No matter how good your idea is, the students will let you know pretty quickly if it works. Especially after a long vacation when I have lots of GREAT ideas. Most of those fabulous ideas only work for the invisible students who live in my head, but some actually translate pretty well, let’s call those inspired ideas. Here is an idea that came from watching my students’ behavior and realizing that they were feeling trapped.
Let’s call it: GET ME OUT OF THE CLASSROOM! I put it in capitals because, that is how it felt to me. It was my first year of teaching and I had a group of 4th and 5th grader’s. Some of them were typical students who showed up, sat down and were ready to do what I said. Others were typical students who showed up and wanted to tell me what to do. And in the third group were typical students who barely showed up.
I began to empathize with this third group because sometime I dreaded being in the classroom all day-everyday. I wondered if that was what they felt. It was risky at first to think about taking them out of the classroom at least one day a week. On top of that it felt like we needed to have another non-desk learning day. I began planning outings to nearby historical places, hikes at the river, or sitting in a beautiful garden. We found that we could read while sitting on a tree or draw by the river. It was still school, but different.
The hardest part of this whole thing was helping them to be away from their desks and make choices which worked for everyone. At first some of the kids didn’t know how to behave without the structure of the classroom. Little by little they became aware of their behavior and its impact on the group. On regular school days we worked on developing such skills as cooperation, harmony, and discrimination. After some time, going outside the classroom became a way to test on how well we were learning these qualities. It was amazing to see that students became were more willing to study on the days we were in the classroom and we got so much more done joyfully. Our school experience was more balanced, productive, and fun. (Notice I didn’t say easy–but it was worth it.)