Thursday, 11 August 2011

The undone classroom

Lots of buzz out there about the undone classroom. Bare walls.  Clean slate.  Children will fill the walls with authentic learning.  Tossing the desk.  I agree, to a degree. I certainly have not had a desk since my first class set a beaver tail and feet on it over 20 years ago.  Had a piano for a while and loved it.   Played the weeds in, set stuff on it.  
Still no desk, but a Kinder room is different.   Ask any #kinderchat teacher. The environment is the third teacher.  Contemplating the set-up, ebb and flow, potential for play, discovery, learning consumes me like no day-planner ever has.  I gut my room over and over through-out the year. Re-imagine it.  Fellow teachers are often confused and unsure as to why I would do that. On purpose. 
My classroom is 
          a mirror, 
a portal, 
a reflection 
a diving board. 
It is haven and harbour.  
It provides calm and chaos. 
It hides treasures and hollers “Look at me!” 
So.  My day-planner remains empty.  That is for my weeds to fill, once I get to know them. 
But my room? A new weed yelped at me in the grocery store the other day. “HEY!!! You get to be in my classroom!!!”  I have to agree.  I get to be.  It had better be ready for her. While her classroom does not boast fancy bulletin boards and borders,  it will be ready.  Waiting, expecting, and as curious about her as she is about it.  Because when a weed walks through my door, it is not me who first holds her attention. It is the room.  Her room. His room. Our room. 

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Blog Challenge 5

Tell us about your greatest classroom disaster. The biggest mess, the lamest lesson, the most snooze-worthy circle time. Hopefully, even if you couldn't laugh about it at the time, you can laugh about it now.
Ok,  back to fun font for this one.  I know I asked for some levity,  but this one is a little tough!  I certainly have had my share of lame, ill conceived lessons whose sheer boredom factor could have me up for child abuse,  but all kind of hazy in detail.  As I have mentioned,  I do tend to misremember things, always for the better.  
While I have mellowed over time,  my early years of teaching were marked with flashes of brilliance, coupled with a complete disregard for consequences.  As a child,  I could always count on an older family member to bail me out, so really I thought that anything was possible,  and at the very least, should be attempted.   
Add to that I am the queen of connected tangents,  and you have my recipe for disaster.  A lesson that was brilliant and engaging. I could not fathom why no one had done it before. If twitter existed,  I probably would have been #lookatme!! all over it.  
I was teaching in a modular school, separate from the main school by the playground, and a million miles.  There were 4 of us out there - kind of our own club.  I was teaching a grade 2/3 combined class, and loving it.  We were looking at Air, Flight, and 3D solids.  We were focused on cause and effect,  and diagramming was (is) a huge part of my world .  And of course I was (and am)  all about kids having first hand experiences.  
Demonstrations? PPHAA!  
Videos??   Naaaaaa
Taking turns?  Rubbish.  
This idea was built for partners.  Built for collaboration, observation, consultation.  
So: Air. Flight. Geometric solids. Cause and effect.  
What if 28 seven and eight year olds determined which geometric solid was most aerodynamic?  What if, with a partner, one blew through a straw, on the face of a solid,  and the other determined where the air was directed? What if we diagrammed the air flow we felt?  
What if the main indicator of success was blowing out the candle flame so carefully positioned on the other side of the solid.  Yes, fellow traveller’s - the lit candle.  Not one candle managed in a class demonstration. Not a video clip of a candle.   14 groups, 14 candles stuck in 14 places with plasticine,  being lit (over and over) by your’s truly.   On purpose.  
We recently wrote a blog challenge about our school parents finding our blog. I hoped that mine would. If they are reading this,  I want you to know that I am older and wiser.  That while I still have flashes of brilliance,  it is rarely accompanied by actual flames.  That this lesson went with out a hitch. That kids were focused and careful, connected and safe the whole time. That I miss, sometimes,  the complete freedom that comes with youth, enthusiasm, and the conviction that anything is possible,  and at the very least, should be attempted.