I like order. I like routine. I like a clean classroom with neat desks and work hung relatively straight on the walls (I’m not good with “seeing” straight — you can take my parking as an example — but I try :-)). And while I like all of these things, what I truly love more than any of them is seeing students eager to learn. So sometimes I need to give up some of what I “like” to get what I “love.” This can be scary — really, really scary — but it’s okay to be scared!
Tomorrow I’m very excited and a little bit scared! Yesterday, my students looked at ways to change our classroom into the human body. My plan is to immerse the students in this Science topic, and bring reading, writing, Science, visual arts, and math to a whole new level. Today, the groups of students took the various ideas shared yesterday, and looked at ways to merge them into a single plan. They drew diagrams of their ideas, wrote about their options, created lists of materials needed, and wrote letters to ask teachers for various items. Students planned everything, and tomorrow, we’re going to execute their plan.
At the end of the day today, students stacked their chairs, and I moved their desks to the outside of the room. I pulled out table cloths, organized human body books and plaques that students wanted, charged the devices for research, and made sure that our art supplies were ready. I even left a little bit earlier than usual to go to The Dollar Store, and pick up the extra supplies that we needed. Tomorrow students will help organize the groups, outline the tasks, create the items, add the information, modify their plans, and create again.
Will things work perfectly? Maybe or maybe not.
Does it matter? No!
Will there be a mess? Probably.
Can we tidy up this mess? Absolutely!
Am I scared about what might happen (be it good, bad, or otherwise)? Yes … but the students are well-organized, the supports are in place for those students that need it, and the expectations are clear. Success or not, we will be learning A LOT tomorrow.
So I’ve decided that I’m going to embrace this scared feeling, and continue to feel giddy with the possibilities. When have you felt “scared” like this before? What do you do to overcome it? Maybe feeling scared is really all about risk-taking, in which case, let’s take some risks together!
My philosophy when it comes to trying new approaches in the classroom is that “I will try anything once!” Sometimes it can be improved or tweaked on the next go around, and sometimes it goes so terribly wrong that I will never do it again because it didn’t work for me and for my students for our purposes. So, yes, that is all part of risk-taking. And if we don’t take some risks, we could really be missing out on something wonderful!
Yes, you will definitely learn something tomorrow, but what I think is even more important in the grand scheme of this new project, is that students will have this wonderful memory of something so cool and so different that they will always remember about grade 5!
So well said, Michelle! I think tomorrow will provide a wonderful memory & terrific learning experience for the students (regardless of if the final result is perfect). This is why I’m so very excited about it, even if I’m also a bit nervous.
Thanks for sharing your risk-taking experiences as well. I totally agree with your philosophy!
It is such a unique experience for the students, that it really can’t go wrong!
When I bump into students years after they took my course, they don’t remember that really great question that I posed on a test or the final exam, what they remember is the project that they did, whether it was a straight up term paper, or a board game, or an episode of ‘House’ that they created as their deliverable. That is the stuff that they go home and talk to their family and friends about, that is where the deep learning happens and stays with them.
Best wishes tomorrow!! I can’t wait to see the final product!
Thank you so much, Michelle! It’s true: this is the learning that stays with them. And so many of them spoke to their families about their ideas first, so I feel like what we do today, is really a representation of everyone’s thoughts and plans. I’m so excited to see how things go!
Hi Aviva – I’m @Boz23 on Twitter and I love following your tweets about your class. I thought your kids might be interested in our (New Zealand’s) indigenous people, the Maori. Although they live just like everyone else nowadays, most tribes have what I guess is a bit like a village meeting place called a marae. On the marae there will be a meeting house and the design is based on the human body – it represents the body of an ancestor. Out the front there is a carving at the top – the head, then two boards running down from it that represent the arms welcoming you in. Inside there is one long board that runs the full length of the roof and that’s the spine – the boards that run out from it are the ribs. When you enter the wharehui (meeting house) you always take your shoes off and act respectfully because you are entering the body of an ancestor.
http://www.newzealand.com/int/feature/marae-maori-meeting-grounds/ has a good explanation.
There are some good photos at – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Waitangi-Meeting-House-interior.jpg
I thought it fitted so well with what you are doing in your classroom. I’m happy to answer any questions the kids might have – they can tweet or DM me or email email@example.com
Thank you so much for sharing this information and these links, Robyn! I’m going to show them to my students this morning. I think that you may have just inspired us further.
Thanks. I’m looking forward to seeing the results! Kind of reminds me of the year my Yr 8s invented a whole new civilisation on another planet and changed our classroom into ‘the cave of the shimmering’. That was a great adventure.
That sounds amazing, Robyn! Do you have any photographs? I’d love to see them! Things are really taking shape now, and ALL of the students left class today excited about what they created and what they learned. What a terrific day!
Thanks for your comment!
Can’t wait to see what you and your students create! The buzz in the halls yesterday as I watched students haul cardboard and other supplies to your classroom promised excitement, engagement and learning. Learning is messy. Cleaning up after is easy.
Thanks Kristi! I’m thrilled to see what today brings. I’m sure we’ll all be learning a lot! It’s great to see the students so excited about the human body — something that was “ewww … gross” just about a month ago. 🙂 (And I have to admit that my students are fantastic at tidying up, so I’m not too worried! :-))