Emily Pilloton of Girl’s Garage reflects on her passion for creating authentic work with students.
EMILY PILLOTON: I understand why certain teachers feel like PBL is hard and exhausting. To me, I actually think it’s the only possible way I’m wired to teach. So it’s the thought of teaching in a more rote, linear, from a worksheet– that’s what feels exhausting to me.
I think the beautiful thing about PBL is that you get to be something other than the bearer of all wisdom, and you can actually continue to learn yourself. And so I’m interested in being in a classroom where I can pose a problem to students and we get to figure it out together. That sounds really fun to me.
And so I do get exhausted. I do get burned out. We just had a class on Monday where I had asked students to design something in AutoCAD, and I didn’t know what they were going to look like until Monday at 5:00. And then we had to build them by Monday at 6:30, so so many unknowns. That is what’s exhausting is having to be in constant– you can’t predict what’s coming, and yet you have to be ready for it, but that’s the way the world works.
And I love that we can simulate the real world for our students in an environment that is safe, that is fun. I can’t picture teaching any other way. And I didn’t even know PBL was a thing until someone told me, oh, yeah, you’re doing PBL. I was like, I don’t know what that is. I’m doing projects with kids.
I say that, because I think it comes naturally to me. I also understand why it can be highly frustrating, but I also encourage teachers like, what’s the thing you would want to do? If you weren’t teaching, if you could just go and learn something, what would it be? And then why not try to bring that into your classroom.