Imagination with a Purpose
Looks at things from different points of view: Well, I thought it would be easy to knock off these questions for class on Monday, until I read the first question: How often do I enter into a discussion or plan an activity that invites children to look at things from a different point of view? Okay, so it wasn’t the first question–this part I actually feel quite comfortable with and confident in my teaching practice. It was the follow-up questions that hit me: Do I do this more often in some subjects as opposed to others? (Definitely! Definitely! Definitely! Does this make me a bad teacher?) How might I make this practice more visible in my classroom–more transparent to the children? Fuck if I know. Pardon the language, but I all of a sudden feel catapulted into an area where I don’t even know how to answer. I think by allowing children to voice opinions and ideas I might already be on the path to transparency and visibility for the kids, although do I give them this freedom in Math or Science class?
Sees things in ‘minds’ eyes: To be honest I don’t even have a clue here in regard to my teaching. I’m not sure if that’s because I’ve been out of the classroom for so long or if it’s too early in the morning, but I’m going to skip this one and mull over it, hoping I will gain some clarity at a later time.
Asks ‘why?’, ‘how?’ and ‘what if?’: How can I encourage the children in my class to ask more questions? Can I weave their questions into an inquiry, discussion, research, exploration? I really believe that one of my strengths is having a questioning classroom. One of the best ways I found for uncensored discussion with my Grade 3s was to xerox a poem and tack it to the bulletin board with post it notes available for students to make comments. I would read it out loud when I first put it up and then left it to see what developed from that point. At times the board was plastered with post-it notes. I tried to use a wide variety of poems. What I found most interesting was that “kids poems” and by this, I mean rhyming words with little interest or poetic qualities (don’t get me wrong–there are a lot of great writers of children’s poetry out there and these are not the poets of whom I am speaking) did not seem to hold much interest for my students. The great discussions came from the poems of cummings, Blake, and Frost. I dare say that my Grade 3s had more intelligent things to say about William Carlos William’ The Red Wheelbarrow than my 20th Century Writers class in University did. Where I do struggle is with weaving their questions, thoughts, and discussions into a meaningful inquiry? How do I manage this while working within the confines of a curriculum? I have long said that teachers should be able to write their own science curricula based on what their students are interested in. One year, my students were super interested in bees. But I still had to teach them about magnets and the time was getting short for additional explorations. I got a bee keeper in to speak with them, but how should I (could I) move beyond that into a legitimate inquiry when I had to get the magnet unit done? This was a nature loving class and as much as they enjoyed learning about magnets I think bees would have been better suited to them.
Open to new ideas: how often do I simply let children try out new things on their own without detailed instruction from me before they begin? Yes and no. If we are trying a new art medium, there is some time to explore, yet I find sometimes students seem lost without any sort of guidance at all. (“Write! About whatever you want! This is your time! Be creative”–FAIL!)
Uses intuition: How often do we trust feelings in our class? Do I value children’s feelings? Having been out of the classroom for a few years now, it is easy for me to look back with rose coloured glasses on and say, yes I valued feelings. But did I really? Hard to say. I sincerely hope I did and I’d like to believe I did. I’m definitely learning more every day with my own children about valuing feelings and think that if I do return to the classroom, I might have a stronger sense of this.
Explores alternatives: Do I invite children to try out lots of different ways to do things? Yes. Is it ‘my way or the highway?’ Definitely definitely not. This happened to me in my education too many times and I try to be extremely conscious not to allow this to occur in my classroom. There is negotiation, but not one way only. What do I worry about if it isn’t teacher directed? I don’t actually think I do worry about this. I worry for my son who starts school next year about how he will fare in a classroom that is teacher directed, having been in a self-initiated, self-guided Montessori school for the past three years.
Makes comparisons and connections: Do I encourage this kind of thinking? Do we have conversations about comparisons and connections? Again, I’d like to say I hope we did in my classroom, but I can’t be 100% sure. So, I turn to my own children, H. in particular who is 4 (on the cusp of 5) and I can say with a big resounding YES that I encourage this type of thinking with him and that we have these types of conversations. Which is why we end up with hockey pucks that we discovered lodged in snow banks being re-imagined as snow beetles that travel across North American and Antarctica in search of snow.