“We should do that experiment in our class.”
Child poverty has been highly topical in New Zealand for the last few weeks. One of my reading groups watched a news report on the differences in school lunches and then this statement pops up. I still have another reading session to get through yet I know that there is some rich learning that will come up as a result of this conversation.
Right lesson plan out the window. It’s 20 minutes until lunch, let’s go.
The class packs up and then I tell them to put their lunch on the table. The student records the results of the experiment, we are doing real-world maths. There are conversations about our class versus the classes featured in the item. We then blog about our experiment and tweet the reporter. Already our conversation is spilling out beyond the confines of our classroom.
Yet there is a nagging feeling that these moments might be part of my problem. I haven’t covered nearly as much as I hoped to this term as the class and I often meander off the path laid down in my planning. I wonder if I am forever going to be a teacher that starts off with plans but never entirely keeps to them.
Yes the learning intention might have been to find two ways that an article relates to our topic (in this case sustainability) but the class wanted to explore and experiment. We wanted to communicate our findings, we wanted to know why a bottle of fizzy drink is so much cheaper than milk. We’ve managed to meander through maths, science, health and social science in the space of 20 minutes when we should have been concentrating on a reading strategy.
Technically we were all off-task but there was rich learning for all.
For my own part this experience started conversations with some students as a result of the survey. Conversations that just wouldn’t happened if the student hadn’t made the suggestion ‘lets do the experiment in our class.’
As classroom programmes become forever crowded with the must-dos we should always leave time for the can-dos that pop out of nowhere.
I have been a teacher and leader of teachers for many years and your quandary is one that I still wrestle with. Where is the place for creativity? Sometimes my heart goes out to those creative, wonderful teachers who feel bound by planned outcomes, by the national curriculum and have no time to explore the wonderful side journeys where real learning happens. Sometimes my heart goes out to me too.. because I have to implement the curriculum with my teams, and my instinct says often that the creativity and deep learning might be left by the wayside.
Here in New Zealand were are pretty lucky to have a very concept-driven curriculum however I can see areas getting the squeeze in future years.