The turkey eaten, the pie devoured, the young ones tucked into bed, and the dishes washed (mostly), it seemed a good time to reflect on what I am thankful for.
Flexibility and Trust - last Wednesday, the creek was full to brimming. At recess, a student and I were standing ten feet away from it, looking at it wistfully. "We should make sampans and sail them down the creek today!" she said. I sighed, "Yeah, that would be cool but..." I stopped myself. But what? Sure I had a lesson planned for the afternoon but it could easily wait and we could do a quick lesson on the design process, create boats, assess the success and failure of various features and apply our learning to new designs -- engineering is a part of every year's curriculum, today was a great day to start.
So we did. We had a wonderful hour of gathering materials, crafting them into sampans, setting them into the stream and then adapting our designs. I love being able to respond to students' interests and ideas. When we "go with" something they've suggested, it validates that it is truly "our" classroom, not "my" classroom* and our learning is a shared process.
But there is a lot of trust involved in being able to respond to students' ideas. I have to trust that things will work (or at least that they will work more often than not - failure sometimes happens and that's part of authentic learning.) You have to trust that the Herons will get what they need to be successful - even though every moment is not planned months in advance. We don't have a mandate in which the objective of every lesson must be posted on the board to ensure that every 4th grader is receiving the same instruction at the same time to prove that they "got it." But Simon understands that the teachers know what the standards are and we weave them into the work we do with the children as they make sense.
* The decision by the founders to use bird (or tree or biome) names for classrooms was very purposeful. The classrooms do not belong to the teacher but to the class; it is not "Ms. Martin's Class" but "The Herons."
Connected Parents and Volunteers - So many of the opportunities in our class and school come from parents and community members who suggest ideas or are willing to jump in and join us in our learning. This past week, students made moon cakes with Lani, planted rice with Anna* and started making lanterns with Josie. Next week, we'll learn from Gao Hong, a world renown pipa player.
I receive regular e-mails from parents who have found an article or an activity that connects to what we're doing. Our classroom experience is extended and deepened by these ideas and the talents of our volunteers.
Supportive Colleagues - I don't have any pictures connected to this but I am definitely grateful for it. My colleagues are fun to work with and constantly propel me in my practice. They do interesting things in their classrooms and help students in inspiring ways.
A sense of adventure - This is connected to all of the above categories but it bears repeating. When Anna developed her lesson about rice growing, there were a lot of unanswered questions. How would we hang the light? Where would the water come from? How would we know when to put in more? Who in the school had rope/cup hooks/wire/wire cutters? And, of course, will the rice grow. Anna guided the groups through the process of brainstorming and problem solving - but the outcome wasn't known at the outset. It was exciting and fun and real.
I never feel like I'm "going through the motions." There are so many questions every day that I can't answer...yet. And that is another reason why I am grateful I get to work with your students.