When I first got the cameras, teachers warned me that students would all of a sudden be "off task." See, in our profession, we have this magical formula called Time on Task and it helps determine if students will be successful in their education. I scoffed when I heard that projects and pencils and pictures would all take my students "off task."
However, I watched as you moved off-task. I saw daydreaming. I heard conversation that seemed "off task." I noticed some of you pulling away from your project for awhile. Was I providing too much freedom? Was this a failed experiment? When I corrected you, a few of you commented, "I'm working on this part at home," or "just let me think." I assumed you were being disrespectful and I reprimanded you. Verbally. Publicly.
When I saw the finished products and participated in the conversations, I noticed how deeply you had been thinking. It hit me: it's not about being "on task" so much as it is "thinking deeply." It's not about work completion, because learning is not a chore. You taught me that if students are excited about learning, they will end up working harder. Yet, if I chide you for not working hard, you will neither work hard nor learn much of anything.
I even had to rethink some of the "fluff stuff." When I was a student, teachers would yell at me for talking and for joking. They mocked me for drawing pictures. Yet my ability to draw and talk and listen and even joke around have made me a better teacher.
So, again, I'm sorry. I don't mean this to be an excuse for a class of anarchy. I'm just saying that from now on, I am going to focus less on what you do and more on what you are learning.