I had the amazing privilege to teach with one of the best teachers in the world last year. While we taught together, she provided me with inspiration – for my classroom and my blog – like no one else I’ve ever taught with. Luckily for you guys, she has agreed to periodically share with us what is going on in her classroom. Today is the first edition of Checkin’ in with Courtney. For more of Courtney’s awesomeness, you can check our her class Weebly.
Our first unit of the year is Magical Morocco! I have always felt that one of my strengths is allowing kids to chose and discover what and how they learn through an inquiry based approach. I knew that I wanted to teach them basic geographical skills and to increase their understanding of Moroccan culture as well as their own, but I wanted to leave it up to them to guide our learning.
Then last week, we had the best morning! In the middle of a read aloud we somehow stopped and began a wonderful conversation in which students shared their thoughts and ideas, and we sorted it all out through a majority voting process. Before I knew it we had agreed that the kids would break into 4 research groups: Rabat, Casablanca, Marrakesh and Fes. They were anxious to use recycled products and our new supply of Legos to recreate the cities. While they were at snack I whipped together a “City Planning” sheet to help students organise their research by listing common buildings, transportation, landforms and bodies of water. Over the course of a few days the groups looked at maps, drew from their own knowledge, and looked online to fill out their planning sheets.
The fun began and before I knew it miraculous cities were forming before my eyes: roadways with cars and trains, airports, palaces for the King, hotels, mosques, souks and more. When I conferenced with one group they informed me that the building they had worked on for over an hour was a spaceship. I quickly dismissed it and told them that it had to be one of the several buildings they had written on their city planning sheet. As the day went on I felt uneasy about it, but I had convinced myself that I was allowing enough creativity. The next day I watched the boys continue to work with such diligence on their city, I began to ask them questions and knew that they definitely understood everything I wanted them to from the lesson. So why was I having such a hard time accepting their spaceship? I suggested that perhaps their “spaceship” was actually a mosque.
Finally, this morning I woke up and knew what I had to do. During our morning meeting I told the kids I had something very serious to discuss with them. I told them that I was disappointed in myself because I am constantly emphasizing, “the one thing no one can ever take from you is your ideas.” and here I was, their teacher, telling them their ideas were wrong. I explained to the class that I knew the boys had done a great job thinking and writing the buildings of Casablanca, and that after they had worked so well together to build a spaceship, I told them that it couldn’t be what they had intended. The class looked at me quite seriously, and I asked the particular group to forgive me and confessed that it was hard as an adult admitting to kids that I had made a mistake. They quickly forgave me, and the whole day was pretty incredible.
I guess what I am trying to say is that we want kids to not just learn information but to analyze and synthesize it, when we accept the responsibility to encourage such freedom, we must also work hard as adults to relinquish the control we have been programmed to maintain. LET GO!!!!!