I’ve already begun the long slog toward that goal. When I started on Dec. 15, I could hang from the pull-up bar for only 12 seconds. Pathetic. Today, I can hang for 55 seconds; progress is happening. Will I be able to make my goal? I’m not sure and I’m a little scared. Failure is a major component of 20Time, so even if I can’t do a pull-up by the end of April when my students finish their projects I’ll still be a heckuva lot closer to that goal and much, much stronger than if I didn’t make this effort.
So, that’s it. This spring, I’m going to do a pull-up. For the language arts portion, I’ll design a series of motivational posters that I can use as fresh desktop screensavers in my classroom and promote them on social media. (Actually, I was so fired up during the holiday break that I already did this part of the project. You can grab a free five-pack of those posters here.)
Whattya think, would you green light my project? If you’re also getting ready to launch a passion project/20Time/Genius Hour this spring, what’s your project going to be? Scroll down to the “Leave a Reply” box and let me know what’s up. Weight lifting advice/tips are also appreciated. I need all the help I can get.
Teach on, everyone!
UPDATE: Wondering how the 2017 project turned out? Click here to view my 20Time 2017 Results blog post!