Taking Advantage of "In the Moment" Learning Experiences
- Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8
When I think of the type of learning environment I desire for my own two children, I think of one that makes them comfortable. I think of a place that they would enjoy going to each day. I think of the type of environment that would inspire them to be better, try harder, ask more questions, and fall in love with seeking answers to their many wondering thoughts. I often ask myself whether or not my classroom provides an environment in which I would want to learn if I were a second grader.
In my graduate studies, we often discussed education using theoretical, ideal situations. The real world is far different than those theories. Each classroom has many different types of learners with a variety of different motivations and habits. Even on a good day a teacher needs to be flexible in how she holds her students' attention. For example, weeks like those that happen right before Spring Break seem to take over and really test a teacher's patience, creativity, and passion. When I first began teaching, those weeks were a challenge for me and I sometimes viewed them as a disruption. Now, these are the very weeks that inspire me the most. I feel a sense of freedom ignite in our classroom. It is almost as if some invisible power has extended the creative permission slip to veer off from traditional lesson planning. We see qualities in students that sometimes lie beneath the surface: leadership, collaboration, and teamwork. This is when the magic takes flight.
March is madness at our school. We have fundraisers, breaks, assemblies, performances, and more. However, this is also the very time where our school seems to unite the most. Spring is coming, clocks spring forward, and rainbow colors cover the walls in preparation for St. Patrick's Day. I'd like to share with you the video from our class field trip to The Henry Ford Museum. Our entire school attends this fabulous day of learning. Is it chaos? No . . . actually, the children really pull together and rise to the occasion. This is such a fantastic day of learning for all.
We also have our second grade performance during this time. This year, the children performed "The Pet of the Met." Wow! They were amazing! Of course, the practices interrupt our schedule. The children are more hyper than usual. We have less teaching time in the classroom. Things could get stressful. Luckily, in the famous words of Frozen's Queen Elsa, we have learned to "Let it go."
In doing so, by letting go, the children have really proven to be quite responsible. They enjoy collaborating together and sharing their strengths with one another. As teachers, we glow in their creative passion that fills the stage as they perform. We sit back and watch as they dig deeper into themes they discuss at the museum. It's truly remarkable. So, my question is this: how often do you allow yourself and your students to "let go?" Taking 20 minutes out on occasion to do something totally different in your classroom may allow you to better see the individual differences lying beneath the surface in each student and be able to reach them in a more customized manner in the future and strengthen each relationship.