It has been four weeks since I started teaching a class on a subject that has never been taught before.
The first day I walked into the classroom and looked over the faces of the six students who were enrolled in the class and I walked them through what it is we were going to cover. The syllabus is simple. The goals are clear. While they have never been done in an American classroom, I told the class that over the four month they would embark on a journey that could change their life. All they had to do was listen to someone younger then them teach them lessons, push them outside of their comfort zone, and give out grades, three times a week for an hour and a half during fourth period.
While my class started out small, it didn’t take long for word to spread that something interesting was happening in room 236. Within a week, the class grew from 6 kids, to 10, to 12, to 22.
It doesn’t take much to get kids interested in working hard. The thing I have found to be missing from classrooms is the long term gain that students receive from a class. Most classes, the only thing a student gets out of the class is seen on their report card. In a math class, they may pick up some skills along the way, or in english class they may acquire some practice on how to write an essay, but in my class called “entrepreneurship” students can achieve things that follow them not only through high school but, depending on how motivated they are, throughout the rest of adulthood.
So what is my class? What is the goal that I vaguely alluded to above? The goal of “entrepreneurship” is for every student to build something by the end of the semester. This one semester elective allows students to look back on their 43 class periods and say “I made something.” They have a little speck of dust that they made out of thin air and that they can put their name on and say “that is mine.” They are tasked with starting a for-profit or non-profit organization that they are passionate about and reaches a real audience or touches people. In one semester, they will start something from scratch and show the world that students can be makers.
The first few classes were focused on student interest. It was my job as the teacher to extract and then decipher and categorize the passion within the hearts of students. When we started out brainstorming the nonprofit or for-profit organizations that could be created in this class, I found three categories of ideas. Half the ideas were too outlandish to ever be achieved. One student wanted to cut travel time to china in half by drilling through the center of the earth. Another student wanted to shag carpet the walls of mid nineteenth century condominiums. Etc.
Of the half that were actually achievable, only about 10 percent of those ideas were valuable. That is because the other 90 percent were ideas that the kids had which while being doable, were distracting them from the idea they were working on. These distracting ideas are like fools gold. When you are working hard on a project and are stuck on something you try to get out of it by thinking about working on something else only to find that that idea leads you to the same types of challenges and distracts you from achieving greatness.
There is so much more to write about my experiences, but they will have to wait until I publish my next piece about what it is my students are doing to change the world.