I guess I’m a really lucky–or blessed–educator. I’ve been afforded a ton of great opportunities throughout my career, and those experiences have not only helped to shape my beliefs and actions, but more often than not, reinforced them.
You see, I believe in children’s abilities to think for themselves, and to a certain extent to direct their own learning. (My background is elementary–that’s why the caveat of “to a certain extent.”) I believe in my own ability–and expertise–to do what’s right for kids in my classroom, and I look at my classroom as a playground for thinking and learning. I use that word playground deliberately, as I also believe learning is fun. I believe in a growth mindset-that all of us can learn and grow through life experiences, and that we can have a profound impact on our own and others’ lives through our actions, and sometimes, our inaction. I teach my kids about metacognition, and I give them time to work on the challenges I set out, because I also believe learning can be hard work–and that’s a good thing. I encourage my kids to talk about the things they are interested in and/or worried about and I really don’t concern myself about what the political-or parental-ramifications might be. (I guess maybe that’s where lucky comes in, as parents generally trust me and I haven’t had any complaints about conversations I’ve had.)
Kids like being in my classroom, and I think mainly it’s because I treat them, not as an unlearned person who needs to be trained, but as a learner who is “in process.” I listen to them and think with them and help them question and seek answers to their questions. I help them wonder and laugh and enjoy the power and hard work of thinking and sharing thinking and learning together.
So in thinking of transforming schooling as we know it, in thinking of transforming learning spaces as we know them, a conversation on Twitter has me thinking of whether our learning spaces should be a playground of ideas and work and play and exploration and questioning and responding and reflection, with paces for loudness, with places to be alone or play together, with places that can arranged and rearranged to be any kind of space we imagine–a place where imagination soars.
Or should the learning spaces in our schools be more like museums or galleries, with revolving exhibits and things to wonder about and mess with and tinker with as we ask our questions and work and play and explore and question and respond and reflect?
Shouldn’t students be able to look at an object, perhaps JUST as magnificent as Calder’s mobile hanging so high in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC and think and wonder and tinker to make something similar if they so choose? Shouldn’t we, as teachers, think about the balance of teaching and learning and laughing and sharing and storytelling and playing and reflecting and thinking and doing music and art and science and math and writing and reading and connecting as we help our students experience the real world?
So as I think about transforming education, I would keep my belief in children’s abilities to think for themselves and my growth mindset and my giving them time to work hard and all the other things I listed above. But I would love to make our learning spaces more inviting, more like a comfortable playground or a museum or a gallery where learners can tinker and play and invent and innovate and dream and play and explore and create and talk and listen and experiment and play and laugh and sing and write and play and doodle and daydream and think and play and learn and play and play and play some more with all the cool tools and toys we would provide them for stimulation–and for quiet relaxation as well.
I’d want a Calder mobile as an exemplar of a masterpiece–to delight and daydream by, to explore balance and wind, to experience the gentle beauty of the non-symetrical movement and to stimulate and frame our ever changing world.
Museums, playgrounds or something else?
How can we make our spaces look more like them?
What would you want in your ideal learning space?
Could I have a Calder mobile, please?