If you want the lifestyle, then do the job

Today I had some paperwork to take care of and needed to venture into the city.  As I waited around at 9.00 I noticed the office workers arriving coffee in hand. If this was a ‘normal’ day, I’d already have been at work for 90 minutes.

Quiet foyer reminded me again why I will never return to  a desk job. Every day the same as the others. Wishing away the minutes until morning tea, lunch and then home time. Sure 5pm meant knock off time with no work taken home but there was no excitement and laughter in my day either.

When people complain about teachers ‘perks’ of long holidays, I repeat a line from another older wiser teacher. ‘If you want the lifestyle, then do the job.’

When I came into school this morning, 22 kids were excitedly telling me all their adventures over Chinese New Year break. Laughter and excitement, I’d take that over a 9am start any day.

On teaching responsibility

The ‘no-rules’ provocation was an interesting exercise in ‘letting go.’ The result of the initial  30 minutes of no-rules was pretty much chaos.

Most of the kids ran around the classroom, threw things at each other before they got bored and ended up on Minecraft.

This could be an example of why teachers need to be there to plan everything and tell kids what to do.

However I filmed the provocation– showing the kids my perspective and let them draw their own conclusions.

  • Running around the classroom isn’t safe, kids fell over
  • Lots of yelling and screaming
  • Throwing things inside isn’t safe, people got hurt
  • People on screens don’t interact with the people around them

I noticed and named that nobody was creating and nobody went outside. The kids noticed and named that there wasn’t equipment out for them to play with.

Then we repeated the experiment with a slightly different  twist. The children would be responsible for there well-being.

I also left out art supplies, Makey makeys and sports equipment for the children.

The classrooms couldn’t be more different.

The next time children were

  • Making art and movies together
  • Constructing circuits using makey makey
  • Playing games
  • One group of girls decided that because they were hot and sweaty they needed to get a drink so purchased one from the cafeteria.
  • Playing minecraft

I have a conflicted opinion on minecraft. On one hand, I notice that the kids are experimenting and collaborating while building.

But like other educators, I wonder why can’t they do that in the real world?

When pressed the kids about the reasons for why they were doing what they are doing – the art kids talked about making because they enjoyed creating. The sports kids loved to run around. The movie makers enjoyed being actors. Yet when I asked the kids playing computer games, had no idea whey they were playing outside of ‘I like  it and I don’t get to play computer games.’

As I pushed one of the children on why they are playing Minecraft, it was because they liked science. When I noticed and named that the kids next to him were doing actual science he still couldn’t tear himself away from the game.

Don’t get me wrong, I love games and gaming.  However rather than ban computer games or embrace them a more useful conversation might be for the children to realise why they like playing the games. What it makes them feel like and what the game is trying to simulate from the real world.

The kids who played with  Minecraft were hard to organise after the time was up and then started throwing balls inside.

Fortunately I had my phone out and filmed the interactions. Another provocation for another day…

If we are serious about those PYP attitudes, they need to be more than just buzz words on the wall. We need to give authentic opportunities for the children to demonstrate those attitudes and provide meaningful assessment for them to continue to learn and grow.

Responsibility isn’t just a word you put on the wall

Doing the rounds on the interweb this week is the lunchtime ritual in Japan.

Having taught in public schools in the Republic of Korea this brings back fond memories.

Yes we had an on-site kitchen.

Yes the children eat in class, taking turns to serve each other.

Yes the children are responsible for keeping the school clean.

There were no special kits, but lunch was a big a deal.

What always impressed me was the degree of responsibility that the children had for their environment – cleaning up and keeping the school environment clean is seen as part of a child’s daily education.

It’s very easy to talk about responsibility but actually handing it over the kids?

Thats another thing altogether.

Memory is fallible – talk less, video more

One of the things I used to do a lot in class during provocations was interview my students during the provocation. Instead of writing copious notes or telling the children what I saw/was seeing, I could simply video the reflections for later.

Memory is highly fallible.

How often have you noticed and named something only to have a child contradict your version of events? The child who spent most of the time bickering with others is adamant they collaborated well. A child who you were sure was off task comes through with something.

All of a sudden you’ve got yourself into a confrontation with your kids for a simple reason.

Memory is fallible.

More importantly, we see events through our own perspective. Video provides a chance for the children to see what you see when they are in the midst of discovery.

Letting the children see what you see and discuss those events is far more powerful.

What they remember doing and what they actually did is where the learning happens.

It isn’t the experience, it is reflecting on the experience that helps us learn and grow.




Links to be reading

Teens and media – a common sense approach from Common Sense media.

The unexpected maths from Van Gough maths in unusual places

From knowing to empathising – @geomouldey argues it’s time to get to know your kids

Listening to and trying to understand student thinking which has been made visible – Cathy Brown demonstrates the power of visible thinking through acting and inquiring into what students think.

An awesome conference – unleashing learning – happening in just over a month.


Sights of Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year is a very important celebration in Singapore.

As a result, most international schools will have a large celebration for the children.

In class the children took part in the prosperity toss, a raw fish salad served with vegetables that are tossed into the air.

There is also a dragon dance which brings luck to the community for the year ahead.