It’s Their Education. Not Mine.

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 Zippo photo credit: liber via photopin cc

As the months have ticked by and my students have slowly grown into the big shoes that Grade 4 holds I have noticed something interesting happening in my classroom. My students absolutely love teaching each other. Now I know this is nothing new but we are currently experiencing a major shift in my room.

It all started earlier this year when one of my students came to me asking when we would be studying the Canadian government. You see, he had heard via the grapevine that it was something that Grade four’s always learned and he couldn’t wait to get started. I let him know that we would be exploring the government in January – February and thought that’s where the matter would end. Well, I was wrong. Almost on a weekly basis after that I was asked when we would be starting and why we couldn’t start sooner. Clearly I had a Canadian government aficionado on my hands.

One day as I was peppered with more questions about what we would be studying I had an idea: would he want to kick off our unit with a presentation? I posed the suggestion to him and he jumped on board but before he started he had two questions for me: 1) What should he do his presentation on? 2) What were we ‘supposed’ to  cover? I pulled out my curriculum document and said: “You have free rein on what you want to present on and here are the topics we are ‘supposed’ to cover. He asked if he could add in extra topics: the privy council, how supreme court judges are nominated and the history of the various positions within parliament. Sure, why not? If it interested him I said and it is within the big topic he could go for it! With a route to follow and a spark of inspiration off he went ready to do his research!

The weeks ticked by and I watched him diligently research and tinker with his presentation. Every now and then I was asked if I could look over his work and perhaps give him another look at the curriculum document. As things starting winding down to winter break I let him know it would be time to present in January once we got back from our break. I could see the excitement and nervousness building. I too was excited to see how this would all pan out.

When the day arrived and as he walked up to the front of the room we both took a deep breath. As he worked through is presentation, I was blown away. The depth and level of research was incredible. Best of all, he spoke at the level of his peers and in terms they would understand. (He even had a full bibliography. Something I had worked hard on with them earlier this year. Yay!) As he wrapped up his peers cheered and clapped. They asked insightful and thoughtful questions. This was the best kick off I could have asked for.

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Fast forward a few weeks and another member of my class approached me. He was wondering when we would be studying rocks and minerals and, if he could do the same as his classmate and kick off our unit for us. Cue a repeat of the same process: careful preparation, curriculum consultation and another presentation that blew me us of the water.

Rocks

These two presentations have sparked something in my students. They now know that if they would like to teach each other something they are most welcome to. Since then we have had more presentations on rocks and minerals, birthstones,  star formation, sea life and one of the most in-depth video game analysis I’ve seen. And, just because they can and know how, a group of boys are building a website all about rocks and minerals.

Sea life

Now as I sit thinking about the events of the first few months I have begun to realize something. Yes, I have incredible students. And yes they love learning. But like every single student in our classrooms it is their education and not ours. This is their schooling experience and the learning journey of their lives. They deserve to explore their curiosity and follow their interests. With the right tools, freedoms, guidance and empowerment they are the most incredible resource in our room. They can teach each other anything and with me as their guide, I can help make it happen.

 

The Importance of the Dissident Voices in the Classroom

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Time to walk like a rebel photo credit: Ian Sane via photopin cc

We all have them in our classrooms. Those voices that are constantly asking questions. They ask questions like: ‘What are we doing next?  Why are we doing this? How should be do it? When will we be able to move onto the next step? What if…?’ Sometimes these questions can be overwhelming and you wish that they would be silent. If they would simply quieten down and not ask so many questions you think we could easily move through ‘the plan’. Thoughts like this can be tempting, however, as my dad always says “It’s a child’s job  to ask questions. If  they stop asking questions you know you’re in trouble”. This is a simple truth that I think is often forgotten in schools. In order to maintain calm and order, we like students to quietly comply with our plan for them and simply accept the status quo. “This is what you have to learn and this is how we are going to do it.”

Are these really traits we want in our students? Acceptance and apathy in regards to what they are learning and their education? I know I don’t want that for them. I  want to help my students learn how to question the process but do so in a meaningful and constructive manner. I want them to ask questions about what they are learning because it needs to be relevant to them. As their teacher I need to help them see why it is important to learn certain things even if they can be a bit boring and tedious at times.  I use their questions about their learning, to question why I am doing what I am doing and what purpose it has. If I do not have a good answer as to why we are doing something a certain way, I need to stop and think critically about what I am doing. Each and every one of these questions help me become a better teacher. And I hope it helps my students become critical thinkers who will never stop asking questions and  hopefully help them fearlessly change the world.

So next time one of your dissident voices asks a question, listen closely to what they are saying and help them begin to see their world differently.

2 Years… Oh What a Journey

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Life Journey photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

I know the cobwebs were forming after a prolonged summer blogging break… but I am getting back at it again! So after the hiatus here is a blog post dedicated to my journey.

WordPress informed me this morning that this blog is two years old. Say what? I can’t believe I have been blogging that long already! Oh what a journey it has been! This blog has always been a place for me to share my thoughts and reflect on my learning. It has seen my transform from a student teacher to a fully fledged professional. This blog coupled with my learning on Twitter has done amazing things for my growth as a teacher. It has forced me to reflect and share ideas with my PLN. Blogging has also stretched my identity as a writer. I have never considered myself to be a writer but this blog has helped my start to see myself as one. Sharing my writing life with my students has helped me encourage even the most reluctant writers. And that is perhaps the most special impact of all.

The Bliss of Being

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Happy girl Hopschotch in Strawberry photo credit: Pink Sherbet Photography D Sharon Pruitt via photopin cc

After being away sick two days this week it was wonderful to back in the classroom on Wednesday with my students.  They were so excited to tell me about the sculptures they had made in their Outdoor Ed block and how they couldn’t wait to paper mache them!

Today was the day they got to get their hands sticky and bring their animal sculptures to life.   As I sat watching them working away talking, laughing and happily creating with their hands. I couldn’t help but relish the joy and happiness of simply being together and learning.

Today was a good day. Pure Bliss.