Tonight’s the History Fair. A broad variety of topics have been researched by the students that is of particular interest to them. The only parameters for the topics were that the topic needed to fall between the bookends of the two fairs in Chicago—The World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893 and the Century of Progress in 1933-34— and that it somehow connected with the Chicago area. The idea was for the students to find something for which they are passionate and really wanted to learn more about. We all worked together to put their deep research into a formal research paper, a creative display board, and a solid oral presentation. Yesterday and today they have been presenting to different classes that have visited. Tonight is the big fair itself where parents, teachers, and former students will come and soak up the enthusiastic work my students have accomplished.
Yes, there were many formal issues the students struggled with like the format for their annotated works cited list and MLA format for parenthetical citations. Yes, there were long conversations about academic integrity and still a couple of incidences of Wikipedia being cut and pasted into their papers without proper referencing. (They were told that Wikipedia is a good place to start, like we used to go to the Encyclopedia Britannica in the pre-digital age, but not a valid source they could use for their papers.) Yes it was really difficult for some of them to locate a topic or move beyond the tried and true (i.e. St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, Al Capone). It was not an easy process from research to outline to first draft to revisions and all the technical aspects in between, not to mention the independent planning of their time to meet all the deadines along the way.
This morning something was released inside of me. I was much less compelled to chase down GF to get his missing title page or BD’s annotated works cited list. I didn’t feel the need to find EL to get her to put her missing thesis on her display board, after three reminders yesterday to do so. Some of the students with whom I felt disappointment or frustration over some aspect of this research process, I found myself working to encourage and praise and lift, letting go of those last minute details. With all that stress released, I was able to focus on all they had accomplished at this point not what they were unable to achieve. A slight tweak in perception. A world of difference. It is what it is. And it is pretty awesome.